Apt surname for close-up magician / WED 3-11-20 / Gender neutral neologism added to Merriam-Webster in 2018 / Plant that yields potent laxative / Portmanteau coinage for queer-identified e-sports player say

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Constructor: Erik Agard

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (4:50) (oversized 16x15)

THEME: [Hot food?] — slang for "hot" people that also contains the name of a "food" item:

Theme answers:
  • CUTIE PIE (3D)
  • EYE CANDY (22A)
  • BEEFCAKE (12D)
Word of the Day: LATINX (46D: Gender-neutral neologism added to Merriam-Webster in 2018) —
Latinx is a gender-neutral neologism (emph. mine), sometimes used instead of Latino or Latina to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the United States. The ⟨-x⟩ suffix replaces the standard ⟨-o/-a⟩ ending of nouns and adjectives that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. Its plural is Latinxs. // The term was first seen around 2004, predominantly online, among  intersectional advocacy groups combining the identity politics of race, class, and gender. It slowly gained in usage, and around 2014 in US universities its usage became widespread. Words used for similar purposes include ChicanxLatin@ and Latine. [...] While Latinx has been called "a recognition of the exclusionary nature of our institutions, of the deficiencies in existent linguistic structures, and of language as an agent of social change," the term has also been the subject of controversy. Supporters say it engenders greater acceptance among non-binary gender Latinos.  Linguistic imperialism has been used both as a basis of criticism, and of support. The term has been criticized by some lexicographers and rejected from some dictionaries on grammatical grounds, and accepted by others. Some have argued that the term supports patriarchal bias, is antifeminist, based on political correctness, or criticized it because it is difficult to pronounce. (wikipedia)
• • •

The theme is cute and clever, but it's very light, and I'm not the biggest fan of this grid shape. There are only four themers (!) and three of them are just eight letters long, *and* there is absolutely no theme material in the bottom six rows of the grid. So the bottom 1/3+ of the grid just ... hangs out. Doing nothing. Three sections, just whistling and whittling and passing the time away. Weird. I'm also not a fan of extreme segmentation, such as you see in the SW and SE corners here, both of which are connected to the rest of the grid by the smallest possible passageways. But the unusual shape is at least, well, unusual, which has its own intrinsic value, and what little theme material there is is quite spicy, so I'd have to say my overall experience was positive.

I had a whole bunch of trouble solving the NW despite getting PECAN over ARUBA over LET UP fairly easily. MAI just stopped me cold (21A: Singer Ella with the 2018 Grammy-winning R&B hit "Boo'd Up"). Behold the momentum-blocking power of the unknown proper name! I just couldn't see any of the longer Downs up there despite having their first three letters. PAL- would not lead me to PALMER (1D: Apt surname for a close-up magician?), ERE- would not lead me to E-READER (2D: Literary convenience), and CUT- would not lead me to CUTIE PIE. No way. If I'd had MAI, then PALMER and E-READER would've immediately become clear. But no. I went elsewhere to get a real foothold in the grid, and then came back and built that corner up from below. I also had trouble with the clue on HEAT (96A: Stick in the oven). I don't think sticking something in the oven is the same as heating it. In fact, I know it's not the same thing as heating it. I can't picture ELECTRO at all. And though I love the phrase HATES ON, I couldn't come up with it very easily today. I liked LATINX, though I wish its clue were a. not so blatantly and lazily copied from the opening line of the term's wikipedia page, and b. more specific—[Gender-neutral neologism...] provides zero context. That is, there's nothing "Latin" about that clue. It's vague *and* dull. GAYMER, I loved (51D: Portmanteau coinage for a queer-identified e-sports player, say); I haven't heard the term much, but it was easily inferrable. BOUGIE, I'm less fond of (45D: Concerned with wealth, possessions and respectability, in modern lingo). It's a judgey term of derision, though I guess it's common and harmless enough (it's a slangy version of "bourgeois," I think). Also, Migos spells it BOUJEE so I think it should be spelled BOUJEE.

[warning: various swears and profanities and such]

The answer to today's bizarre geography quiz is: Carson City, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and Jefferson City, the last of which, I swear, I'm hearing about for the first time right now. Jefferson City? Really? That name feels fake. Imaginary. I can't accept that it's a real place. Missouri should seriously reconsider. Try Kansas City. That's an actual place. I've actually been there. Jefferson City, though ... wow. That is the 50th most plausible US state capital, which is something, considering Frankfurt, KY exists (49th).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Brian 12:02 AM  

    Tuesday easy

    Joaquin 12:15 AM  

    Surprised that @Rex didn't note the gender neutrality of this puzzle. Two of the themers were phrases typically used to describe females; two were typically male. And then the (first?) appearance of the "gender-neutral neologism."

    But wait, there's more ... We have two male names (ANGELO, STEW), two female names (CANDY, HIYA), and one that - so to speak - goes both ways (NOEL).

    I wouldda thunk Rex would have liked this puzzle better than he did.

    Lorelei 12:15 AM  

    Academy award winner from Erik Agard. Fresh, a little pain in the SW corner, but a fast, smooth, brain working solve. Fun for solvers of all ages.

    Phaedrus 12:18 AM  

    Uh, Frankfurt, KY doesn’t exist (at least as a capital city). Frankfort does though.

    wrivz 1:01 AM  

    Absolutely phenomenal puzzle. Rare I leave so satisfied on a Wednesday, though my new PR definitely helps. Fill felt very natural, only entry that sort of tripped me up was STUD MUFFIN, but after about half the downs I nailed it.

