West coast birthplace of John Steinbeck / SUN 1-12-20 / Japan's largest brewere / Judean king in Matthew / Whom a warrant officer might report to informally / Wilbur's partner in old sitcom / Hit playfully on the nose slangily / Hawaiian word that's also common Chinese surname / Reading on dashboard of DeLaurean in Back to Future / Setting for some pickup basketball / Symbol for visocsity in chemistry

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Constructor: Evan Mahnken and David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy (9:00, and I've had a little to drink...)

THEME: "State of Confusion" — anagrams of states (well, actually just jumbled state names) appear in the middle of various theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • ANSWERING MACHINE (23A: Voice box? [Wolverine State]) (MICHIGAN)
  • AFRICAN LION (33A: Safari sighting [Golden State]) (CALIFORNIA)
  • SQUIRRELED AWAY (48A: Stashed for later [Blue Hen State]) (DELAWARE)
  • PERSUSASIVE WRITING (67A: Editorialist's skill [Mountain State]) (WEST VIRIGNIA)
  • SWORD AND SHIELD (87A: Knight's accouterments [Ocean State]) (RHODE ISLAND)
  • AVOCADO ROLL (103A: Sushi bar offering [Centennial State]) (COLORADO)
  • KNOWS A THING OR TWO (116A: Has been around the block [Evergreen State]) (WASHINGTON)
Word of the Day: DAWSON City, Yukon Territory (4D) —
Dawson City, officially the Town of the City of Dawson, is a town in the Canadian territoryof Yukon. It is inseparably linked to the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99). Its population was 1,375 as of the 2016 census, making it the second largest town of Yukon. [...] Dawson City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush. It began in 1896 and changed the First Nations camp into a thriving city of 40,000 by 1898. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town's population plummeted as all but 8,000 people left. When Dawson was incorporated as a city in 1902, the population was under 5,000.
• • •

HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS—this is the last official day of my annual one-week financial contributions appeal. It's been truly thrilling to hear from so many warm, thoughtful, enthusiastic people over the past week, both online and in the cards and letters that have begun to arrive at my house. You all have been especially kind in your condolences for my dearly departed Dutchess (2002-2019). I love this time of year because I get to hear from so many of you personally. I see how much this site is a part of many people's everyday lives, and I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for that, and how lucky I feel. Anyone who contributed any amount will be getting a thank-you from me shortly (if you haven't already), but I'll also just say here, publicly, thank you. My readers and the broader crossword community mean so much to me and my family. 13+ years ago, I stumbled into this bizarre second job of writing about crosswords (every day of my life) and though I may seem "cranky" or "grumpy" or otherwise tired of solving at times, the truth is that whatever you see in the write-ups, whatever emotion, whatever sentiment, comes from a place of genuine passion. I love good puzzles. I love to dismantle bad puzzles. I love conversations about what puzzles are and should be. I live for crossword culture. So I am unlikely to quit this blog any time soon. In the meantime, if you meant to contribute $$$ but haven't gotten around to it yet, here's the PayPal button one more time:

And my snail mail address:

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

Both the PayPal button and my mailing address can always be found in the sidebar of the blog. I do love hearing from you. For now I'll just say thanks, again. I'll keep telling you what I think of the NYTXW, and bringing you news from the broader crossword world that you might find interesting. Here's hoping for better puzzles (and faster solve times) for all of us!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

• • •

Like last week's Sunday puzzle, this puzzle is straight out of NYTXW central casting. A teeny wordplay gimmick that is mildly clever but not genuinely funny, stretched way, way too thin. At least last week's involved some potential humor, some possibility of a chuckle in the wackiness that results from restressing words, and thus changing their meaning. Here ... it's just the Jumble, but with states. The answers themselves hold the jumbled states, of course, but are not, in and of themselves relevant ot the states, or even very interesting as stand-alone answers (though I do kind of like KNOWS A THING OR TWO, perhaps because it sounds like something a dad would say about himself after you fail to laugh at his GROANER of a dad joke and then roll your eyes at his "State of Confusion" pun...). This is just a trivia test—do you know the various state nicknames? Yes? No? Who cares, the puzzle is so easy it won't really matter. I just saw someone on Twitter say that she shattered her Sunday-best time and still had no idea what the theme even was. That should not be possible. Did you know that if you mix up the letters in "California," and then add an "n," you get AFRICAN LION!?!? No? Hmm. Perhaps that's because it's not at all interesting. (REAL TALK: I didn't know there were other kinds of lions ... well, mountain lions, sure, but ... are there ASIAN LIONS?). This puzzle is filler. It looks the part, and here it is, but who cares?

