Bronze Age fertility deity / THU 3-26-20 / Liquid absorbed by surrounding soil / Late Surrealist Turner / Only performer with speaking part in 1976's Silent Movie

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (untimed, clipboard solve)

THEME: Mercury and friends — clues are all [Mercury or ___, e.g.] where blanks are filled by the elements of the solar system, moving in order from the "Sun" outward to "Saturn" (skipping "Mercury" obviously):

Theme answers:
  • WNBA TEAM (Mercury or Sun, e.g.)
  • ROMAN GOD (Mercury or Venus, e.g.)
  • INNER PLANET (35A: Mercury or Earth, e.g.)
  • MUSICIAN (48A: Mercury or Mars, e.g.)
  • AUTOMAKE (58A: Mercury or Saturn, e.g.)
Alice PEARCE, left out again
Word of the Day: Carly PEARCE (16A: Country singer Carly)
Carly Pearce (born Carly Cristyne Slusser; April 24, 1990) is an American country music singer and songwriter. Her material contains elements of both traditional and contemporary country-pop music. Pearce began performing professionally in her teens, appearing on several albums of bluegrass material in the 2000's. After moving to Nashville, Tennessee, she began gaining more widespread notice. 
Pearce first gained major recognition in 2017 when her self-penned "Every Little Thing" found acclaim on satellite radio. The song helped Pearce secure a major label recording contract and became a major hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Country Airplaychart. Her debut album of the same name debuted in the top five of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Pearce has since released new material, including the 2019 single, "I Hope You're Happy Now". (wikipedia)
• • •

Not a lot of time this morning, so this will be brief. (Update: this post is actually a pretty normal length—nevermind)

This puzzle is disqualified on two counts. First, the sun is not a planet. I know that you probably know this, but it's not. Anyway, because it's not a planet, and though I like the answer WNBA TEAM just fine, the single appearance of [Sun] in the clues, when every single other clue word is a planet, really clanks. But nothing clanks as hard as having The Actual Word 'Planet' In One Of The Themers. The only thing holding this clue-word set together is its solar systemness—that's the gimmick—so ... you can't just clue the planets *as planets*. That is Awful. INNER PLANET is *Awful*. Nevermind that I've never heard of the term INNER PLANET and would never group them that way, that's not the point. The point is ... PLANET, really?? That is ... just throwing up your hands. "Hey, let's just use these planets to clue ... planets? You think the rubes will notice or care?" Ugh. Also, planets are *all* (save Earth) named after gods, so the ROMAN GOD answer feels like cheating as well. This theme actually works precisely twice: with MUSICIAN and AUTOMAKE (I would've added WNBA TEAM, but ... you know ... "Sun"!?). It works for those answers because the answers steer *away* from planet names. The answers are unexpected. MUSICIAN actually elicited a vague "aha" feeling! You know, that feeling you're *supposed* to get when a themer or revealer really lands. "Aha, Freddie Mercury! Oho, Bruno Mars!" But bottom line, the theme just feels broken.

The fill was adequate, although ASTARTE (31A: Bronze Age fertility deity) and SOAKAGE (41A: Liquid absorbed by surrounding soil) = [frowny face]. ASTARTE is 7-letter crosswordese that I routinely forget (until I get a few crosses); I get it confused with AMEN RA (which is 6-letter crosswordese, and an Egyptian god whose name can be spelled with roughly a million different vowel combos). SOAKAGE, who knows? I wanted SINKAGE and then LEAKAGE (?). I guess you can tell I had the back end of that word in place first; after a while, it felt like those first four letters could be *anything*. But SOAKAGE. Great. Never heard of Carly PEARCE, which I don't feel too bad about, as she is very young and doesn't have much of a song catalogue yet. Her name was definitely the hardest thing about the grid for me. I like the three-wordness of GOALLIN (22D: Not hold back). That is, I enjoyed discovering that I was dealing with not one not two but three words. I very much enjoy both the book and the movie "TRUE GRIT" (both the John Wayne and the Jeff Bridges versions) (11D: Only movie for which John Wayne won an Oscar). Cool of HOUDINI to make an appearance (39D: Subject of the 2006 biography "Escape!"). So yeah, it's not all bad, for sure. It's just, well, the theme doesn't work. As I've said. See paragraph 1. Good day.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. OPIUMS? Some things you just don't pluralize. OCELOTS, yes. OPIUMS, uh no.

    P.P.S. some of you seem to think that 72 is an accurate count of the CLUES in this puzzle. It's accurate. Here's how you count the number of clues in a standard (rotational symmetry) puzzle:
    Take the number of the last Across clue (today, 65), then add to it the total number of squares that are first squares both an Across and a Down (today, there are seven of these: the "L" of LESS / LAWFUL, the "E" of ERR / EYE, the "O" of ORATOR / OPIUMS, etc.). 65 + 7 = 72. (Thanks to Byron Walden for teaching me that trick)

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Loren Muse Smith 6:10 AM  

    AUTO MAKE was the first to fall and hence reveal the trick. I immediately thought of Freddie Mercury and went hunting for the MUSICIAN one.

    Rex – I totally missed that the clues are in the proper order. Honestly, I might have preferred the MUSICIAN clue to be “Mercury and Moon” since as Rex notes, 17A is an outlier; “Sun” is the only orb that’s not a planet.

    “You think the rubes will notice or care?" Hmm. I’ve just been accused of being a rube. After a bit of deliberation, I’ve decided that I’ll proudly own that.

    I love the word SOAKAGE. I can’t imagine it in any sentence. Maybe this: Hey, media! These press conferences are sickening. SOAKAGE you stop airing them?

    RESEAT – anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of seating people in a restaurant understands that, despite the hostess’s best efforts to make sure no single waiter gets slammed all at once, the party you’re seating will automatically look around and demand a different table. And then sit there in a snit ‘cause their waiter isn’t attentive enough. Yes. I’m talking to you.

    “Have” to before NEED TO. Hafta is pretty much its own word now, a modal auxiliary. It’s separate from have to:

    This carrot is all I have to eat, so I’m gonna still be hungry. /have to/
    This carrot is all I have to eat before Mom lets me get dessert. /hafta/

    BEHAVE – every fall I sign a contract with a phrase promising that I will “demean” myself in such and such a manner. This is startling. Has there been someone hiding out in the closet in my room? I investigated, and apparently demean can mean simply behave. Huh.

    Joaquin 6:21 AM  

    It must be this sheltering in place that has me so confused. I was thinking today is Thursday.

    Karl Grouch 6:42 AM  

    Easiest Thursday in a long long time, good for the morale I guess.

    Apart from that no real pleasure out of this one.

    Didn't notice the gimmick until I read Rex, no wows or ahas after that.

    This constructor's "feats" rarely serve the solving experience and in this case partcularly so.

    More "normal" than most AES puzzles but equally unenjoyable. That's just me, though.

    Maybe the effects of the SIEGE are beginning to show..

    ESCAPE! FROM CORONA, the latest sequel of the Carpenter movies.

    Take care people and take care of people

    Lobster11 6:44 AM  

    I'm with @Joaquin. This is a Wednesday puzzle, and I want my Thursday.

    Joaquin 6:44 AM  

    @LMS (6:10) - Your use of SOAKAGE wins the internet for today.

    Anonymous 6:49 AM  

    "Nevermind that I've never heard of the term INNER PLANET and would never group them that way, that's not the point."

    Dividing the planets into the "inner" (or "terrestrial") and "outer" is absolutely standard terminology, so I'm not sure what relevance it is that OFL "would never group them that way." They are grouped that way, by planetary scientists, so it's more than fair game.

    Frankly I thought the bigger objection than including the Sun would be the fact that Jupiter is skipped...

    kitshef 7:14 AM  

    Very tough for me. Well, 80% I flew through, but the SW was very hard and the NW was almost impossible, even with WNBATEAM in place. Never having heard of ALAN nor FIERO certainly contributed to that, plus wanting SABreS instead of SABERS.

    Loved the theme.

    Anybody have any insight into VAMOS versus vamanos?

    Mike G 7:14 AM  

    Did it bug anyone else that 46D "Brian Williams" gives you first name last name for the clue, while the answer "Brokaw" is only last name?