    From a young person, BOUGIE is definitely the standard spelling, at least in my spheres - might be different in Atlanta. Not really a negative connotation to the word, I'll usually use it in a context of an "I'm feeling bougie tonight so let's ball out on food" or "I'm way more comfortable being bougie when I travel because I've already spent enough money to get to the place" or something.

    jae 1:06 AM  

    On the tough side. Smiley grid, adorable themers, some sparkly fill in the bottom half...lots to like about this one. I had some of the same problems in NW as Rex which pushed this a tad past medium.

    Richardf8 1:13 AM  

    I’m pretty sure GAYMER was something that was GINned UP for this puzzle. I therefore disliked it. Lots of things like UTEP, EDEN, EARP, and REPO litter up the grid. They’ve been seen too much lately. I enjoyed BOUGIE. I felt the puzzle was missing some cheesecake, but I can see not wanting it in the same grid as BEEFCAKE. I’ll just assume the CUTIE PIE is parve.

    Aloe as a laxative-that’s a tidbit I liked learning.

    albatross shell 1:31 AM  

    One Y-shaped puzzle and 3 nearly isolated blocks. Not real promising, but turned into a pretty good Wednesday. The blocks all had entries of their own, so they did not play isolated. But it was disappointing below the last themer, kept hoping there would be one more. Instead a gay term and a gender neutral term. I did not know either but worked them out. Nice challenge and I learned something. But the theme was racy and sparkly. STUDMUFFIN being the topper on the bottom.
    Nice sexual equality and balance as well.


    Can you beat
    even with
    not to mention

    EDEN ASTRAY SCAM has deeper meanings than some entire books of religious philosophy I've read.

    Love this one more than I should maybe...

    Lee Coller 1:34 AM  

    I hated this puzzle. LatinX is nothing, never heard of Bougie, and the single squares as entries into the SW and SE are inexcusable.

    albatross shell 2:06 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 2:16 AM  

    Frankfort. You can't deride our capital *and* misspell it ;)

    chefwen 2:25 AM  

    Went tearing through this thing like nobody’s business, wondering when did Erik Agard start doing easy puzzles. Then I arrived at the SW and came to a screeching halt. Just reading the clues for 45 and 46D made my head all fuzzy. UTEP and GIN UP weren’t clicking. Finally Googled BOUGIE, new one for me as was LATIN X. Boo Hiss.

    Fun puzzle, but I fell short.


    Pat 2:49 AM  

    I thought they didn’t like to be called “queers.” I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings so I have been using “differently abled” to describe them. If “queers” is the proper term I shall use that. God bless them all.

    Loren Muse Smith 3:50 AM  

    @Joaquin – I totally missed that two of the themers could be construed as women because BECAUSE when my first themer, BEEFCAKE, fell, I saw a grid art guy flexing his guns like at the shore or something. Then I saw a Y chromosome and never looked back. It was all male, all the way. Even Georgie PORGIE puddin' pie who kissed those girls and made’em cry. STRONG FELLOWS, HEAT, TANS. . . it was a STUD MUFFIN posturing in MIAMI Beach.

    Sure, there aren’t a lot of themers, but what a tight, fun little group. I’m reminded of Lynn Lempel’s terrific April 16, 2012 puzzle. I don’t know how to embed anything but the solution, so you can look it up if you missed it. The comments that day were a hoot.

    Unlike @Richardf8, I love GAYMER. Star Gays: Lance Bass and Ellen DeGeneres

    I kinda hesitated with the clue for MEANER. If you’re less amiable, it still feels like you’re a little amiable. Not in MEAN territory yet. But that may just be me.

    I liked the cluing, especially for PALMER, CITY, and TAPE.

    Hard not to notice FLU SCAM. I don’t speak science, but I’m pretty sure the people out there poo-pooing this coronavirus scare by insisting that the FLU is deadlier are wrong. Something about Ro numbers. I just learned that West Virginia University has suspended in-person classes. Yikes. I’m half expecting to get an email from out superintendent asking for two weeks worth of lesson plans for kids to do at home. And she needs this in like 12 hours. Lots of our kids have no internet at home, so skyping or facetiming or whatever is not an option.

    PECAN – stress on second syllable. Rhymes with chiffon. That is all.

    Dan Ruby 5:56 AM  

    Jeff City I knew, along with Carson and Salt Lake, but I had Rapid City for the fourth one.

    Lewis 6:18 AM  

    @loren -- God bless you, teaching school *and* being up at 3:50 a.m. to post (and, as always, posting superbly).

    This puzzle felt like an Agard creation all the way: Tight bright theme, cleverness in the clues, contemporary answers, junk-free grid, and that indefinable crisp feel of his personality shining through. Having a constructor's personality mark a puzzle isn't necessarily a good thing, but in Erik's case it absolutely is.

    I liked seeing that HEAT turned up at the top to underscore the theme.

    Clever clues for ART, TEENS, and DENTIST added spark to the heat, and all in all, a most pleasing outing from a brilliant puzzle forger. Thank you once again, sir!

    Conrad 6:38 AM  

    @Rex: No. NoNoNoNoNo. Kansas City is out. No state would name their capital after a different state. Springfield and Columbia are out too, since they're already the capitals of Illinois and South Carolina, respectively. The only remaining choices among the the Missouri cities larger than Jefferson City are St. Louis, Branson and Joplin, although you could probably make a case for Independence. But I suspect Missourians are perfectly happy with Jefferson City, just as Kentuckians are with Frankfort and New Yorkers are with Albany.