"SURELY NOT" is a phrase I can only hear being uttered in a state of disbelief. "Absolutely not" or "no way in hell" are [Emphatic rejection]s. Even "Of course not" would work for this clue. But SURELY NOT ... actually, now I'm having trouble hearing *anyone* say it under *any* circumstances. In fact, all I'm hearing is Leslie Nielsen saying "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley":

What the hell is Freedom of the SEAS!? It's like Freedom of the Press meets Chicken of the Sea. Is it a concept? An ideology? A themepark? ... [googles] ... wait, a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean, LOL what? Really? We're just supposed to know that? Apparently it was the largest passenger ship (by gross tonnage) from 2006 until 2007, when her sister ship, Liberty of the Seas (ugh, really??) beat her out ... and now Freedom of the Seas is only the 15th largest!? Why are there so many Death Star-sized ships, and more importantly, who the hell is in charge of naming them? Following Freedom of the Seas with Liberty of the Seas is ... the opposite of inspired.
[UPDATE: the first "Freedom of the Seas" site wikipedia listed was the ship, but if you click through "Disambiguation" you'll see that Freedom of the SEAS is also, in fact, a legal concept, which means a. my first instinct was right, and b. never trust Google or wikipedia to give you the whole story! (at least not with their first offerings): "Freedom of the seas (Latinmare liberumlit. "free sea") is a principle in the international law and sea. It stresses freedom to navigate the oceans. It also disapproves of war fought in water. The freedom is to be breached only in a necessary international agreement." (wikipedia)]
One of the toughest answers for me in this puzzle was YEAR (52D: Reading on the dashboard of the DeLorean in "Back to the Future"), which is weird since I not only saw that movie when it came out (as a teenage boy, I was the ideal audience!) but I had my photo taken with it when I chanced upon it at a small seaside town in Oregon seven years ago:

Guess I didn't look closely at the dash. Ah well.

Crossword News:

1. David Steinberg, editor of the syndicated Universal Crossword (you may remember him as the co-constructor of ... oh look, today's puzzle!), has put out an important announcement, specifically for women constructors, about Universal's crossword line-up for March:

You can find Universal's submissions guidelines here.

2. Carleton senior Sophia Maymudes has a "2019 in Review" puzzle out in the Provincetown Independent. I did not know they published crosswords. Cool. This puzzle is fun, though LOL if you are not Gen Z there is *at least* one themer in here that is probably going to baffle you. Very very gettable from crosses, but I had to look it up. Fun! Kids! Fashion! Anyway, this is the kind of sensibility I want to see fueling crosswords for years to come. Get it here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:08 AM  

Geez, Rex, just how narrow a focus did your education have? Freedom of the seas is an international legal arrangement guaranteeing all the right to safely sail in international waters.

And, yeah, it's a cruise ship, too.

MissLiner 12:27 AM  

Sunday best time, and I didn’t try very hard. I actually used the state scrambles to help fill in some letters a few times just for fun. It still wasn’t very fun! I also balked at SURELY NOT, I mean, why not just clue it the way it is (very rarely) used? I did like SQUIRRELED AWAY, just fun to picture, plus squi- is just always fun (squiggle, squirrel, squirt, squish). ALSO RAN is just a depressing term that I wish we’d forget as a society, or maybe we have and it’s just kept alive through crosswords.

Altogether very straight and easy and blah, though still more enjoyable than Friday!!

MommaJ 12:52 AM  

Stupid easy, and therefore no fun at all.

jae 1:11 AM  

Very easy and exactly what Rex said.

Joe Dipinto 1:18 AM  

One day up near Salinas, Lord, I let him slip away
He's lookin' for that home, and I hope he finds it

Standard issue letter jumbles, but it was entertaining enough, I suppose. Pairs abound in this thing. Salinas Silas. Mauna Moana. Edgy Eggy. Stranger Streamer. UCLA ACLU. Mr. & Mrs. Ed. Rear Heinie. Surely not, uh-uh!

Now I must attend to the Cryptic, and try to exceed my 19 points in the Spelling Bee.

Melrose 1:24 AM  

What REX said. What's the point of a theme if figuring it out doesn't help you discover answers? I did this on a page I printed out, and the shaded squares that contain the state anagrams weren't clearly visible on my copy, yet it made jo difference in the solve. That shouldn't be.

JMS 1:31 AM  

Ah, Bandon, one of my favorite little towns in Oregon, (mind you, exactly the opposite of how I feel about the “town” I actually live in, Portland).
Oh, and the puzzle, I got a record time too, despite sussing out the theme as quickly as 23A, which I proceeded to ignore until you reminded me there was a theme.

Roger Moiles 2:30 AM  

Freedom of the Seas is one of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points from his address to a joint session of Congress in January 1918. It’s an important concept in international relations today, holding that states are prohibited from attacking or restricting vessels outside their own coastal waters (12 nautical miles off shore).
“Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.”

Anonymous 2:57 AM  

Um, the name which is Romanized as LEI is the 79th most common surname in mainland China and not among the top 100 in Taiwan. It is 6,583rd in the US in the 2000 census. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lei_(surname). Why mess up a clue like that?

Viscosity is more a physics concept than a chemistry one, but OK, that clue didn't mislead. It was a physicist who developed this physically correct riff on Jonathan Swift:

Big whirls have little whirls that feed on their velocity,
and little whirls have lesser whirls and so on to viscosity.

Whereas Swift wrote (easy to Google a reference):

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Rgoldfilm 3:55 AM  

Mildly fun fill. DNF becuz of SPODE and BOOP cross— never heard of either. Also fRED sounded like a likely partner for Wilbur, tho I am old enuf to have watched MR ED ( of course, of course!). The theme was wasted on me, as i’m Not a fan of anagrams and they in no way helped me solve. And these weren’t even anagrams, they were reverse anagrams, I.e. words rearranged to make nonsense rather than the other way around, and what fun is that? So it was a Sunday puzzle without a theme. But it was quick, so didn’t keep me up too late. BTW if you ever get to drive thru Salinas, the Steinbeck museum is a worthwhile stop for an hour or two. Even tho the town elders were none too fond of him when he was alive. He was my favorite writer in high school. Much preferred over Hemingway, just as I preferred Chaplin over Keaton and the Beatles over the Stones— I like my art mixed with politics I guess.

sf27shirley 6:00 AM  

Hemingway was very political! To Have and Have Not was trashed by critics because it was so political. And For Whom The Bell Tolls was denied the Pulitzer for the same reason.