    Anonymous 7:14 AM  

    INNER PLANET is definitely a thing, with the asteroid belt after Mars being the divider. Now I’m hearing Carl Sagan and the “Cosmos” theme song in my head....

    Anonymous 7:27 AM  

    Yes Rex, there are inner planets. I live on one of them. Do you?

    Beaglelover 7:29 AM  

    58 across answer automakers is not accurate. The clues are models, not makes. Ford, Chevy , BMW's are makes.

    Lewis 7:37 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Lewis 7:39 AM  

    Hey, the big thing for me is "how was the solve?" I'm totally okay with this being a Mercury-centric solar-system-inclusive theme that includes the sun if the solve has punch and challenge. And it sure did for me today.

    This Ode To Mercury was filled with vague clues, clue traps (i.e., [Second person] has often been the clue for EVE, and [Something to chew on] has often been used for CUD]), and bits of knowledge that, for me, have been hiding out, needing some diligent prodding to coax out. So I had some tough areas requiring faith and time to balance off the easier areas that splat-fell, resulting in a stutter-step solve that made me feel double good -- proud of the quick fills and proud of the figuring-outs.

    So, while this wasn't an acrobatic Thursday theme, it gave me a Thursday-difficult solve, and man, that was plenty enough and satisfying. I loved it, and thank you, Alex.

    amyyanni 7:50 AM  

    Stupidly flung down cud instead of GUM, then stuck with it for far too long. Hate doing that! Of course, the mistake gave me more puzzle time.
    Liked the Bruno Mars/Freddie Mercury reference.

    Hungry Mother 7:58 AM  

    A bit on the sloggy side, but it flowed however slowly to the finish at 1a. Lots of answers pulled from the cobwebs of my memory made this a lot of fun.

    QuasiMojo 8:05 AM  

    I'm losing my touch. I had to cheat to finish. Never heard of Alan Turner and looking at his art I'm not surprised. Wanted Khyber Pass (yes Im that old) and Alero. I've never heard of Fiero and only know Alero from puzzles. It was the Team themer that did me in though. I find non-plural team names hard to grasp. There's no S in team?? Is there some reason they aren't Suns and Mercurys? I know about Heat and never liked that either. I also think of sabres being raised as one goes into battle. And Resides matches Lives IN, not lives. Did you know there are TWO new bios of Houdini out this month? I think we need an ESCAPE from him. Also I've always understood to COIN a phrase to mean to use a hackneyed expression frequently. That's why it's a coin, thousands are minted. You don't just mint a completely new phrase. It implies run of the mill. At least when I grew up. Before people began "unpacking" concepts or events, and saying "thank you" instead of "you're welcome" and starting a sentence with "um, yeah, sure," instead of "well," Feeling grumpy today. Stir crazy? Or just wishing I'd had a fun challenge instead of 72 CLUES I didn't enjoy.

    Lewis 8:18 AM  

    @quasi -- "There's no S in team??" -- Hah! Good one!

    Suzie Q 8:18 AM  

    If I had not been expecting some Thursday fun and trickiness I would have enjoyed this more.
    I don't know what ITV is but advert sounds British to me.
    Plurals like opiums bother me but are necessary evils sometimes.
    Soakage and osmosis sort of go together.

    Where is @ JOHN X? Smuggling black market toilet paper?

    TJS 8:20 AM  

    Innerplanet,inasense soakage and sieged. Even Houdini couldn't escape from that garbage.

    pabloinnh 8:21 AM  

    Pretty much OK with me, but didn't feel like a Thursday, as others have noted.

    AUTOMAKE sounded odd to me. Hey, what kind of AUTOMAKE do you drive? --Well, I live in NH, so obviously I drive a Subaru. Am I missing something here?

    OT but as I was listening to some vintage Bob and Ray last night, I was reminded that insect season is on the way and it's time to make sure we all have lots of fresh Einbinder Flypaper, the brand you've gradually grown to trust over the course of three generations. These guys will make you forget our situation, at least for a while, and boy do we need that.

    Hoping for a more challenging workout tomorrow.

    Hang by your thumbs, everybody.

    Whatsername 8:30 AM  

    I’m not sure what this was but it was not the snappy Thursday I expected. Seemed like rather odd CLUES and mostly mundane answers. I had the same question as Rex of why the SUN was thrown in there among the PLANETS so I’m a little more enthused after having read his assessment and learning that they are lined up in the order of distance. Count me among the rubes who didn’t notice, but if that group includes @Loren, then I consider myself among esteemed company.

    @Frantic Sloth from last night: Thanks again. However, after careful consideration of the options, I think I will just forthwith avoid the use of anything requiring me to decide between smart quotes and dumb quotes. I am either too dumb or not smart enough to figure out the difference.

    Had a really nice thing happen yesterday. The teachers and staff of the nearby elementary school organized a parade around some of the surrounding neighborhoods. They had advertised it in advance on the school Facebook page so that the students at home would know when to watch for them. Their vehicles were decorated in school colors and painted with messages like “We miss you” and “Hang in there.” Then they drove thru honking horns and waving to the kids and neighbors all conscientiously standing at least 6 feet apart. It was a nice moment of community solidarity and really lifted everyone’s spirits.

    Another Anon 8:31 AM  

    Oh Snap!

    kitshef 8:34 AM  

    @Mike G 7:14 - you are not alone. That bothered me, too.

    Ernonymous 8:36 AM  

    I thought ESCAPE was the book about the woman who escaped the polygamist cult. Oh, that was an autobiography. Nothing worked for that I tried FLDS, polygamy, sect, cult, sister wives, sex with old men, nothing fit!

    OffTheGrid 8:41 AM  

    @Quasi. I can appreciate your grumpiness. BTW, the Alero is (was) an Oldsmobile model. FIERO ran for vice president in 1984.

    webwinger 8:49 AM  

    I enjoyed doing this puzzle, but have to acknowledge that nearly all of @Rex’s criticisms are valid (not including his unfamiliarity with the term INNER PLANETS—his blind spots, and his obliviousness to them, are often baffling). I’m increasingly of the view that it’s not so much the substance of OFL’s beefs as the degree to which they seem to rankle him that accounts for the unpleasant negativeness of his reviews nowadays.

    If there’s anything positive to be found in the sad state of the world today, I would say it’s the focus of attention on the most important things in life: survival, human connection, kindness (and to his credit, Rex has shown some heartening awareness recently). But to see him go ballistic over inclusion of the sun in a puzzle based on the solar system—well, that’s sad. OTOH, holding on tight to ever diminishing remnants of normal life is definitely a coping strategy, so maybe it’s not so surprising after all.

    The apparent slowing of the rate at which new cases appear in some parts of the US is encouraging. This NYT article is not: In fact, I think it is more troubling than almost anything I can recall ever reading, not just about our current predicament, but about what has been business as usual in America. When we get to the other side of the crisis, there will need to be a lot of serious soul searching by all of our decision makers.

    tb 8:54 AM  

    I believe "vamos" translates to "let us"... So "vamos a casa" is "let's go home."

    The reflexive "vamanos" is "let's go" as in "let's leave."

    MR. Cheese 8:55 AM  

    I’m with you, @pablo
    “Write if you get work AND hang by your thumbs”

    Bob & Ray were brilliant!

    Joaquin 9:00 AM  

    @ Beaglelover (7:29) - I assume you are quite young, so ... Mercury and Saturn, though both now defunct, were brands (or "MAKES") of cars. Each had an assortment of models within the brand. Mercury was a brand that fell between Ford and Lincoln, while Saturn was more of an entry level offering from GM.

    SL2 9:01 AM  

    @Beaglelover 7:29. If Chevy is a make then Saturn is a make. Both are made by GM, although
    Saturn is now out of production. Likewise Mercury was a make of the Ford Motor Co. as is Lincoln.

    Sir Hillary 9:04 AM  

    I enjoyed this. Once I figured out what was going on, it was fun to hunt for the theme answers.

    Great 80s vibe, blasting Freddie Mercury in my FIERO on the way to see TOPGUN.

    Mercury or Sun could also have been "newspaper".