    BarbieBarbie 7:06 AM  

    Didn’t know BOUGIE, so that was my toughest section. Glad to learn it and thanks @wrivz for explaining it.
    I think the theme should be Hot Dish.
    @Rex, your coastal elite flyover snobbery is showing. Jeff City is big, a nice place, good bike shops.

    amyyanni 7:08 AM  

    @Dan Ruby, used to live in Rapid City, SD. Pierre (pronounced Pier) is the capital.
    Bright, sparkly Wednesday. Took just the right amount of perseverance.

    Teresa 7:11 AM  

    Didn't Rex learn the state capitals in school? These kids today ...

    pabloinnh 7:14 AM  

    As soon as I filled in CUTIEPIE, I was sure OFL would go ballistic on such a demeaning term for feminine pulchritude. Well, wrong again. I suppose he was mollified by the male/female equivalence of answers. I'm a little hurt because I've never been called a STUDMUFFIN, not even once, and seeing it in print only adds to my shame and embarrassment. Thanks a lot, EA.

    Jefferson City is news to OFL? Really? I'm not THAT much older than he is and I had to learn all the state capitals and could probably name them all if threatened sufficiently. Probably no reason to know stuff like this any more when your smarty-pants phone is omniscient, but still....

    Fun Wednesday, EA, and thanks for including LATINX, which I've learned recently, and now am able to use, at least in a crossword puzzle.

    three of clubs 7:47 AM  

    There's something about slangily categorizing people as EYECANDY, STUDMUFFINS, or BEEFCAKE which actually bothers me. It's not just the objectification or overt sexualization, but also the kind of repulsion that the word QUADROON would arouse.

    Maybe it's because I don't use that kind of language; the words from the puzzle are certainly still in the vernacular though.

    RooMonster 7:51 AM  

    Hey All !
    Dang, Eric, couldn't find a fifth themer of 8 letters to balance out the grid, and not have it all wonky left/right 16 wide? Without closed off SW/SE corners and N Center? Asking for a friend.

    As it is, it's a nice puz. Hot food, har. I see Erik managed to get his hair style in. ☺️ Didn't have trouble with BOUGIE as seems some of y'all did. I guess I'm more hip. (Yeah right) Still, that SW corner was the toughest. Thanks to previous puz a few days ago (Sunday?) for PURL. Both LATINX and ARENTI odd, first one new to me, second one clued oddly. Crossers UTEP and GINUP not helping things. But, finally accomplished something I shoot for, No Writeovers! And 100% correct! My STARS, STUD MUFFIN status there! (Har, pabloinnh, I've never been called that either!)

    Having just the E of TOENAIL, wanted thE toes for a bit. But too early to write it in.

    @Loren, PEE-CON, PEE-CAN, tomato-tomahto. Must be that WV accent! Har. I've gotten into pronunciation forays with you before. I'm no expert linguist, and definitely not as bright as you, I just like to hear the differences!

    Three F's (All in themers)

    Hungry Mother 8:04 AM  

    Easy enough overall, but faster in some sections than others. Not getting MIAMI, across the state from my Naples, slowed me in the SE.

    Karl Grouch 8:24 AM  

    Super Tuesday easy.

    I suspect that this was originally meant to be a Sunday puzzle, ¿maybe mr. Agard ran out of cutesinesses?

    That said, fairly enjoyable I make an ass out of u and me.

    Suzie Q 8:39 AM  

    Very nice playful sexy grid. Lots of fun besides the themers as well.
    Ground to a crawl in the SW but Gin Up finally occurred to me.
    Latinx is new to me. Is it pronounced as a single syllable or as two
    Do the people who use Bougie actually know what it is short for?
    Gaymer cracked me up. But unlike gaydar it is only effective in print.
    Thanks for the joy ride Erik.

    Anonymous 8:40 AM  

    I went to high school in Jefferson City. Class of 79. I had the good sense to get the hell out of there after I graduated, but, you know, still Rex, c'mon. JC's never heard of you, either.

    Paul Emil 8:52 AM  

    An enjoyable Wednesday puzzle. It is amazing how many reviews reveal a self centered approach to what constitutes knowledge.

    burtonkd 8:57 AM  

    @Z et al, in re BATCAVE, the times would blow your cover:


    Joaquin 9:10 AM  

    OK. I confess. I just don't get it. Rex needs to retreat to his safe space simply because someone uses the word "beaner" in an entirely non-pejorative context and then he posts this Migos video today.

    Anonymous 9:23 AM  

    Thanks, Anonymous at 1:04 AM. Now I can't unsee that.

    Joaquin 9:23 AM  

    Thanks for the very interesting link, @burtonkd (8:52).
    As an aside, a recent Jeopardy! clue had as its answer "porte cochère".

    Nancy 9:24 AM  

    Freud would have a field day with this -- not with Erik, especially, but with us. As in: Why do we so often use food terms to describe sexy people? I won't try to answer that. And Freud is dead.

    The first two themers I came across -- CUTIE PIE and EYE CANDY -- made me fume. How much of a male sexist can you be? But then STUD MUFFIN and BEEFCAKE came along and I thought: Equal Opportunity Sexism. Bad, but not as bad.