Lewis 6:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 6:34 AM  

WHEE! A breezy chaser after a tough Friday and Saturday, with simple direct cluing, and I'm guessing, it was wheelhouse-friendly for most. It provided exercise for my solving chops and was the source several smiles:
* The nose BOOP.
* The mini-story in the east, with the confluence of TOTO / BITE / YEOW.
* Jim Horne's comment on WORDPLAY: A meme floating around crossword circles last year was that a great clue for MRED (101-Across) would be "Stable genius."

fkdiver 6:34 AM  

Um, no. Just no. Anagrams DO NOT belong in crossword puzzles. Period. Anagrams of state names even less so. Boring, stupid puzzle. A joyless slog.

Hungry Mother 7:19 AM  

PR today and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Surprisingly easy themers without doing the anagrams.

Coniuratos 7:22 AM  

There are indeed non-AFRICAN LIONs! The Asiatic Lion is very endangered these days, limited just to a tiny range in India, but they used to spread at least as far as Anatolia. There were lions in Southern Europe too, but they've been extirpated for a really long time and I don't think we know exactly what kind of range they had.

As for the puzzle, my fastest Sunday ever.

Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

I cruised on Freedom of the Seas a few years ago and was amazed how many people love the ship enough to sail on it for the same itinerary year after year. Last year I did a running cruise on big sister Symphony of the Seas, a gigantic spectacle on the water.

mmorgan 7:25 AM  

Ugh, circles and state anagrams. Ugh. So I just ignored the state nickname clues and didn’t even try to unravel the anagrams, and just solved the thing. It was okay. High point: I learned SPODE. Really hoping for a clever, wordplay-driven Sunday theme like the good old days sometime soon...

pabloinnh 7:49 AM  

What @Joaquin said about "Freedom of the ...". SEAS went in instantly.

Also, an anagram is not a jumbled word. Here we go again.

Fill in the blank easy puzzle, although the shaded squares make reading tiny numbers even harder, and yes, I'm still feeling sorry for myself.

Navy Captain America 7:54 AM  

The customary term used in international law is “Freedom of Navigation” as applied to the high seas.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

I was OK with this. Finished in 46 minutes, which is pretty good for me. And that was with some vertigo... I guess similar to OFL's tipsiness.

Did not know Freedom of the Seas. Knew the DeLorean dashboard display - similar devices on Star Trek whenever there is some time warp (and the camera zooms in on the display, then to the befuddled/worried faces of the actors). And yes, I asked the very same question about African lions, and am glad to be educated about Asiatic lions.


kitshef 8:26 AM  

Figured out the theme within the first minute and a half, and then the rest was just dull fill-in-the-blank session. No wit and no challenge, and I was stunned at the end to see David Steinberg as one of the constructors. One of my favorite constructors, but this was a dud.

And Rex, as long as you were Googling, why not try "Asian lion", which would have led you to Asiatic lions lickety-split.

Captain Stubing 8:49 AM  

I worked for a major cruise line at one point in my life as a musician. As a dumb musician, I was trained to fight fires and know what to do if the ship goes down. (LPT: NEVER go into the water. Ever. Unless it's a choice between the water or burning to death. Do. Not. Go. Into. The. Water. You will almost certainly die there.)

Anyway, I would never go on a cruise with kids in tow now that I know what I know about modern cruise ships. Everyone who is employed on board a cruise ship doubles as crew...that is, they have their regular jobs and then they also function as emergency personnel. Most international cruise ships that I know of use English as their primary language, but they hire many, many people (most of them) who only know English as their second language and many of those people don't know it very well. So imagine a classroom full of people who barely speak English who are being taught very techinical stuff by someone who also barely speaks English. Granted there are tests you have to pass, so there is a modicum of training that "sticks," but still...

So, in the event that a behemoth of a ship like Freedom would get into serious trouble, you will not only have a crew that has never been through an actual emergency, but those same people are now being asked, in this acute moment of fear, to speak English. On top of that, you have literally 1000s of passengers who are, a LOT of them, drunk. I can't imagine what a floating vessel, with a population the size of a small town in Iowa, would do in the case of an actual, honest to golly, abandon ship emergency. Most of the passengers will have no doubt seen Titanic or other films about sinking ships, and will probably think jumping into the water is a good idea. It is a terrible idea but it is counter-intuitive to stay on board when mayhem is everywhere. If I learned anything in my months long training, it was to never jump ship. Passengers have no such training. You need training to learn how to overcome that natural inclination to run/jump ship. There is a reason crew aren't allowed to ever go over .06 blood alcohol level.