    I get the criticism of INNERPLANET, but it's not because INNERPLANET is not a thing. It absolutely is.

    OPIUMS? There are more than one?

    Amazed that OVAL was clued that way. I knew it, because I followed cricket when I lived in London a long time ago, but how many US solvers would be expected to know that? Directly below ADVERT no less, and crossing Austin Powers' "Oh BEHAVE!". (TRUEbRIT sport junkies will also remember Stuart PEARCE for, among other things, missing a crucial PK in a shootout that England lost. Ah, but ALAN Shearer was sublime.)

    CDilly52 9:06 AM  

    Working in rural America, I have learned some very interesting things. SOAKAGE, for example. Farmers use this word. Kids studying farming use this word, and I was certain I was mishearing it when, after one of Oklahoma’s devastating floods, one of my clients explained it to me. The context was needing to alter the soil in his fields to improve the SOAKAGE and reduce the runoff that was ripping the young soybean plants out of the earth. The wonderful folks at Oklahoma State U’s AG science school - agronomists and economists - have created some fascinating solutions. Anyway, the word makes perfect sense in context, but it sounds odd off the tongue, for sure. That said, I thought our @LMS’s usage absolutely must go into the Urban Dictionary! Perhaps along with, “the new house to house fake siding scam is designed for maximum consumer SOAKAGE.”

    Who cares, right? I guess my point with the agronomy comment is that crosswords prove conclusively that nothing you learn is wasted.

    So, the puzzle. The most obvious weakness seems to me to be that the first theme answers gives it away. By including Sun in 17A, the constructor alerted me immediately that something was afoot. I tossed in the WNBA TEAM immediately, but because of this answer’s position in the grid, I suspected it was not just a clue, and I glanced across to the NE to look for the next one. Aha! Sure enough, something having Mercury. Immediately, I knew I had found the theme and it was going to be anything but the planets in the answer. Oh, except for INNER PLANETS, which pretty much torches this theme’s consistency.

    Overall though, I agree that ‘twas a bit on the easy side. @Joaquin and @Lobster: I agree. I want my Thursday. Didn’t hate it (I rarely am a hater) but I am one solver who looks forward to the Thursday tricks so was disappointed in the easiness but enjoyed the solve nonetheless.

    Be alert for those who may need help, and please take care! I am now masked up when I must leave the house. If anyone had told me I would, here at the end of my legal career be part of an emergency “continuity of government” team and need to expose myself to a killer disease in order to help keep local government, well, governing, I’d have looked askance for sure, but here I am, from behind my N95 mask. Let’s all please work together to do the right things. Remember when we put the first person on the moon? That’s who we are. Dig deep folks. We Americans are resilient. And stay safe.

    Anonymous 9:07 AM  

    @OffTheGrid. Geraldine Ferraro was on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984

    blinker474 9:11 AM  

    It was a pleasant puzzle. I hope that someone else made the mistake of writing in "Tin Cup" as the answer to 18 Down. I watched Tin Cup two days ago, and it fit, or seemed to fit most of the across answers. So, I stuck with it until Mr. Happy Pencil corrected it.

    OffTheGrid 9:13 AM  

    @Webwinger said, "there will need to be a lot of serious soul searching by all of our decision makers."

    Sadly, this is unlikely. First, they probably don't have souls. Second, they really don't care. Anybody with an ounce of humanity has known all along how harmful the Trump administration is. Now it is killing us.

    Barbara S. 9:13 AM  

    Yeah, me too. I definitely wanted some playfulness for my Thursday. Sigh.

    But I disagree with Rex about the puzzle's theme not working. The theme was bodies in the solar system, not planets, therefore the inclusion of SUN was fine. And, as many have said "INNER" and "outer" are standard terminology. The only themer I genuinely didn't know was the WNBA teams, but I found the others a surprising struggle to get also.

    I didn't like SOAKAGE (but I guess it's correct) or SIEGED (which I think is wrong -- "besieged," please).

    Unfortunately, SABERS and "swords" have the same number of letters. And thanks to recent discussions I really wanted poppy products to be "opia."

    What unlocked the puzzle for me was finally inferring the solutions to two PPP clues I didn't know: the escaping HOUDINI (not familiar with that biography) and the talking MARCEAU (but surely only in a Mel Brooks film).

    Is this a dumb question? Aren't there 124 CLUES in the puzzle (65A + 59D) rather than 72?

    Barbara S. 9:29 AM  

    Further to my 9:13, I should really have said the theme was "celestial bodies in the solar system." And to make it even clearer, the clue for MUSICIAN could have been "Mercury or Moon, e.g."

    TJS 9:32 AM  

    I didn't know Carly Pierce and either did Rex. But he doesn't "feel bad about it, as she is very young". He also informed us in his fun facts section that she was born in 1990.

    Thanks to someone yesterday for the Firesign Theater reference. I lost the albums over the years, but I have to see what can be retrieved from YouTube. Can still remember some of the classic bits. I'm sure enjoyment was enhanced by the presence of the evil weed. We're All Bozos On This Bus.

    mambridge 9:40 AM  

    Surely, the predecessor of Brian Williams is Tom BROKAW, not just BROKAW.

    pmdm 9:45 AM  

    As webwinger notes, it is truly baffling that Sharp seems to have little knowledge of the common term "inner planet." It is also baffling that once he latches onto an idea, he seems to not bother considering an alternative. The theme concerns bodies in the Solar System, not planets (as others have pointed out). Apparently he did not have much time today, which kind of shows in the write-up. But I would give praise for not erasing one's errors and leaving them out there for others to see. Perhaps that is the point.

    While some of the PPP cause me a bit of distress, I thought struggling with the puzzle was enjoyable. More enjoyable than being holed up in my house. A friend told me (via telephone) that he went to Bear Mountain over the weekend and the parking lot was overflowing. No wonder why the pandemic is spreading.

    Frantic Sloth 9:51 AM  

    So, my first thought after finishing the puzzle was this.

    Then, it was "Bronze Age fertility deity"??? Really?? Just look at that clue. Talk about skewing old. Saved only by the crosses on that one.

    And at the risk of hopping on the sexist bandwagon, the testosterone wafted off this puzzle like...well...something that wafts a lot. So simile-challenged today.

    I need my coffee.

    Overall, though - I really liked it. Aside from a little MERCURY poisoning, the themers made me think, which is always a good thing...I think.
    Some of the fill was a tad easy for a Thursday, but when it's surprisingly easy, that makes it more difficult, no? I fall into the "well, it can't be as obvious as" ERR or TAHOE or ASTARTE hole. Still not over that one, I guess.

    On to bigger and better things --- like you all! (and Rex, of course)

    Anonymous 9:51 AM  

    @LMS--One of the side effects of this crisis is that you have time to post every day. The "briefings" are neither brief nor informational and cause more fear in me than the virus. Your coinage(?) is priceless.

    Birchbark 9:55 AM  

    The INNER PLANETs are so obvious to anyone with even a roughly scaled map of the solar system that one must refrain from laughing out loud. From Mars on in, its a cluster around the sun relative to the rest -- as though they never heard of, or refuse to consider, social distancing.

    The messenger-god Mercurycentricity of the clues lends a kind alchemical support to the transmutation planets away from their orbs and into other meanings. The purposeful exception of Earth-clued-as-planet-in-the-center (35A) is a nice touch. Surprised @Rex didn't see it.

    Anonymous 9:56 AM  

    Very British puzzle, yet they choose to spell SABRE the American way?

    former law clerk 9:56 AM  

    @Loren: I used to love listening to the deputy clerk of our federal court administering the oath to attorneys being admitted to that court: “Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I do solemnly SWAY-uh (our deputy clerk was very Southern; I kept waiting for someone to repeat the phrase with exactly his pronunciation and inflection) . . . that I will demean myself (I kept waiting for someone to say “what? demean myself? like, debase myself?”) . . . uprightly and according to law . . . and that I will uphold . . . the Constitution of the United States . . . so help me God.” Apparently they’ve now revised the oath to say “conduct myself,” which is too bad. But Mr. Google tells me that lots of lawyers have laughed about taking an oath to demean themselves.