    Erik must have been feeling a bit ashamed of his political incorrectness because he then woke up and became very "woke", indeed. LATINX and GAYMER followed. As in: "I'm not some horny, retrograde male chauvinist; I'm a sensitive and caring member of a much more sensitive and caring generation."

    This is one confused crossword puzzle. Can't wait to see what y'all have to say about it.

    FrostMo 9:40 AM  

    It all fell quickly except the SW... felt like that clue for LATINX was too vague to get me there, and it probably didn’t help things that I had sigH at 45A for quite awhile. BLAH!

    Z 9:45 AM  

    @Kentuckians - Pretty sure Rex is just hot dogging it.

    What Rex said about the grid shape. Four over-sized minis. But I did enjoy the theme. Two writeovers, one o to A and one a to O. I guess I should remember that it is not Costa RICo Suave and that ELECTRa is Greek. Otherwise, smooth sailing.

    Like @LMS, FLU SCAM leapt out at me. I’m amazed at how we can both over-react and under-react at the same time. I’m seeing everything from Woodrow Wilson comparisons to fake news anti-Trump conspiracy theories. Wowser. Let’s see. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t sneeze on people. Wash your hands. Oh, and stats? Nothing exposes the basic innumeracy of even very smart people like stats in a crisis. I saw someone misuse stats yesterday to come up with “40 times more deadly than the flu.” Hint: Any comparison to FLU numbers at this time are flawed. We have a firm understanding of the FLU and how it spreads and the associated mortality rate. We have no clue how many unidentified cases of COVID-19 there are, so the current mortality rate is going to be high because we only know of the worst cases. In short, take any “x times worse than the FLU” pronouncements with a hefty degree of “you don’t really know.”

    paige worthy 9:46 AM  

    @Pat, OMG. Queer is an adjective many in the LGBTQIA community (particularly indigenous and people of color) wear as a badge of honor. It is NOT a noun you can use to blanket describe a group of humans. (Do you call them "blacks"?)

    Differently abled is another thing entirely. For God's sake.

    QuasiMojo 9:46 AM  

    Pecan rhymes with Chiffon? Lol. "D-Con" might. And no bugs either.

    @Nancy -- Eye Candy swings both ways, gender wise. Alas we live in strange times. You can't call someone Cutie Pie anymore without them issuing a summons. And Stud Muffin went out with Oat Bran muffins a few decades ago. I wonder if one could call a "Hot Mess" a Sloppy Joe and get away with it.

    I like Erik Agard puzzles. But honestly if anyone else had done this puzzle Rex would have had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Anonymous 9:47 AM  

    Latinx?!!! Even the woke NY times acknowledges that word is as best problematic for the very people it purports to describe. The only folks who like are coastal elites who are very, very white. Absolute PC nonsense.

    TJS 9:55 AM  

    @Joaquin, I'm withya. WTF? And "ft.Lil Uzi" ?? OMG. How the hell can someone decry racial and gender stereotyping and throw this crap at us? I guess anything by black rappers gets an automatic pass from our ever so hip OFL.

    Liked the puzzle, on the other hand. Agard always comes through. Bougie is a new one for me. I remember a Paul Newman movie where young soldiers were referring to their girlfriends as "Boojees". Maybe "Rally around the Flag" ?

    Frantic Sloth 9:56 AM  

    @Anonymous 1:04am Please refer to @Anonymous 9:23am for my thoughts on that.

    So I'm gonna have to Rorschach the grids from now on??

    Daily To-Do List:

    Solving (Until lately, the only thing I knew/cared about)

    And now?

    Constructor familiarization
    Construction critiques
    Good fill vs. bad fill
    Themers and Revealers
    The PC Effect
    Etch-a-Sketch analysis

    If this blog has taught me anything, it's that we're not in Jefferson City (any) MO.

    pmdm 9:58 AM  

    Yes, Lewis is is a good thing - unless one is not on the constructor's wavelength. IAnd I think I am never on Erik wavelength, for a number of reasons. But I won't bore those here with by describing my reactions in endless detail. Suffice it to say I often have no desire to complete an Agard puzzle. And after finishing the top of the puzzle today,I did not care to struggle with the bottom. Eric certainly has an avid audience,but alas, I'm not included in that group.

    Anonymous 9:59 AM  

    LOL Rex thinks a state should use another states name as its capital. That is some fine thinking. Admit fanboys. If DJ Trump had proposed something this ludicrous, there'd be howls of mocking.

    Anonymous 10:02 AM  

    Pretty sure Rex didn't know how to spell the capital of Kentucky. Guessing he doesn't know it's a commonwealth either.

    CDilly52 10:32 AM  

    Agard is currently my all time favorite constructor, primarily because he gives my brain a CrossFit-like workout that typically leaves me exhausted but oh-so-satisfied and occasionally quite smug, thinking I kinda be all that in the solving world. This one though, disappointed me only because I crushed it, a never before feat for me. Except for the NW corner. And for the same reason as @Rex. So I moved over one block and sped through. Sad only because it was completed so quickly.

    What fun, though! Clever clues (as itemized by those who clearly suffer from insomnia) and an interesting theme albeit a tad on the “y” side. What the heck, Mr. A is a man and this puzzle didn’t choke me with testosterone. Great Wednesday.

    @LMS, so glad you mentioned the correct pronunciation of p’-CON’. Wish I had a prah’- leen.