I don't know of any modern ship sinking Titanic-like...and even in our training I don't recall any stories of modern ships actually sinking (a couple of tankers, but no cruise ships)...but you are out in the middle of an ocean. A lot of people don't understand that either. You're on a floating barge that takes 5 minutes to walk end to end, it's easy to forget where you really are. You are in the middle of the freaking ocean. For some ships, they go where it would take a long time for rescue efforts to get to you from land. A helicopter might get to you in an hour, but an actual ship to come fish 1000s of people out of the water would take hours.

Haha...sorry, I was just triggered from my days at sea from the Freedom of the Seas reference. But enjoy your cruise! Be kind to the ship's personnel...they may have to save your drunk self one day.

Z 8:54 AM  

Saw the "theme" (which is as much a theme as the "anagrams" are anagrams) immediately and eschewed unjumbling the states.

ANSWERING MACHINE is a fairly telling first theme answer. As a "thing" they are very 20th century. Back when Back to the Future was fresh people used to spend some time and energy on leaving creative messages for callers. By the '90's this had morphed into "you know what to do." By the naughts landlines were something only Boomers still had; the smart phone quickly made ANSWERING MACHINES obsolete. In 2020 the only cultural currency is from movies of the last century. (@kitshef - I was wondering if Steinberg has ever been in the same room as an ANSWERING MACHINE).

@pabloinnh - Rex mentioned the same in his theme description, "anagrams of states (well, actually just jumbled state names)," (emphasis added) so its on the commentariat if we keep calling these jumbles "anagrams."

I did like the not so subtle dig at the "we're a Christian nation" crowd with the DEIST clue.

Mr. Grumpypants 9:13 AM  

Neither the constructors nor the editor could figure out how to avoid the dupe with the 67A clue [editorialist] and the 122A answer [edited]?

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

LOL A PhD doesn't know freedom of the seas. Man, if that doesn't tell you all you need to know about academia today.

Secular Jew 9:25 AM  

Pretty sure the puzzle wasn’t digging at anyone but for the record Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, among other Founding Fathers, we’re Christian Deists.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

I wish that constructors would spend less time thrilling to the wonderful challenge they've set themselves in pulling off a difficult feat of construction and think more about what, if anything, they're offering the solver in the way of challenge. Or humor. Or playfulness. Or, well, anything. There's absolutely nothing in this for the solver. Nada. I could have practiced rocket science while solving this -- that is if I knew how to practice rocket science. But that's how easy and mindless it was. I shouldn't be annoyed, though -- I have only myself to blame for finishing it.

Rube 9:30 AM  

I aver that 51D must be AVER and not AVOW. By maintainong that AVOW IS correct, Shortz is lying.

Too easy today. Perhaps without the state nicknames might have helped....or not.

BOOP? What on earth is that? Why not just "animated Betty"

Teedmn 9:31 AM  

Post-solve, I was figuring out which state went with which "title". I got to 48A, saw Blue Hen and thought, "Rhode Island? No, that's the Rhode Island Reds. DELAWARE!" Two themers later, I couldn't think of any state that had two D's in its name, sheesh. Had to Google Ocean State and Mountain State to get those because I also couldn't think of any state with a V in it besides Nevada and Vermont. Sorry, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia!

Google says PERSUASIVE WRITING is a thing, but it's a thing unknown to me. The rest of the theme answers were nice phrases. My favorite was KNOWS A THING OR TWO.

Not a lot of wordplay or misdirection today. I liked "Sticky roll" for SARAN and I liked seeing VOCAB. Is REAL TALK, 88D, a thing? I was hoping for an answer like "heifer" for the clue, "It's no bull" but REAL TALK it is.

I still have a cordless phone attached to my landline (actually computer-based) which acts as an answering machine for us. I like having a number I can give out to people I don't want calling my cell phone.

Evan and David, thanks for the easy Sunday. Nice work.

Dorothy Biggs 9:33 AM  

Not a fan of this puzzle. That doesn't mean I hated it, or even disliked it...but I wouldn't root for it unless it was playing the Patriots.

MAUNA/MOANA, UHUH/AHA, BOOP/TOTO/DODO...it just seemed repetitive to me.

I don't know what a SPODE is.

Also, I haven't decorated a home in a long time, but as many homes as I've been in recently, I can't seem to recall any wallpaper...much less FLORAL kinds. I remember them growing up, and I've seen somewhat ornate designs used as trim, but wallpapering a room in a floral print, that seems very old timey. I had no problem with the clue or the answer, I just didn't see it as "current." See also, ANSWERINGMACHINE.

RooMonster 9:41 AM  

Hey All !
Had tOOt for BOOP, because I thought DEBRIS was DEtRIS (isn't it detritus?), and wouldn't know Fine China as SPODE or StODE. Plus, left a blank square (unknowingly) at the S is SEAS/SARAN, might've guessed the S, but then again, maybe not.

I'm one of the few (judging by the comments so far) who liked the puz. State jumbles. But I also like the Jumble puz thingie too. For me, it was neat to figure out the states. DELAWARE was the toughest one.

Writeovers, ANulL-ANNUL (because, null), AgE-ALE, SWINGin-BY, EMt-EMS, ddt-PCB (pollutant, insecticide, what's the difference?), oahu-HILO (because, every time!), tierS-PLIES, NErO-NEMO (wasn't NERO a real guy?).

Liked @JoeD's list of pairs. Good eye!