    Z 10:01 AM  

    Oh, @LMS - I’m sure you got what Rex was doing but how you wrote it up could be interpreted as “Rex called me a ‘rube.’” To be clear, Rex was accusing Eaton-Salners/Shortz of thinking of solvers this way by putting this imagined quote in their mouths.

    I’m with the early @anonymous’ that INNER PLANET is most definitely a thing. Lots of near future hard science fiction (i.e. - the science has to be either currently feasible or plausible from current knowledge) takes place on the INNER PLANETs and asteroids. I also cannot get behind Rex’s “sun” plaint. As the center of the solar system it seems a perfectly reasonable place to start the theme to me. Making the theme conceit the solar system rather than planets also makes INNER PLANET more defensible. But then skipping Jupiter (and the asteroid belt for that matter) returns the wobble to this theme’s orbit.

    @Barbara S - That’s not how you come up with the number of clues in the puzzle. Slow way is just to count the clues. Slightly faster way is to take the last numbered across (65), and then add the down answers that also begin an across (1, 5, 8, 32, 35, 38, 45). 65+7=72. Easiest way is to go over to and look.

    @CDilly52 - Thanks for the SOAKAGE info. The word makes perfect sense in context, but that’s not a context I’ve ever been a part of.

    @Sir Hillary (and Rex) Yep. OPiodS can be plural, but I had a feeling and waited for the crosses.

    I liked this fine and appreciate that Shortz threw us a fastball when were all dug in expecting a change-up (sorry about the baseball metaphor but today was supposed to be Opening Day - some of us do grieve over it not happening).

    Michiganman 10:09 AM  

    I see the same thing in northern Michigan. Trailhead parking lots are overflowing. I find places where I can hike alone.

    E McL 10:14 AM  

    I agree with Barbara S that "sieged" is just not right. "Besieged" is the only way to use the verb.
    And, yeah, I was looking forward to a Thursday. As Rex said a few days ago, the puzzle has become a bit TOO important in my life of late, as in, too much of my sense of the comfort of what used to be the day-to-day is bound up in it, and I could really use some delightful ones.
    But I DO find comfort in the puzzle and in the community of all of you.
    Stay safe, solvers, and here's to better times when we can look back on this Strangeness from the other side.

    WinthorpeIII 10:16 AM  

    The point is, how often do you hear or read the term? For me, never.

    Geezer 10:19 AM  

    Unless there is a title or theme revealer that I missed, the theme clearly involves names of planets. Sun is an outlier as described by Rex. Some commenters are claiming the theme is celestial bodies or the solar system. Where is that coming from? Are you just being anti Rex?

    Azzurro 10:20 AM  

    I was an astrophysics major in college, and INNER PLANETS is a very common term in astronomy. There are the gas giants beyond the asteroid belt, and there are the inner planets. Pluto remains up for debate.

    WinthorpeIII 10:21 AM  

    I finished, which is rare for me on a Thursday, but it didn't feel good. As Rex said, opiums? No thanks. Someone can have some opiates, but some opium, not opiums.

    Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:24 AM  

    SEIGED? Use that in a sentence? LMS could probably come up with something, I can't. Not a verb. And, um, if OPIUM had a plural it would be OPIa. I suppose.

    Nancy 10:30 AM  

    A puzzle with enough mild difficulty to hold my attention, but not very Fridayish. And I was surprised by the fact that there was a theme, meh though it was. But I wasn't bored, so it was serviceable.

    I'm sure others have said this already, but as you know, my first comment is made before reading the blog. And though I happily didn't write it in, I wanted READER, not ORATOR for the "teleprompter user". In fact, I wanted TERRIBLE, SOULLESS, SING-SONG READER. I was thinking of our TERRIBLE, SOULLESS, SING-SONG teleprompter READER, Donald Trump. And he is the anti-ORATOR, if ever there was one.

    Lewis 10:32 AM  

    @geezer -- Being that there is no title, the theme, to me, involves the planets and the sun, as they are all in the theme answers' clues, and so I see it as a solar system theme. The sun is not an outlier in our solar system; it is part of it. And, for what it's worth, IMO, the sun is not an outlier in this puzzle.

    Frantic Sloth 10:37 AM  

    Yeah. I admit INNERPLANETS (too planet-y in a planet-themed puzzle) and using the sun clue were boners.

    See, this is the kind of stuff that completely eludes me. My crossword solving persona is LESS like Statler and Waldorf (those cranky old balcony muppets) and more like Odie.

    I enjoy everything until some nit needs picking or there's a glaring faux pas, which in my mind happens much more rarely than Rex - or even some of the commentariat - point(s) out.

    @OffTheGrid 9:13am Sadly, I couldn't agree more.
    @Barbara S. 9:13 am Someone has probably already explained this, but you're confusing the number of clues with the number of squares (more or less). I know this because I did the same thing pre-forehead slap.

    Bax'N'Nex 10:46 AM  

    Vamos has the meaning Let's go (to a destination) while Vámonos is more Let's leave (this place). Ir is the only verb used in the indicative mood to form an affirmative nosotros command. ... One exception to the above rule is the verb ir, whose subjunctive form is used only for the negative nosotros/nosotras command.

    From some definition I found somewhere...


    Nancy 10:55 AM  

    Oops. No wonder this wasn't a "Fridayish" puzzle. It isn't Friday. Should I blame my mistake on not being able to do anything that requires my knowing what day it is?

    @Quasi -- Sometimes the "IN" isn't needed:
    Do you know where he lives?
    Do you know where he resides?

    Yes, @Barbara S, SIEGED is wrong. BESIEGED is not really a substitute, though, since it can refer to so many things other than an actual SIEGE. You can be BESIEGED by nagging children who want to go to Disneyland in the middle of a pandemic. But you're not under SIEGE, even though you may feel like you are. The only way to solve this usage is to treat SIEGE like the noun it truly is and not like a verb. You can "carry out" a SIEGE. You can also "undergo" a SIEGE. But you cannot SIEGE or be SIEGED.

    Joe Dipinto 10:57 AM  

    When the moon is in the Seventh House
    And Jupiter aligns with Mars
    Then peace will guide the planets
    And love will steer the stars

    I realize that doesn't help the Jupiter problem since it has Jupiter aligning with Mars and not Mercury but it's all I got. And the song is catchy. Maybe I shouldn't use that word.

    I object to the MUSICIANS entry because musicians Mercury and Mars have (had) first names, you know. Nobody calls Freddie just "Mercury" or Bruno just "Mars". Whereas all the other entries get by with true single word-ness.

    And since INNER PLANETS is perfectly centrally located, it looks like some sort of revealer. But it's not. And SIEGED? Yeah, it's in the dictionary but come on...

    So, no. If I want planets I'd rather listen to Gustav Holst.

    Heidiho 10:57 AM  


    Anonymous 11:10 AM  

    unless I missed it, SATURN is not an INNER PLANET Mars is the last

    Malsdemare 11:19 AM  

    Arrggh! I STILL have a typo somewhere that I have to ferret out. But I came here because I had to share one of my favorite mommy moments. Precocious two-year-old acting her age and in frustration I implore, "Jo, can you just BEHAVE? And she plaintively replied, "Mommy, I AM being have." So damn cute I forgot to be pissed.

    Okay, now to find that typo and read the blog. High ppint of my day. I sure hope y'all are funny or perspicacious or something. Just BEHAVE!

    Z 11:30 AM  

    @pmdm - Rex sometimes posts updates, but he does leave whatever he writes out there. I’m not that surprised by his ignorance of anything, anymore than anyone else’s. What any one of us doesn’t know always far outstrips what we do know.

    @Frantic Sloth - “Talk about skewing old.” That made me chuckle.

    @Geezer - I don’t generally get accused of being “anti-Rex.” I think it’s fairly obvious that the theme is “solar system” because the sun is included. Maybe “planets” would be a better theme, but the text pretty obviously doesn’t support the idea that the theme is “planets.”

    @Greater Fall River - I prefer “opiopodes.”

    Merriam-Webster actually uses SIEGED in a sentence.

    Anonymous 11:30 AM  

    @OPIUMS!?, There's not such thing as plural Opiums! people.