    Newboy 10:34 AM  

    Fun except for the SW corner with 45D & 46D being just WOEs. Gotta agree with @K about our widespread ignorance of data & how important it should be. If you’re able to tolerate a YouTube video, Hans Rosling puts a perspective spin on data usage that’s worth considering: https://youtu.be/J1Bg6KkII18

    Ernonymous 10:41 AM  

    I don't know about GAYMER. I'm a gamer and most of the games have team chats and we never talk about anyone's sexuality.
    No one cares if anyone is gay. I don't know in what context you would use GAYMER. Certainly not within the games, or any that I play like Clash of Clans.
    Do people proudly refer to themselves as GAYMERS? I'd never call anyone that and I'd not tolerate it said in a derogatory manner in the game chat. Who is using it and in what context?

    Masked and Anonymous 10:52 AM  

    An OK theme-lite, puzgrid-big, Jaws-of-Themelessness-black-squared WedPuz.
    The potential theme bein playfully poked at by {Make an ass out of u and me, as they say} = ASSUME actually seemed more interestin, tho. Even tho it made limited raised-by-wolves sense (as they say).

    Loved the E-W symmetry. Gridart kinda looks like a caldron of molten steel about to be poured INTO the themeless STEW pit area. Or somesuch.

    New stuff learned: LATINX. BOUGIE. GAYMER. MAI & ALI (as clued).
    fave fillins included: TOENAIL. NOCASH. MAGENTA. STARS/STAIRS.
    fave clues: The ones for ASSUME, PALMER, DENTIST, CITY.

    staff weeject pick: MAI. Has the endangered-species M+A in it. Also, it is still "I" even without the M&A in it -- which at least makes about as much sense as the ASSUME clue's text.

    Thanx, Mr. Agard, U puzmuffin U.

    Masked & Anonym007Us


    Anonymous 11:02 AM  

    Giovanni: What do you mean you wouldn't tolerate it? What would you do? How could you curtail its use?

    Nancy 11:17 AM  

    @Loren (3:50) and @CDilly (10:32) --

    You say tomayto and I say tomahto,
    You say potayto and I say potahto,...

    PiCON sounds awfully lah-di-dah to my NYC ears. Sort of like Ahhnt instead of Ant for Aunt. I've always said it (and mostly heard it) as P'CAN.

    ...Let's call the whole thing off.:)

    What? 11:58 AM  

    LATINX. GAYMER. Wow. The Times first gay crossword. STUDMUFFIN.,BEEFCAKE. Men describing men? Or female sexism? EYE CANDY, CUTIE PIE. Men describing men? Or male sexism?
    Male sexism, female sexism, gay and straight, this puzzle has everything. Thinking and writing about it is the perfect antidote to the constant horror of politics.

    The puzzle? I don’t time myself but when I finish during orange juice and before coffee, I assume it was pretty easy, especially for a Wednesday.

    Barbara S. 11:58 AM  

    Unfortunately I was brought low by this puzzle and it was a DNF (and on Wednesday!). I was chugging along nicely (even smugly) in the upper two-thirds, STUD MUFFIN and all, and then I hit the SW and the SE. In the SE, I had this idee fixe that 63D (prefix with judge or trial) was "pre." That left me with P_A_I as the southern terminus of the Silver Meteor. Now I'm not American and sometimes things that most of you would get without thought are opaque to me. But a major U.S. city (which I thought a terminus was likely to be) spelled that way?? Anyway I finally saw MIS and the whole corner fell. And, yes, I have heard of MIAMI.

    And then there was the SW. I got BOUGIE, but LATINX, UTEP and GINUP were just a big ball of Natick to me. I once went to the University of Texas at Austin for a workshop so I'm aware of that convention for naming universities in, I guess, the University of Texas group, but I didn't know that El Paso had one of those. Sorry to all the...uh...El Passions on this list. And then I swear I've never heard the expression GIN UP in my life. And I can't mutter crankily about annoying Americanisms either: it's British in origin. I won't rehearse the exact derivation here but I strongly urge horse-lovers to resist the temptation to look it up.

    jb129 12:08 PM  

    Flew through it until "Bougie".

    Ernonymous 12:11 PM  

    Since I posted that I did some reading and gay gamers refer to themselves as GAYMERS. There is a GAYMERx which is a convention for gay gamers. It's a way to connect with other gay gamers. I should have read first, posted later. Many apologies, carry on.

    Solverinserbia 12:12 PM  

    SW consumed 3 of my 8 minutes. Otherwise flew through it. BOUGIE next to LATINX was tough with so little to go on. Once I got LATINX though, the puzzle went golden.

    What? 12:16 PM  

    A funny tv skit from way back.
    A singer is auditioning. She’s unfamiliar with the song and has to read from the sheet music.
    With a perplexed look, she sings “You say tomato, I say tomato...”

    Swagomatic 12:16 PM  

    I would have had a Weds. record, but I had 3 typos, which took me a few minutes to find. I liked this one a lot.

    OffTheGrid 12:25 PM  

    Moderator: Anon 1:04 AM passes muster? Did you see it?

    A Moderator 12:31 PM  


    Yes, I saw the post.

    No, it the grid doesn't resemble a penis to me.

    xyz 12:47 PM  

    Left a bit to be desired, trying too hard

    tkincher 12:56 PM  

    @Solverinserbia Same, the SW was the toughest bit of the puzzle for me. Nicely contemporary and gender-inclusive for the NYT, though, and not a single shoutout to the NRA or anything. Great puzzle.