Birchbark 9:55 AM  

@Anon (2:57) -- Another riff on your Swift reference is in an acoustic song Jerry Garcia did with David Grisman, "There Ain't No Bugs on Me": "Now, little bugs have littler bugs/ On their backs to bite 'em/ And littler bugs still littler bugs/ So ad infinitum."

REAL TALK on the high SEAS -- @Captain Stubing (8:49) -- I wish Captain Stubing had delivered your don't-jump-ship post as a brooding interior monologue on the "Love Boat." Maybe it starts out in his cabin with a close up of an aquarium AERATOR, pans slowly back to a NEMO figurine, then pan-out montage to the Captain walking the ship, nodding to deferential crew, ambient passenger smiles and laughter punctuating the gravity of it all, and so ad infinitum. Only a couple small tweaks, e.g., "I hired on as a musician, why am I captain," etc. Great stuff.

Newboy 10:02 AM  

ONE ACT GROANER, UHUH! Glad to see DS & hear news from Crossworld as it progresses, but today was a slog—even for a Sunday.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

So if I "identify" as a woman even though I'm biologically male I can send in a puzzle to his site?

What? 10:15 AM  

So the theme is anagrams of States hidden in the shaded squares. This obvious conceit can only be salvaged by clever clues and fills, sadly lacking. It’s so pedestrian it ought to warn “look both ways.” It would, however, make a nice lesson for Sunday puzzles 101.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Pedantry time: A pilot doesn't SOLO just after their training is finished. Your first solo happens *during* your training, and there's plenty of training with your instructor in the cabin after that before you're done. (When your training is officially finished, your very next flight is a practical exam which is not solo either.)

Suzie Q 10:22 AM  

The puzzle was very boring and too matter-of-fact for my taste.
I'm so glad @Cpat. Stubing chimed in. Very interesting indeed.
I took a cruise once and never will again. I felt so trapped and bored and claustrophobic. Now I can add his narrative to my list of why I won't go again. But to each his own for those who love them.
I could not believe David Steinberg was involved in this. Where is
his usual clever playfulness?

pmdm 10:30 AM  

If you look for some humor when you solve crosswords, this puzzle failed big time. I solved this puzzle neither using nor caring about the theme. As such, I thought the puzzle was good enough. But I keep thinking to myself, there should be more.

Mike Sharp's comments today include what I would describe as an extended complaint about the Freedom of the Seas entry. I did not know the correct answer from the information stored in my head, but I though the correct answer was easy to get from the crosses. And I do think I should have known what the answer is referring to. My point is this: in writing as he does, Mr. Sharp opens the door to vitriolic responses being posted in the comments. I really don't want to make any assumptions, but I do appreciate the banter.

Now to return to my state of confusion at home.

Rastaman Vibration 10:35 AM  

I played it as a non-themed puzzle by ignoring the scrambled words and it was still easy. Figured out the theme after, and agree that the title at least (State of Confusion) is accurate - if there is some underlying concept tying this all together, I definitely missed it - just a confused mess.

On the positive side, not a lot of dreck today (shouldn’t that be a common occurrence and not a cause célèbre ?).

A big shout out to Sharon, Cedella, David (aka Ziggy), Stephen, Robert (Robbie), Rohan, Karen, Stephanie, Julian, and Ky-Mani (many of whom are fine musicians in their own right) as well as Damian !

Give a Little Love.

Rastaman Vibration 10:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rainbow Warrior 10:45 AM  

@Anon 10:08. I believe if you gender identity as a female (whether born with either male or female genitals), you would be welcome. It might be nice to have a constructor with a different perspective on things, but I can accept it if your opinion is SURELY NOT!

GILL I. 11:03 AM  

I started this last night after coming down from a Forty Niners high. I first looked at the constructors and my hopes continued on the high. Oh, goody....an Even and David twosome frolic for sure. UHUH. All I could think of was this had to have been very difficult to construct but I want my chocolate. You can keep the ANSWERING MACHINE; I wanted EDGY. Halfway done, yawn, off to bed.
Managed to get 7 hours sleep. Did my ablutions ritual, put on the kettle for my latte; heat up the milk and give it its froth, wait exactly 4 minutes for Peets to steep in my French press....aha this is good - on to finish up the Sunday puzzle. Took me no time and it wasn't as enjoyable as my perfectly made coffee was.
@Captain Stubing....Loved your post. How interesting and frightening. I won't take a cruise - EVER. Here's why: The thought of being in a massive floating behemoth in the middle of the ocean gives me the heebie jeebies . I have friends that HATED their cruise and others that LOVE them. The only one I went on was a Caribbean Cruise Line that was docked in Cancun. A bunch of us from Mexicana were invited for a tour. I've never seen so many drunk youngsters in such small confines as I did on that ship. I know there are some mighty fancy cruise lines but...no thanks. It also doesn't help when you see things on YouTube showing what it's like sailing during a storm.
I liked SALINAS - the salad bowl of the world - I'm wondering if they invented the AVOCADO ROLL and the FROG that CROAKED.

amyyanni 11:04 AM  

Thanks @Joe DiPinto for reminding me of one of my favorite songs. So good! And I was a fervent fan of Mr. Ed when I was a kid. Wish I could be as excited about the puzzle today, but Rex is spot on, from a solving perspective.