    People, well aren't you just ever so prim and proper. Take it from someone who knows, there are a variety of opiums. Brown, Black Tar, China White... Very different in their nature. The best one, of course, is the one your dealer has. If you have a well supplied dealer, go with black tar.

    Tom R 11:35 AM  

    Easiest Thursday ever! Where were the rebuses?
    Inner planet is a thing and heard it since (probably) grade school in science classes. Revealer has planet and the sun isn't a planet is a problem in logic, but by then it wasn't needed anyway so didn't even inpinge on my consciousness. Never heard of soakage - sounds like a made-up word.

    Anonymous 11:35 AM  

    All the time.

    xyz 11:36 AM  

    INNER PLANET is just fine. So is OUTER PLANET. Science, not science. Standard stuff
    Outer Planets are mostly gas giants, FWIW.
    Outer Planets are way out 5-30 AU while Inner are ~2 or less.
    (1 AU being ~93 M miles) Sun->Earth distance

    Out of one's wheelhouse does not invalidate, otherwise a lot of puzzle rote would be DISAPPEARED

    My Experience?
    Clunky clues and answers (SOAKAGE?) although I did like the MUSICIAN clue - would have also worked for SINGERS.

    It's a wavelength thing 2.5 meh today

    Wash your hands and two metres apart, please

    dadnoa 11:37 AM  

    +1 for Thursday comment. My time was a bit slow because I kept looking for the Thursday speed bump. Then I finished.

    RooMonster 11:39 AM  

    Posted a nice, long, great (IMHO) post that got lost when my Google Account decided to not connect. Holy crap.

    Good puz. Tough SE.

    One F

    Newboy 11:39 AM  

    Harder here than at Rex’s pad, but many of the same rough spots noted. I’d GO ALL IN that Bill NYE would not raise an astronomer’s EYEbrow at INNER PLANET. Rex rags on SIEGED, but I gotta give today’s Critic Whine Award to Mr. Horne who says on xwordinfo that ("The invaders have sieged our castle!" is more "WTF kind of mead have you been drinking?" inducing.). While I kept waiting for the “Thursdayness” gimmicky to drop, I just had to ACCEDE to the reality: HOUDINI didn’t appear in today’s GIG. Kudos to Alex for the great EL NINO clue that upped the ante in the northwest. Probably more expected/better as a Wednesday, but still an amusing solve.

    If you’re bored with all the statistical data being circulated, I suggest a visit to YouTube for a healthy dose of Hans Rosling. Several of his online videos inoculate against the despair many face when isolated data points overwhelm. Optimism tempered is its own reward.

    emily 11:57 AM  

    Fiero was Pontiacs response to the Vega, if I remember correctly. I only know that is because my dad worked for GM.

    QP 11:59 AM  

    I think the theme was “solar system”, rather than just planets of the solar system

    Loved it

    emily 12:03 PM  

    Thanks for the explanation of soakage which I figured (reckoned😘) had something to do with runoff.

    pmdm 12:06 PM  

    Z: More or less, I think our observations are identical. None of us are infallible. What I think annoys some who post here is that Mike can express his views (sometimes correct and sometimes incorrect) very forcefully. When he is wrong, the forceful manner of his pronouncements can put some off. In a sense, its a matter of the difference between opinions (and disparate opinions are not only possible but in my opinion beneficial) and fact.

    Based upon how one expresses oneself, the result can either be influencing others or turning others off. Therein lies the controversy (as I see it).

    jberg 12:10 PM  

    OK, I've read Rex, but not the rest of you -- will do that next, time permitting. INNER PLANETS is indeed a real term, but Rex's main point is still valid.

    My big problem with this puzzle is that I saw that UL at the bottom of 1D and immediately thought it was going to be unfoUL. That was so awful I never wrote it in, but it did block me from seeing other possibilities. I even thought maybe alERO could be spelled olERO at 20A. Finally, way too late, did I recall the equally crosswordesey FIERO, and it all fell into place.

    I put it in right away, but SIEGED? You don't siege a castle -- you 'lay siege' it, or you 'besiege' it.

    OK, I'll go read now.

    BDL in PS 12:12 PM  

    I'm not so much a sports guy so I went straight to the San Jose Mercury News and the Baltimore Sun - didn't fit. I wondered if it might be WNBA, but that didn't work with the calvarymen's SWORD - no, held aloft - must be SHIELD. Took me a long time to sort that one out.

    Geezer 12:19 PM  

    @Lewis and Z. You've convinced me. Solar system it is.

    What? 12:28 PM  

    Good puzzle.
    1. I finished it
    2. It was a bit difficult
    Better than really difficult (Saturday) or not difficult enough (Monday).
    I didn’t mind the PLANET, SUN, SOLAR SYSTEM, etc.
    There are more important things to worry about.

    thfenn 12:50 PM  

    Count me among the rubes that didn't notice or care, whether it's OFL or WS calling us such (thanks @Z for that refinement). Had no idea 'rube' came from what we thought of people named Reuben. Halfway through this I had the whole east side complete and the west side sparsely populated. SwordS and SiezE before SABERS and SNARE, let alone SNARf, but eventually got through it and am still always happy with a cheat-free Thursday. Enjoyed OSMOSIS crossing SOAKAGE. Our INNERPLANET would seem to be doing better these days, despite the opposite being true for its human inhabitants. Stay safe, all.

    Whatsername 12:52 PM  

    @CDilly (9:06) Thank you for the words of encouragement and philosophical message, so very eloquently stated. Yes, that is who we are. And those of us here where you and I are in the middle of America are even more resilient I believe. I grew up on a farm in Central Missouri, and it takes a lot to keep Midwestern people down. Please take care and keep wearing that mask.

    Barbara S (9:13) I’m with you. While I fully understand the explanations of the experts, as far as I’m concerned there are still 124 clues - 65 across and 59 down. But what do I know? I’m just a rube from the sticks who does crossword puzzles.

    QuasiMojo 12:59 PM  

    @Nancy, yes those are both valid expressions, but they don't mean the same thing.

    jae 1:01 PM  

    Easier than yesterday’s, so easy. The buzz at Xwordinfo is that this was supposed to be a Wed. and I would agree. Liked the theme but the fill is a tad rough in spots as many of you have pointed out.

    CDilly - thanks for the SOAKAGE info. Nice to learn new things.

    Anonymous 1:03 PM  

    No, definitely not. Fiero was a two-sest mid-engined sports car and a Vega was a small sedan.

    Teedmn 1:03 PM  

    Huh, thanks, @LMS, for the "demean" discussion. I never thought to wonder about the connection between "demean" and "demeanor" before.

    I re-read "Pride and Prejudice" last week and one character is constantly praising Lady Catherine de Bourgh for being wonderfully condescending, and while it was obvious from context what was meant, it still made me want to say, "And pooh on Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Condescend to me, will she? Hmmph!" A similar concept to the different usages of demean, in my mind anyway.

    AE-S had his usual effect on me today, slowing me down even for a non-tricky Thursday. Perhaps because I kept looking for the Thursday SNARE. But my entry into the NW took some time - that clue for SABERS was funky.

    Thanks, Alex, and also for the idea that OPIUMS have different bouquets or some such, based on the plurality.

    Masked and Anonymous 1:13 PM  

    I really miss runty little Pluto.

    Puz was fun to solve (yo, @Lewis) at our house. Had lotsa longball fillins, to help slow old M&A down to a snot-crawl.

    Liked how Mercury and some other celestial orb always headlined each themer clue. Mercury is a planet, so INNERPLANET certainly seems appropriate -- but BUT: Mercury is also an element on the atomic scoreboard. Cannot omit that obvious angle, if U are goin for any kind of Mercury-completeness. Maybe a themer clue like {Mercury or Krypton, e.g.}? Would have a nice Superman comic books reference for @RP, too boot.

    Desperate or mysterious stuff abounded. Not always sure which was which, but highlites = OPIUMS. SOAKAGE. RESEAT. UNREPS. ADVERT. ASTARTE.