    Carola 12:56 PM  

    Loved it. Light-hearted and witty puzzle, a rare Wednesday treat.

    Whatsername 12:57 PM  

    @Loren: Great avatar today! Honey Bun would have been fun in this one. Thanks for the tip on Lynn’s 2012 puzzle. Going to give that a look later.

    With a few exceptions, I found this to be Monday easy and blazed through it. I thought the mix of semi-antiquated phrases like CUTIEPIE and BEEFCAKE paired with the neologisms of GAYMER and BOUGIE created a particularly striking dichotomy. Really made for an intriguing theme, and I liked that it made me think in very modernistic terms.

    Jefferson CITY is a real place and a real capital. It has a peaceful picturesque beauty sitting as it does along the Missouri River with the Capitol Building situated majestically on an overlooking bluff. It is also unfortunately often prone to some serious flooding in the spring time.

    GILL I. 12:59 PM  

    I missed the penis?
    I kinda like EYE CANDY where the eyes should be . If you squint, you see a smily face.
    This felt typical Agard. I can always count on having a word or two thrown at me that I've not heard of. BOUGIE GAYMER - always good to know. You never know when you'll need to use those words.
    I told a STUD MUFFIN joke back on April 16th and it didn't come out quite right. I've learned a cute Gandhi one but I'll wait till Halloween.
    Speaking of EYE CANDY and STUD MUFFINs....Here's the problem. I've done my fair share of drooling. You start a conversation and hope that what comes out of its mouth is witty and intelligent. 9 times outta 10 you get to look at their drool. If you find a handsome dude who starts his conversation with me or I, run. Also, if he starts to flex a muscle underneath his t-shirt, it's time to go to the ladies room. I'm sure there are gents on this blog who could tell some equal opportunity stories.
    I use CUTIE PIE all the time. My little Hadley Rose is one. So are my two pups.

    Teedmn 1:40 PM  

    I would probably feel like Rex does about Jefferson CITY, MO, except that I found myself staying there on October 5, 2004. Why do I know the exact date? (Okay, I had to Google it to remind myself). Because the bar at the hotel where we stayed was showing the debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards so we all sat around and watched. I don't remember who we agreed "won" the debate. Jefferson City is a nice, friendly town, but not as interesting as Columbia, MO, where all the colleges are. We (there were seven of us) stopped there also on our bicycle ride across most of Missouri, a very fun trip.

    Is "close-up magician" a real thing? That seemed like a big stretch for me and the MAI crossing along with that 1D clue held up PALMER and E-READER similarly to Rex's experience, though I had CUTIE PIE at least.

    34D, I had AR_ and was torn between ART and ARp.

    It's funny that 14D's "ass of U and ME" still hangs around - I remember Felix Unger writing it on a blackboard and circling the different parts of the word in an Odd Couple episode. Wikipedia says that episode aired in 1973 and the writer of the episode heard it from a typewriter repair teacher years earlier, if Wiki can be believed.

    Thanks, Erik Agard, fun Wednesday.

    Ernonymous 2:06 PM  

    @anon 11:02 if someone called someone something outright racist in our team chat, I would not tolerate it. Games are for entertainment and no one should be belittled for their race or sexual orientation. As a co-leader, I'd kick them out of the group. I've done it before.

    Malsdemare 2:48 PM  

    Well, damn! Someone did take out the anonymous 1:03 post. That's a shame. I thought it was quite funny, though yeah, unseeing it is a challenge.

    I loved the puzzle and lots of people here have said why. So that is all.

    Tom R 2:58 PM  

    Since I grew up in MO about 50 miles from "Jeff City" (few people actually say Jefferson City), it sure isn't made up to me. Now Carson City, is that a real place or is Rex just pulling out leg? BTW, its the capitol of MO because its pretty close to being dead center geographically and on the MO river.

    Z 3:11 PM  

    @anon10:02 - Ever watch Foghorn Leghorn? (Just to be clear - defending my line, not Rex’s spelling)

    @Giovanni - Thanks for your comments today.

    @Barbara S is a perfect example of why dangling sections are sub-optimal.

    I thought I might just drop this here.

    Didja know that Migos is worth an estimated $80 Million? Hmm, it’s almost as if they are speaking to a whole different part of society.

    @malsdemare - I thought it was a more of an insight on the 1:00 am workings of the mind of that particular Anonymous than anything else.

    Anonymous 3:15 PM  

    Thought you didn't respond to anonymice. Anyway,
    pro tip: jokes are supposed to be funny. But really, that's the hill you want to defend an insipid pun? Ok. You do you.

    Frantic Sloth 3:15 PM  

    Wow. Looks like Puritanism is alive and well and living within the commentariat.

    Anyone care to define these terms:

    The color red???

    I'm just wondering if anyone would disagree on any of them...

    Unknown 3:18 PM  

    I'm relatively new and thought this one was easy except for the SW. Started NW and got PECAN, ARUBA, EREADER and the rest fell INTO place.

    Many of the clues were Monday easy. 'Bad thing to be led' ... astray? What else could it be? Elevator alternative? Escape room clue? Nothing remotely challenging on those. Maybe I just knew the trivia this time (George PORGIE, GAYMER, ELECTRO). I swear puzzle difficulty is a function of how many obscure pop culture references you know.

    Themers were easy after a letter or two. Got STUDMUFFIN after just ST and that was before I knew what the hook was.