SouthsideJohnny 11:06 AM  

It seems like most of the negative comments today are related to the fact that the puzzle skews easy, with the lack of a coherent theme coming in second. That’s not a surprise with a group of mostly experienced solvers, however this puzzle has a lot to offer for a broader “less seasoned” audience - the theme is easy to discern, and can be helpful in parsing out a few letters in the theme entries. More importantly, it is very low on dreck - which will enhance the solving experience for people who don’t recognize arcane references to dead popes, roman emperors, Nobel Laureates from 100 years ago, yada yada yada.

I believe Shortz has stated that he wants the Sunday puzzles to be Weds to Thurday-ish on the difficulty scale - this certainly seems to meet that objective. I would suggest that occasionally offering up something that is actually solvable by a significant number of members of the general solving population is not necessarily a bad thing, lol.

Jack 11:07 AM  

Actually, most of the founders were likely atheists, but too politically astute to say so. Thom Paine being the exception.

Nancy 11:19 AM  

Thank you, thank you, @Captain Stubing (8:49), for your incredibly interesting, absolutely riveting and well-written account of your experience as an employee on a cruise ship. Thanks to your incredibly, interesting, absolutely riveting and well-written account, there's a good chance that, in an emergency aboard a cruise ship, I will stay alive. But, thanks to your incredibly interesting, absolutely riveting and well-written account, there's an even better chance that I won't ever get on a cruise ship in the first place.

I'm being flippant, yes -- but I really was fascinated by everything you said.

nonrobot Joe 11:25 AM  

Yeah, if I can solve the puzzle easily without having any idea of the theme (like Melrose, I printed it out and shaded circles did not appear), the theme was not a winner.

DianeS 11:43 AM  

When I saw a PPP at 1A crossing a PPP at 1D, I thought I was in for a long day. Fortunately, the entries with “real” clues came to the rescue and I was able to soldier on. No abbreviation in the clue for UCLA ?

Btw, @Captain 8:49 AM, it sounds like you would advise someone to avoid taking a cruise, correct ?

RooMonster 12:15 PM  

The Baltimore Ravens are in a State of Confusion today (and whilst playing yesterday). Wow, not a good time to have an off game.

My parents favorite trip is Cruising. They go about once a year and love it. I've never been, and really have no inclination to go. My dad, who turned 76 last year, always enters the Hairy Chest Contest. And here's the best part, he always wins! He beats 20 and 30-something year olds! At their house, there's a ledge (half wall) twixt the kitchen and living room with all his trophies (8!) there. Amazing. I want to have his energy when I'm 76 (I don't even have it now!)

RooMonster Missed The Energy Gene Guy

Escalator 12:17 PM  

Very boring ...backed into all the themes with the full.

Only redeeming value was the 8 second clip from Airplane, which along with Animal House and Christmas Vacation are the top tree cinematic classics of all time.

What? 12:24 PM  

Such an easy and boring crossword I need my Sunday challenge. On to the Cryptic. Oh right, I can never do one. We need Rex or somebody to blog - with answers.

Masked and Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Well, not a very amusin theme, which M&A always strongly prefers, on the SunPuz. Turnin state names into gibberish, redeemable when they are imbedded in semi-familiar phrases.
On the plus side, tho …

1. Knowin that The Circles were at least the letters for state names helped a little bit, in my solvequest. Lost fewer nanoseconds.
2. It coulda been worse … they coulda been Canadian or Mexican province/state names.
3. Had some real nice fillins, here and there, such as: TULIPBULB. SURELYNOT. GOODGRIEF. SWINGBY.
4. The resultin state name anagram gibberish lends itself to a cool namin contest. Name the anagram gibberish. Useful, in case other puzs use this anagram gibberish theme mcguffin, down the road -- we will immediately have a genre name for it. M&A suggested genre names:
* MONTANAGRAMS or INDIANAGRAMS. A bit too narrow, tho, as it would only apply well to state anagram gibberish.
* NIRVANAGRAMS. Works ok, but only if U are a big fan of the genre.
* INSANAGRAMS. Not too bad. Sorta captures the insanity of the practice.
* MARIJUANAGRAMS. Genre used only by constructioneers on pot. Which I suspect, here.
* BANANAGRAMS. Unfortunately, somebody already beat us to this apt description.
Annnnyhoo …

staff weeject pick: AWW. Contains the INSANAGRAM for the state of Washington's postal code.

Thanx for the Confusion and for gangin up on us, EM & DS.

Masked & Anonymo10Us


Anonymous 12:27 PM  


you need to watch more sports TeeVee - "We know a thing or two, because we've seen a thing or two" is the advert tagline for the most corrupt insurance company on the planet; has been for years. http://www.farmersinsurancegroupsucks.com/

jberg 12:40 PM  

I agree with whoever suggested this might be better without the parenthetical hints to which states were being jumbled; as it was, those hints made it way too easy.

But my real question regards the clue for 74A, "West Coast birthplace of John Steinbeck." Did Steinbeck have an East Coast birthplace as well?

Everything else has been said already.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

And, it's a nose BOP, not a nose BOOP. That's a BETTY

Carola 12:47 PM  

After ANSWERING MACHINE yielded the jumbled MICHIGAN, I proceeded dutifully rather than eagerly. I thought the constructors found top-notch theme phrases - so a high reading on the admiration meter, but so-so on the delight scale.