    Enjoyed TOPGUN & TRUEGRIT. Pretty good flicks.
    Didn't know PEARCE & ANYA, but nailed MARCEAU in an OPI-minute.
    Wanted CUD before GUM. Lost a few precious nanoseconds.

    staff weeject picks: AAS & BBS. There is some puztheme potential, in there. Somewhere.

    Thanx for the mercurial fun, Mr. E-S.

    Masked & Anonymo9Us


    Smith 1:17 PM  

    @Loren As in "demeanor".

    Anonymous 1:21 PM  

    Clearly this puzzle was poorly edited with errors on 'sun' and 'make' vs. 'model'. Add to that the two names in clue vs. one name in answer on 46D and plural opium. Not a Thursday NYT puzzle, more like a puzzle on someone's blog. A practice run. 'Inner planets' is both common and standard. 16A and 31A are neither, but I got them on crosses. Learned 5D. C-.

    GHarris 1:24 PM  

    First had seepage and cud. Once I made the corrections the rest pretty much flowed. I still don't get how there are only 72 clues. I understand that 7 first letters of answers serve the dual purpose of beginning the across and down answers. Barbara S, have you figured it out? Z's explanation failed to enlighten me. Nancy, sheltering at home has probably caused many of us to lose track of days of the week. I pray we all get through this, especially in NYC.

    Smith 1:29 PM  

    @ TJS

    Antelope Freeway, one one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth mile...

    Seeg 1:31 PM  


    fifirouge 1:39 PM  

    Today was such a disappointment for me. Had a bit of a rough day yesterday, so when I opened up the crossword this a.m. I actually said aloud "C'mon NYT don't let me down. I need a good tricky Thursday crossword." And...nope. Nothing special or interesting, no satisfying "aha!" moment, nothing to figure out.

    When I got to 53A I had a brief flicker of hope that there was some puzzle-wide trick. Started eagerly scanning the puzzle for something that popped up over and over again. Instead of an "aha!" moment, I got a "wah wah" when I realized they meant 72 CLUES.

    Oh well.

    Anonymous 1:40 PM  

    No, definitely not. Fiero was a two-sest mid-engined sports car and a Vega was a small sedan.

    there was a fire breathing V6 Fiero. was tempted. turned out to be a complete lemon.

    bauskern 1:42 PM  

    This group, as a whole, is filled with nit pickers. Jeez, there's a crisis going on. The NYTXW gives us a few minutes of reprieve. Were all the clues perfect? No. In the big scheme of things, does it really matter? No. I actually thought it was clever, since Mercury is surely in retrograde.

    Anonymous 1:42 PM  

    Nancy, sheltering at home has probably caused many of us to lose track of days of the week. I pray we all get through this, especially in NYC.

    yeah. those of us out in the hustings are getting to know what remand to Rikers Island might be like. as least as seen on "L&O". :)

    Sir Hillary 1:50 PM  

    @GHarris 1:24PM and any others -- As you know, the number of clues in a puzzle (barring trickery) is the same as the number of answers. To determine the total number of answers (Across and Down), you can either count them in the grid, or you can use the shortcut @Z suggested. Namely, start with the highest number of an Across clue (in this case, 65) and then find how many squares start both an Across and a Down answer (in this case, 7 of them -- #s 1, 5, 8, 32, 35, 38 and 45). Add those figures together to get the total number of answers/clues (in this case, 72). This works unless there are unchecked squares that start answers, which typically only happens in Thursday-style gimmicks. BTW, in a standard 15x15 grid with the common 180-degree diagonal symmetry, the total will always be an even number. With mirror symmetry (East-West or north-south) or with non-square grids (say, 15x16) that is not always the case. Hope this isn't too much info, especially if I've made any errors (as someone will doubtless point out if I have!).

    Z 1:56 PM  

    @Tom R - I don’t think there is any revealer today beyond the “Mercury” in every clue.

    @pmdm - I think you’re right. But that “controversy” is really the readers’ problem, not Rex’s.

    @M&A - Now I’m wondering what happened to CCS.

    @whatsername and @GHarris - Take a look at the grid at 1A. Do you see how there are no clues for 2A, 3A, or 4A? Even though the last across clue is 65, there haven’t actually been 65 across clues. If you go look at the clue list and ignore the numbers, you will count 72 clues. The second way I described starts with the idea that there are at least 65 clues, then counts all the clue numbers that get used twice, like 1A. Does that help?

    EdFromHackensack 2:01 PM  

    I had a big problem with BROKAW . It is inexcusable and very surprised Rex didn't jump all over it.

    Masked and Anonymous 2:02 PM  

    The way M&A looks at it …

    1. Find the highest number in the grid, at the last Across answer. [65, in this case.]
    2. So, since every entry in the puz needs a number, there are at least 65 entries in the puz.
    3. But … a few puz entries share a number. This happens whenever an Across and a Down entry start out in the Same Square. [There are 7 of these "shared starting numbers" in this puz.]
    4. To adjust the total entry count for this, add the number of shared starting numbers to the 65, so that the 7 Down entries get counted, along with their already counted number-sharing 7 Across entries.
    5. This means there are now 72 total entries in this puz.
    6. Each entry has a clue, so there are also 72 clues.

    M&A Help Desk

    Barbara S. 2:03 PM  

    @Geezer 10:19 & 12:19
    Damn! You suddenly became agreeable. Following from my 9:13 and 9:29 posts I'd prepared a "logical" argument to support my position. Redundant now. But I do want to say that although I'm fundamentally a pro-Rexer, I'm always happy to argue with him when I think it's warranted.

    @Z 10:01 and others
    Thanks for the response but I'm still confused. Is there a rationale for that method of counting the total number of clues in a Xword puzzle?

    @Whatsername 12:52
    I appreciate the support! But I am willing to be corrected if I can grasp the reasoning.

    @Nancy 10:55
    Absolutely -- and I liked your picture of the besieging army of tots. I feel that neither "siege" nor "besiege" is a particularly good answer to that clue (wage a long campaign against). You can fight with something over the long haul (either militarily or metaphorically) with no sieges involved. You can battle, or struggle against. I'm not sure there is one word that inherently conveys the notion of a long, drawn-out fight.

    okanaganer 2:10 PM  

    A great revealer for this puzzle would have had the clue "Each example in a clue for a theme answer, eg", and the answer, dead in the center of the puzzle: ORB.

    puzzlehoarder 2:25 PM  

    Thanks to the NW corner this was a Saturday length solve. I could have sworn FIERO was a Ford model. ALERO as far as I could remember was an Oldsmobile but I still kept trying to make it work. To crack that corner I just had to write in what I was sure of and then the WNBA lightbulb went off. Clues using that league's team names are recurring weak points for me.

    The bottom two thirds of this puzzle were early week easy inspite of a quickly corrected SINKAGE/SOAKAGE write over.

    Before the protracted standoff in the NW I had a brief struggle changing OPIODS to OPIUMS. I'm sure I had a similar experience the last time this POC appeared.

    For anyone who didn't stumble over that NW corner I can just imagine how you'd feel robbed of a Thursday. I came away with a clean grid but today was not my day.

    GHarris 2:32 PM  

    @Z, Sir Hillary, M&A
    Aha, I got it. Thank you all. The suggestion to count actual answers in the grid opened my eyes ( and mind)

    CaryInBoulder 2:43 PM  

    Half the time I wonder why Rex gets so worked up about what he gets worked up about. Today was one of those days. INNERPLANET was my first guess at the themers. Not nearly as obscure as the proper names.

    For ASTARTE i wanted something ending in _TH. ASGARTH? ASTROTH? When I Googled that one I realized it was a catcher for the old Philadelphia/Kansas City A’s — a name submerged deep in the recesses of my early days collecting baseball cards. (Joe Astroth, FYI). But I wasn’t really that far off the mark: the goddess also goes by ASTORETH. Maybe she goes in the baseball record book with an asterisk.

    Went to Safeway early this morning (special geezer hours) and it looked like something from “Night of the Living Dead.” Reminded me of how I felt on 11-09-2016. Now the orange sh*tgibbon’s friends think we oldsters should sacrifice ourselves for the sake of an economic revival that will rise from the mounting dead on Easter Sunday. Comedian Michael Rapaport’s take pretty much summarizes what I say every ****ing minute of every ****ing day. (Hint: awesome but not for the profanity averse.) You’ll have to copy and paste into a browser, but worth the effort if you feel as I do.