    THe mark of an easy puzzle is when I don't even need some of the clues.

    Robert Grady 3:20 PM  

    Yes they do. Especially when one gaymer is looking for another gaymer to play gaymes with.

    Robert Grady 3:22 PM  

    The grid looks like a guy flexing his muscles in a classic beefcake pose. Loved it.

    Unknown 3:25 PM  

    Also - resident Missourian - Jeff City is the capitol because it's central to the rest of the state (save maybe the farthest south, but who cares about them). Most Missourians have been there roughly once, on a fourth grade bus trip.

    Anonymous 3:40 PM  

    Should've left this instead Z


    Whatsername 3:42 PM  

    @Unknown at 3:25 - I happen to be one of them thar fer south Mizzourians! We count! Most of us can anyway. Actually I have been to JEF at least 3 times, but I think the first time really was on a school bus.

    dale tousley 3:45 PM  

    Jefferson City is around exit 148 off of I-70, half way through the state so coming from the east and west borders you travel about the same distance....it's right by MIZZOU so it makes sense to be the capital....can't believe you never heard of it before....

    Sir Hillary 3:48 PM  

    Late today...

    Nice to see a smiley face in the grid -- COVID-19 ain't botherin' that person one bit. Maybe that's because he/she is draped in cleanliness -- only dirt in this puzzle is MIS. But @Rex is right about theme thinness. There ought to be more.

    Far worse, though, is BOUGIE. I'm one who HATESON that term with a passion, probably because I almost always hear it said by someone who is bourgeois pretending to be someone who isn't by using it to refer to others. You know, so they can be "down with the masses" (see: Boomer Esiason in his morning radio show on WFAN in NYC). Drives me nuts.

    Speaking of nuts...I say puh-KAHN but recognize there's many who don't:

    Well I was raised underneath the shade of a Georgia pine
    And that's home you know
    Sweet tea, PEA-can pie, and homemade wine
    Where the peaches grow
    And my house it's not much to talk about
    But it's filled with love that's grown in southern ground
    And a little bit of chicken fried...

    -- Zac Brown

    dadnoa 3:59 PM  

    +1 for the comments. Joaquin should get a guest blog invite. And, all the positives don’t outweigh the fact that the themers objectify people. In a post #metoo world, more than a little surprised that this XWord made it to print.......

    Duncan 4:09 PM  

    "GAYMER" has been around at least 10 years, they even have a gaming convention. Quite the long con for Agard to scheme just to fit it into this puzzle.

    Z 4:31 PM  

    @Anon3:40 - Sure, but I think the title is misleading. It should have been “The New York Times’ Russ Douthat Problem.”

    @Anon3:15 - I’m pretty sure “insipid” is giving it too much credit. What’s worse, though? An atrociously bad pun or taking said pun too seriously? Also, though, I realized I left the impression that I thought Rex’s typo was intentional. It might have been, but he hates puns as much as you, so probably not.

    @Sir Hillary - Yep. It’s one thing to use modern slang in the natural course of events, quite another to use it in a failed attempt to look current or cool or whatever the term is today. I do appreciate @wrivz’s usage explication so if I do run into the term in the wild I won’t be at a complete loss.

    Anonymous 4:47 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Anonymous 4:50 PM  

    Ok!!!! Tiuche. A poor link to Latinx.
    But on your honor, do you believe Latinx is helpful? More important, do you believe people long describes as Latinos like it?
    Even granting The Hill's objections, approval polls seem to max out at less than 5 %
    Not to start up, but i like puns. If theyre good;)

    Anonymous 5:17 PM  

    Carson City, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, and Jefferson City, the last of which, I swear, I'm hearing about for the first time right now. Jefferson City? Really? That name feels fake.

    how damn parochial of you!!! when I was in junior high school (mostly called middle school, these days), in one of my social studies classes (from what I'm told, no longer exists) we were required to memorize the countries and capitols of all continents, Africa excepted; there only the countries, since they were multiplying like crazy. here in the red blooded USofA, we had to know all the states (no problem, right?) and their capitols. guess your GenQer?

    Ethan Taliesin 5:22 PM  

    I really liked it. Go Erik!

    Swede 5:49 PM  

    Teedmn: close up magicians are a real thing, they do small parties. Their tricks aren’t the same as stage musicians as they are very near the audience in contrast to stage magicians who may have large props. Card tricks for example. Check out a book by Michael Kardos called Bluff, which is about a close up magician. It’s pretty good.

    Dan 6:05 PM  

    A friend of ours had a close up magician at a party about a year ago. It was very impressive indeed. We were all gathered around the kitchen table with people on all sides of him and still no one could catch his sleight of hand. To me it was more amazing than any stage show could be.

    Anonymous 6:41 PM  


    there is/was a street magician, don't recall the shows or his name, who did his act literally on the street, surrounded by folks. I recall being blown away.

    Anonymous 7:14 PM  

    Close up magic isnt just a thing, its THE thing in magic circles.
    Not so long ago, in fancy schmancy circles in NYC, getting into see Steve Cohen at the Waldorf-- in a plain old suite-- was the hight of insiderdom
    Now every schmo (not thinking about anybody hereabouts at all!!!) can see him at some theater or another.
    For the snoots who still need convincing, Terry Gross (oof, threw up in my moth a little) nterviewd Ricky Jay on Freah Air. He was the Babe Ruth of close up magic.