SALINAS: a friend of mine is a Steinbeck fan and with some PERSUASIVE talking got me to read his story collection The Long Valley. Man! Life was hard. Recommend, but steel yourself.

Carola 12:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heaven on their Minds 12:59 PM  

@Jack, 11:07 - wow, that’s news to me (I admit I am not an expert though). On what evidence do you base such a conclusion?

At the least, there were many Deists among the founders (John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, et c.).

Additionally, they were individuals who chose their words with a great degree of precision (as evidenced by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), and many of them wilingly signed a document attesting to their belief that we are one nation “under God”. When did they all retract that affirmation ?

sixtyni yogini 12:59 PM  

Exact ditto - what Rex said. 😜

Ethan Taliesin 1:00 PM  

It was like one big, giant Tuesday.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Apparently if Rex doesn't know something it's not worth knowing and/or suspect - and certainly unfair to include in a crossword.

Unknown 1:27 PM  

I liked having a Sunday Times puzzle which I could reasonably do, for a nice treat.

Z 1:43 PM  

@Jack & @Heaven - DEIST is well supported, atheist is not.

@jberg - “West coast birthplace” - Good catch.

@Everybody who read Rex early - He’s added an update. Here’s hoping @Nancy and @LMS submit something.

Kathy 2:11 PM  

Once I picked up the theme, about halfway through, I went to the shaded squares of the states whose nicknames I knew. With the help of pencil and paper (I solve online) I got some freebies which I sorely needed. I still struggled in the NW for a long long time. After reading the blog, I see it was a breeze for the veterans. Oh well, I’ll keep on slogging.

Stuck on SARAN for a while, how apt.
Alas, Naticked at Wilbur’s partner x Marley, I guessed fRED.

As a former student pilot right after I graduated from college, I can confirm that the first solo comes very early in the training, SURELY not after it it over. You wouldn’t want it any other way!

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

The Wife insisted on a cruise to Bermuda on the No Class Line. A couple of days in Bermuda were interesting, but the cruise part was silly as hell. The Joe Six Pack families (lots of brats with buzz cut hair), running around, jumping in the pools, and generally being Very Low Class, made the whole experience one worth forgetting. May be the expensive cruises are better? I recently saw an advert (print or TeeVee didn't even register) for cruises WITH NO BRATS. I wonder why?

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

SKITs are short sketches. They are written. They are not an "Improv offering." Improvisers might offer scenes, sets, shows. Never skits. Please take note, NYT crossword constructors and all comedy & theater reviewers.

Birchbark 2:31 PM  

@M&A (12:26) --

-- PANANAGRAMS. Taken collectively, solutions span the alphabet.

-- OLEONAGRAMS. Solutions are familiar sautés, but dangerously slippery if left on the floor (cf. BANANAGRAMS).

-- OLIONAGRAMS. Solutions are cobbled together from leftovers in the fridge.

Mo Pariser 2:36 PM  

I misread Wilbur as Wilma [101A Wilbur's partner in old sitcom] and typed in fRED without blinking an eye. Those precious moments wasted scrounging for my mistake cost me a Sunday personal record time. So close.

I memorized and somehow retained the alphabetical list of US states since the 4th grade so this theme was right up my alley. Quite a pleasant solve through and through. Kudos EM+DS, keep em coming!

puzzlehoarder 2:39 PM  

A boringly easy Sunday.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

To be fair, the NYT is co-located with SNL, whose players (mostly?) came from improv groups, so the inference, while mostly wrong, is understandable.

Truth Rocket 2:58 PM  

lol, so, “ SKITs are short sketches.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines sketch as “A short, humorous part of a stage, television or radio show”. Notice that there is no reference to written, rehearsed, edited, approved, modified, . . .

Dean Martin has been quoted many times stating that they never wrote anything for Jonathan Winters when he was a guest on his old variety show (btw, the Airplane Skit with Dean and Jonathan, totally improvised is a classic).

I’m sure you could have put the late, great Robin Williams on a set with just about anyone on the planet and they could have improvised a perfectly passable skit without hesitation.

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

Spode is a British china manufacturer. Sometime in the 30's they introduced a special pattern for the American market. Google Spode Christmas Tree -- you'll probably recognize it.

Nancy 3:24 PM  

I was definitely taught [in high school I assume] that the Founders were Deists. And that Deists believe in a "God, the great Clockmaker" theory: God created everything that exists in the world and then said: "From now on, it's up to you. I'm outta here."

Sounds like a wise decision on his part. Saves him a lot of aggravation.

Re @Jack's theory that the Founders were all atheists, but were afraid to say so: That's unlikely to be true, as it's pretty obvious if you read the Founding Documents that they did at a minimum believe in God as the First Creator. But if they hadn't, they would have had to pretend that they did. I still remember Gore Vidal's play "The Best Man" in which the character based on Harry Truman is lecturing the character based on Adlai Stevenson (who is running for President against the character based on Richard Nixon) that he must profess a belief in God, even if he doesn't have one. "In my day, we had to sprinkle God over everything -- like ketchup." I think that was the line, though it might have been "pour God over everything." It's been more than a half century since I saw that play and it was a wonderful theater experience.

Henry Fonda played the Stevenson character. I don't remember who played the others.