    VancouverNana 2:54 PM  

    Vega (first car I purchased. Buy American my dad said!😇) was a LEMON. When I traded it in for a Toyota the dealer said even tho it was low mileage (30,000) he’d send it straight to the scrap yard...wouldn’t even let his teenage son drive it!😂😂

    Whatsername 3:07 PM  

    @Z (1:56) OMG, Hallelujah and Eureka! I finally understood what you were saying about counting the clues. I just could not see beyond those numbers next to them but when you said “ignore those” and just count, then the light bulb finally came on. I’m slapping my head. We rubes can be so dense sometimes. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now to learn how to paste a link so that it shows up blue. @JC66 has been very graciously and patiently coaching me and I need a bit more practice, but I’ll soon be ready for the challenge.

    @Barbara S: It took me a while, but I do indeed stand corrected.

    @VancouverNana (2:54) I remember the Vega. Never owned one but I did drive a Ford Pinto for a number of years. Stick shift, no air, no power anything, no nothing. It was four doors and four wheels, but it got me where I needed to go and had over 100,000 miles on it when I finally sold it.

    Rug Crazy 3:11 PM  

    I agree with most of Rex's beefs, but the one I feel he missed is 46 Down > Brian Williams is two Names, Brokow is one. Should have been clued Williams IMHO.
    Glad I finished, but mostly didn't enjoy it except for the Mars /Mercury combo!

    Rug Crazy 3:13 PM  

    BRIAN WILIAMS -two Names
    Brokow -onename
    Biggest flaw with this puzzle

    Anonymous 3:29 PM  

    orange sh*tgibbon

    OMG!!! I feel so incredibly humbled. my goto epithet has been Orange Julius Cesaer. now I got a better one. if I may?

    Barbara S. 3:36 PM  

    @M&A 2:02

    Our posts crossed in the mail. Thanks for the expuzition!

    E McL 3:52 PM  

    I agree with Barbara S that "sieged" is just not right. "Besieged" is the only way to use the verb.
    And, yeah, I was looking forward to a Thursday. As Rex said a few days ago, the puzzle has become a bit TOO important in my life of late, as in, too much of my sense of the comfort of what used to be the day-to-day is bound up in it, and I could really use some delightful ones.
    But I DO find comfort in the puzzle and in the community of all of you.
    Stay safe, solvers, and here's to better times when we can look back on this Strangeness from the other side.

    emcl 3:55 PM  

    I agree with Barbara S that "sieged" is just not right. "Besieged" is the only way to use the verb.
    And, yeah, I was looking forward to a Thursday. As Rex said a few days ago, the puzzle has become a bit TOO important in my life of late, as in, too much of my sense of the comfort of what used to be the day-to-day is bound up in it, and I could really use some delightful ones.
    But I DO find comfort in the puzzle and in the community of all of you.
    Stay safe, solvers, and here's to better times when we can look back on this Strangeness from the other side.

    Barbara S. 4:13 PM  

    Oops, just realized that @Sir Hillary and @Z also gave cogent answers to the clue counting question. Didn't mean to leave you guys out. And, furthermore, just manually counted all the answers in today's puzzle, across and down: a satisfying 72.

    Al 4:15 PM  

    @Quasi, were you serious about this, "Also I've always understood to COIN a phrase to mean to use a hackneyed expression frequently."

    It means invented or thought up. Here's something that was coined at some point (from Websters):

    "Social distancing is a new term for most of us, but has become ubiquitous in coverage of safe practices for preventing the spread of the disease. A new definition has been added to social distance and the verb socially distance has also been added."

    Anoa Bob 4:37 PM  

    It isn't the number of clues, but rather the number of words that has an upper limit for various puzzles. Here's the blurb from the NYT Specification Sheet at

    Maximum word counts: 78 words for a 15x15 (72 for an unthemed); 140 for a 21x21. Maximums may be exceeded slightly, at the editor's discretion, if the theme warrants.

    Since many of the "words" are actually phrases, abbreviations, Roman numerals, etc., maybe "entries" would be a better choice than "words".

    As Anonymous@11:30 demonstrates, various OPIUMS do exist. In today's online Washington Post, there's an article about how Johnson & Johnson went to Tasmania to genetically breed a "super poppy" to feed the growing opioid prescription needs in the U.S. All kinds of OPIUMS out there.

    To me OPIUMS is just another plural of convenience (POC). The convenience lies in the increased grid fillage (opposite of SEEPAGE) that tacked-on S provides. Makes it a little easier to complete the grid. Along that line, see the S in the bottom, right-most square. That's a classic two POCs with one S plural of convenience. Verrrry convenient. An S pops up there regularly.

    Just an observation, not really a complaint. The puzzle shows admirable restraint in using the super-useful S. Well, UNREPS is pretty ugly. (Or is it ugly pretty?)

    Anonymoose 5:17 PM  

    In the world of crossword analysis is a VTOC (verb tense of convenience) like SEWS equivalent to a POC?

    QuasiMojo 6:19 PM  

    @AL -- no I was not kidding. The meaning has changed overt the years due to misusage but the first definition for "to coin a phrase" in the Oxford dictionary, at least online is --

    "said ironically when introducing a banal remark or cliché.
    "I had to find out the hard way—to coin a phrase"

    TJS 6:30 PM  

    Imo, "to coin a phrase" was originally used to, let's say, give legitimacy to
    a writer or speaker's creative written or spoken expression. It has come to be used ironically, in the sense that someone says something that is very much in the language, and the writer or speaker is acknowledging the fact.
    Does that make sense? I'm buzzed.

    Al 6:31 PM  

    @Quasi, the plot thickens! We may both be wrong. I found this:

    'To coin a phrase' is now rarely used with its original 'invent a new phrase' meaning but is almost always used ironically to introduce a banal or clichéd sentiment.

    So the first definition was how I thought of it, and the modern one is the way you think of it.

    JC66 6:49 PM  

    I recommend Queen Coronavirus spoof

    pabloinnh 7:05 PM  

    Love is so simple
    To coin a phrase
    You've known it all the time
    I'm learnin' it these days...


    Was he being ironic? Or just being Dylan?

    QuasiMojo 7:29 PM  

    Thanks @AL and TJS. I guess I am confused myself. Just goes to show I should think things through more carefully sometimes. I'm glad neither of you noticed I had coined a word "misusage" since I suspect "misuse" was more apt. :-)

    Anonymous 7:52 PM  

    Rex, YOU have a type in your P.P.S. Your sentence says "some of you seem to think that 72 is an accurate count of the CLUES in this puzzle." I think you mean INACCURATE, b/c in your next sentence, you say "It's accurate."

    Unknown 7:56 PM  

    Maybe the crossword maker thinks of the sun as Dante in the first canto of INFERNO.
    In those days the sun was considered a planet.

    Ma poi ch'i' fui al piè d'un colle giunto, = But when I'd reached the bottom of a hill
    là dove terminava quella valle = it rose along the boundary of the valley
    che m'avea di paura il cor compunto, = that had harassed my heart with so much fear-

    guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle = I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed
    vestite già de' raggi del pianeta = already by the rays of that same planet
    che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle. = which serves to lead men straight along all roads.

    Mandelbaum translation.

    Anoa Bob 8:15 PM  

    Anonymoose@5:17, POC was never meant to be a grammatical term, only a crossword term referring to a grid entry that has an -S or an -ES added to the end for no other reason than to increase its grid fillage power. The enhanced word can be a noun or a verb and it's still a POC.

    Since only the hard core are likely lurking at this late hour, here's a discussion of ways to up the fillage quotient of a whole slew of words. It's called letter count inflation (LCI) and it's crossword nerdy. You've been warned.

    tea73 8:23 PM  

    Coming in very late, because we did the Wall Street Journal Puzzle at lunch. For some unknown reason we are getting it along with the local paper this week. Anyway, if you are looking for a tricksy Thursday, it was all that and more. I highly recommend it. It took us (husband is at home for now) to figure out what was going on, but when we did, very satsifying.

    albatross shell 8:48 PM  

    I I occasionally use bloviating biomass.