    Mike 9:34 PM  

    Got around to it late today, but that was genuinely one of the most fun puzzles I've done in a while. As a queer 24 year old, I don't normally get a lot of clues that appear in my normal, millennial life so this was quite easy for me. GAYMER is definitely a term that you will come across on plenty of dating apps. I've also been using the term BOUGIE regularly for years, and always spell it that way (that Migos song did make me hesitant to choose my normal spelling however). I agree that the clue for LATINX was a bit vague, but the first and last letters helped a lot, not to mention I appreciated the symmetry of that and GAYMER. I'm more than happy to finally get a new a fresh puzzle, and the theme answers were also quite fun for a youngin' like me.

    Teedmn 9:45 PM  

    @Swede, thank you for the explanation of the term, which I had never encountered before. I've seen those guys in action, most memorably at a restaurant in Aspen, CO. Ever since that occasion, my husband has been more afraid of magicians than his brother is of clowns.

    Z 9:55 PM  

    @Anon4:50 - On the more important subject, the worse a pun is the better it is. As for LATINX - I think the whole gender and language discussion is being pushed by people mostly under 30. I also think that a lot societal improvements historically are pushed by that age group. Lots of the gender discussion I only understand on a cerebral level. But if someone points out that gendered language tends to reinforce stereotypes and unfair constraints and doesn’t even fit for some people and asks me to consider a more neutral construction I have no objection. I don’t think they have all the right answers, but they are asking some pretty powerful questions.

    Unknown 9:55 PM  

    You need to get out more.

    kitshef 8:59 PM  

    Typical garbage from my least favorite constructor. MAI/GAYMER/BOUGIE pretty much says it all.

    And for the major controversy of the day, PEE-kun.

    Sashalpaul 2:47 AM  

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    Celebrity net worth 10:11 PM  

    Nice one. But, you won't what has happened to CR7 net worth since he moved to Juventus.

    spacecraft 11:02 AM  

    Not my favorite Agard. OFC is on point with the grid segmentation thing; most awkward to navigate. However, his med-chal rating surprises me. I found this almost Monday-easy, except of course for that weird SW. I must've stared at that square for entire minutes: E_ILE. Finally I ran the alphabet and bingo: EXILE! A sort of mini-aha moment. Hard to believe in LATINX, but that just had to be it.

    The other anomaly--for me--was that ALI character. I was all set to call him obscure, but before posting I Googled him. Wow, a two-time Oscar winner! Who'd'a' thunk? I never heard of the guy. I have never seen anything he's been in. My bad, I guess. Had he been clued as DOD possibilities Laila or MacGraw, it would have been more in keeping with the clue level in this one. However, today ARIANA makes a Grande DOD; EYECANDY indeed.

    I do note the quad-7 stacks down the center; no small feat to pull off, as they involve themers. It's just that this puzzle doesn't feel STRONG enough--either for a Wednesday or for Erik. For others, possibly a birdie. For him: par.

    Burma Shave 12:38 PM  


    FELLOWS wanted INTO her jeans,
    she’s CANDY for the EYE.


    rondo 2:22 PM  

    I had more trouble with BOUGIE and GINUP than any other spot. Thought OFL would be MEANER about the ‘hot food’ stuff. Speaking of that, pop tart and CUTIEPIE ARIANA Grande gets a yeah baby. I’ll bet hardly anyone knew MAGENTA before they bought printers for home use. Or cyan. The 4 corners gives us crosswordese APSE. Strange grid; not too tough.

    leftcoaster 4:01 PM  

    Erik Agard is playing nice with us today. Pretty neat and clean overall, with some cutesy "hot food" themers.

    The exception is the SW corner: BOUGIE and LATINX are challenging, and AREN'T I is a bit stiff, but those three words work nicely with GIN UP. GAYMER is a related bonus in the SE.

    The three sections in the middle North, SW and SE were largely cut off from the rest, which gave the puzzle a tougher look at the start.

    Thanks for the (mostly) smooth solve, Erik.

    rainforest 4:14 PM  

    Good puzzle at an easy-medium level except the SW where I flailed for a ton of nanoseconds. Never heard of BOUGIE, and GIN UP is an iffy synonym of "contrived" in my opinion, so that "G" was hard to get. LATINX didn't help.

    *But* the theme was a CUTIE PIE, and the fill in general was quite good. I guess I have to say that, overall, this was a STRONG puzzle, the SW corner aside.

    Diana, LIW 5:28 PM  

    Didn't any of you CUTIEPIES miss me? It's not like I'd be taking time at the beach in MIAMI like the TREENS we saw in March

    I'm back home, getting over STEWing about you-know-what and a buncha medical (plggh) tests. Hoping to see a light in this tunnel of EXILE we're all dealing with.

    Puz wuz ez and fun for me. GAGS and STARS abound.

    Stay safe.

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

    rondo 6:45 PM  

    @D,LIW - Love you and miss you when you're not here.

    leftcoaster 7:32 PM  

    Good to see you back, @Diana. Assumed you had just wanted to get away for a while.

    Anonymous 12:12 PM  

    I thought the grid shape was cute but the more I look at it the more it looks like he has a giant smiley face for his head.

    Not a fan of the segregated sections but this puzzle was in my wheelhouse enough or easy enough that it wasn't an issue. Had BAKE for 6a but that became obviously wrong very quickly.

    I'm not that old but I've heard of maybe three of the nominated/winning artists for the various R&B Grammies in 2018 and don't recognize any of the songs.

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