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Any number of commenters over the ages have asserted that the Founders, while not necessarily atheists, were exceedingly wary of organized religion. There's a reason religion is kept out of foundational text, save vague references.

One view: "Deists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back."

And this "So Paine’s a hero, right? He was also a radical Deist whose later work, The Age of Reason, still infuriates fundamentalists. In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.” (There go the Red States!)"

here: https://www.nationalmemo.com/5-founding-fathers-whose-religious-views-are-radical-today/?cn-reloaded=1

DevoutAtheist 3:44 PM  

It matters not what the private beliefs of the founding fathers were. The important thing is that they knew government and religion need to stay out of each other's business.

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

The founding fathers were, first of all, Masons. Read "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. As Masons, they were deists. They still believed in something they called "God", but it was a mechanical god, not anthropomorphic. God did not create the laws of physics. God was the laws of physics. Who created all of this? That is another question.

bigsteve46 7:43 PM  

David Steinberg should not be doing Sunday Puzzles. There are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for the "hey-look-at-clever-me" type guys. Leave Sunday for us old timers, to sit back and savor type an old fashioned puzzle.

Z 7:58 PM  

@Anon7:14 - You do realize that Dan Brown writes fiction, don’t you?

Joe Dipinto 8:42 PM  

The "Vows" page in the Sunday Styles section today has a feature on unusual marriage proposals. Included, with photo, is the Engagement Ring crossword puzzle proposal from Brendan to Amanda back in September (the wedding day puzzle that appeared in the paper this Wednesday isn't mentioned).

Mary McCarty 8:58 PM  

@Heaven on their Minds 12:59: the founding fathers did not sign anything attesting to a “nation under God.” The phrase “under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 amid the fear of Communism.

sanfranman59 9:04 PM  

Amen @Southside. Any gigs in the Cleveland area coming up?

Unknown 9:19 PM  

Jesus effing christ (re Universal Crossword cattle call). Why not have a “blind tasting” submission call and just take the very, very best of all submissions. Too easy, too non-PC? Is Steinberg afraid that really good women constructors can’t make it on their own? As they say in the crosswords, “Enuf”.

sanfranman59 9:54 PM  

Fabulous story Roo. Thanks for the 😃

SophiaMay 11:51 PM  

Thrilled to get a shout out on the blog! I publish an original crossword in the Provincetown Independent once a month (usually the first week). Definitely check it out (and read the rest of the newspaper too! Support local journalism!)

Anonymous 2:23 AM  

Of course. Dan Brown writes historical fiction based on fictional characters in real places. So, Washington D.C. is a real place and the Washington monument is a real thing, not fictional, and it is a symbol of Masons, not Christians.

Anonymous 11:12 PM  

How does this submission thing impact your life in any way shape or form, really?

spacecraft 12:28 PM  

These can't be David's clues: there are too many softballs. I breezed through this like I never did with a DS before. Only hangup: trying to unscramble 87 across. Yeah, I had it all filled in, but it took several minutes to dredge up RHODE ISLAND. And that was the AHA! moment of the day.

Nothing to object to here, except maybe REALTALK. Is that another Newspeak thing? Soon I'm going to have to take up ASL to communicate with modernists. A STRANGER clue for ELLA I've not seen, so the Queen of Scat gets another DOD.

Thankfully my paper just had shaded areas instead of myriad circles. Still not ideal, but...par.

rainforest 3:26 PM  

Probably the easiest Sunday puzzle evah, but, nonetheless, I kind of enjoyed unscrambling the state names. I don't know how difficult a task for the constructor this was, but he did get non-gibberish out of gibberish.

Seems to be a lot of discussion about DEISTS, but whether or not true, it matters not. However, the founders could have made the issue of impeachment clearer. Would have helped the current process.

I proudly have a land line, as well as a cell phone, *and* an answering machine. Maybe one day...

Not a puzzle one could dislike unless one must have more difficulty, but I prefer easier, maybe not this easy, on the big Sunday. Anyway, I liked it.

rondo 4:07 PM  


PERSUASIVE, with HEINIE (or REAR) NOT failing,

Burma Shave 6:05 PM  


than DIALECTS used by MRS. and MR.ED.


rondo 6:12 PM  

My A-HA moment will come in September when the MRS. and I will travel from MN to CALIFORNIA to see them perform.

In case you were wondering, a ROD is 16.5', so 40 of them make 660' or 1/8 mile or a furlong.

As in +/- 99% of DS puzzles, there is no yeah baby to be seen.

EZ/PZ, just ATEIT up.

leftcoaster 7:21 PM  

Usually don't do Sunday puzzles because of their sloggishness.

This one was an exception. Easy and smooth through most of it until arriving at the SE. The P of SPODE/BOOP cross was the last letter in. BOOP? Okay, if really "playfully".

Oh, and WEST VIRGINIA was the last anagrammed state to parse.

Diana, LIW 9:11 PM  

My comment was eaten by the comment monster!

Pretty easy, after this week.

Diana, LIW

Koop 8:46 AM  

Y’all are so snooty and picky. AND if you have to use Google or the internet to solve this puzzle or DNF because you didn’t know one or two of these east answers, then I don’t think you should be trashing the constructors. I really enjoyed it AND finished it. Lighten up folks and stick to Friday and Saturday if you want your challenges.

James Ian 3:20 AM  
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