    @Z 1130am
    M-W gave 2 examples of tauten used in a sentence. Tautened was used in both examples.

    You nailed it. SATURN and MERCURY are both makes. You do know your cars despite your famous namesake uncle.

    With alERO still in but not working I thought Firebird, too long, but seeing one and thinking the other, bam!, a successful merger.

    Had another 3 worder in for too long: GOforIt.

    Really a beautiful SW with MARCEAU HOUDINI OSMOSIS SOAKAGE ACCEDE. Made difficult by trying SearED before SINGED.

    And yes. drop the unnecessary Brian.

    old timer 9:04 PM  

    I thought I posted a comment this morning, but maybe it didn't go through. Just wanted to say it was me who referenced the Firesign Theatre a few days ago, and to thank all of you for your wisdom and humor. Stay safe out there!

    RooMonster 9:25 PM  

    To all confused about the number of CLUEs.
    Ignore the numbers in the squares. Easiest way? Count the bloody clues. 1A-1, 5A-2, 8A-3, etc. You get 37 Across CLUES and 35 Down clues.
    The numbers in the squares are irrelevant for this counting purpose.

    RooMonster Count! Guy

    Frantic Sloth 9:52 PM  

    @Z More "podes"? I'm sensing a pattern.��
    @bauskern 1:42 Guess again! See my link at 9:51am.
    @CaryInBoulder 2:43 F@@k profanity - it don't scare me! Loved the tweet.

    Speaking of early access for geezers only...a friend of mine the other day raised an interesting (read: funny) question: Is this really for the old people or is it really for everybody else?
    We're dirt-aged, too, so we can say that.��

    Pamela 9:56 PM  

    Someone mentioned testosterone, but now I can’t find the comment again to respond directly. But yes, a boy puzzle for sure. Cars, weapons, a war movie, even a team as a themer. It’s been the norm for so long, though, that I’m used to it and didn’t waste much though about it until the end.

    There was a lot I didn’t know- fell for cUd, wanted SeepAGE like so many others. Winced at OPIUMS and BROKAW. Even so, I made it through most of the puzzle without much trouble. It was the NW corner that did me in, Couldn’t think of ALAN, FIERO not even a dim memory, wanted shoGUN, UNREPS unheard of even though I live less than a mile up the road... and fuggedaboud the WNBA! I was never going to get that one. I finally gave up and cheated.

    As for the theme, the planets were all gods so when that fell I had no idea where to go next and the rest just seemed random. No fun at all. The revealer also meant nothing until I came here.

    The most fun in this puzzle came from LMS, with the use of SOAKAGE. And thanks, JC66 for Queen. I’ve passed it on. I do love coming here- thanks everyone!

    Monty Boy 10:01 PM  

    I like this one a lot. Apparently I'm the only one to answer 2D Current event with AMPERE.

    JC66 10:02 PM  


    You're welcome. And it's UN REPresentativeS.

    Z 10:23 PM  

    @Pamela - It was @Frantic Sloth 9:51.

    @JC66 6:49 - Nice link.

    @Frantic Sloth - I believe it was sometime during the penultimate discussion here (or was it the antepenultimate - there have been so many one loses tract) about the “correct” plural of octopus that I decided that the proper plural for any plural debate should be -podes. It does rather trip off the tongue.

    @Al, Quasimojo, & TJS - I can see how “coin” could be used ironically to the point of the original meaning getting lost. I still don’t quite accept that people using “literally” to mean “figuratively” are doing it ironically.

    albatross shell 10:36 PM  

    @old timer 904pm
    I read it somewhere yesterday or today. Someone mentioned Nick Danger yesterday relative to a name answer, too. And I mentioned it very late a couple days ago relative to the Beat the Reaper section on the title cut Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him and the current pandemic. Again too late for most to see and many too young to know.

    Teedmn 12:53 AM  

    @Z, is it merely ironic that the MW sentence using SIEGED is credited to someone named Sergio Serulnikov?

    CDilly52 1:00 AM  

    Typically poorly “Americanized Spanish.” I had the same little grumble but I guess since this is an English language puzzle if we are going to carp about but forgive the lack of the tilde when it should be there, I guess a clue that doesn’t identify verb tense is forgivable at least in the US.

    Teresa 5:16 AM  

    The word genius writes "never mind" as a single word? Twice? I'm shocked, shocked. You've been writing in grids too long, man.

    WinthorpeIII 5:20 AM  

    OK Mr. Anonymous. When, where? Funny that a crossword expert never does.

    Anonymous 9:32 AM  

    The word genius writes "never mind" as a single word? Twice? I'm shocked, shocked. You've been writing in grids too long, man.

    I guess you've never heard of Nirvana?

    lucy hale 5:46 PM  

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    thefogman 11:01 AM  

    Call me a rube but I enjoyed this one.

    spacecraft 11:12 AM  

    No objection here to including the sun as a solar system body. Neither would I object to any of the named asteroids. Also, the SS is like navels: it has "innies" and "outies." BTW, please keep those out of your grids, constructors.

    In fact, I think the theme is fine, although AUTOMAKE seems bent over backward to fit the space. Nobody calls a car an "auto" any more, not since the thirties. I loved @muse's repurposing of SOAKAGE. I, of course, wanted leakage, but relatively little time was lost on that. ASTARTE was new to me, but crosses were no problem. Rather easyish for a Thursday. Hard to believe poker was avoided in the clue for GOALLIN, especially after "Jeopardy James" made it nationally famous with his two-handed shove.

    I didn't know Carly PEARCE, but after a post-solve Google, I awarded her the DOD. There seem to be an awful lot of really cute country singers. I may have to revisit the genre. (hafta) Par.

    Burma Shave 1:49 PM  


    INASENSE miss, that RUMOR’s awful:

    --- ANYA NYE

    Anonymous 2:06 PM  

    John Wayne appears in a puzzle and OFL doesn't have a pre-offended hissy-fit? My world is shaken.

    rainforest 3:35 PM  

    I've liked all the puzzles this week, and maybe this one the most. A solar system theme, of which the Sun is part, and the revealer is just fine in the "inner part" of the grid, and Mercury and Earth are two of the four "inner planets". Good stuff.

    No problems with the fill, and some nice clues in there as well, the clue for EL NINO eg. I think that one might say "make of auto", so I don't have an ISSUE with AUTO MAKE at all. There are many types of OPIUM so the plural there works.

    One write-over: NEED TO, over have TO.

    Diana, LIW 4:04 PM  

    Just the kind of solving process I love best. Got the middle first, and then was sure I was stumped. I would have gotten up and checked some of my answers and looked up some PPP, but I've been sitting on my butt so much lately, I just kept sitting. And solving. Bit by bit. And soon enough...I was done. Ta da!

    More like this, please!!!

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, and for more c-19 testing to be available to all

    leftcoaster 4:08 PM  

    First pass yielded LESS than enough for a good foothold, but the themers but their CLUES unearthed them as I worked my way through.

    Didn't really take special notice or care that the SUN stood out from the PLANETS.

    Didn't know Carly PEARCE or the deity ASTARTE but for the crosses. Hesitated over ADVERT, but settled for VAMOS (not "vamoose"?) to complete the cross. Didn't get the Pontiac FIERO at all.

    Once had a Pontiac Sunbird, later passed on to my son, which he soon renamed it the "Shitbird". So much for wanting to be a generous dad, but he was right about that car.

    Despite my "didn't get this or that", everything but the FIERO were "dids".

    leftcoaster 4:18 PM  

    Correction: ..., but the CLUES unearthed the themers as I....

    rondo 5:31 PM  

    I did notice that we started at the sun and moved further out. That makes it better right off.

    Carly PEARCE for sure.

    Not surprisingly, liked it more than OFL.

    Anonymous 12:28 PM  

    Lake Tahoe is on the other side of the mountain from Carson City. Isn't this clue incorrect, or am I missing something ?

    Saturnine 6:31 PM  

    Why? This is weak. I'm familiar with inner planets, but why is SATURN in the puzzle? This puzzle is exceedingly adequate!. Thursdays should be

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