Danish tourist attraction since 1968 / SUN 3-29-20 / Title for many a W.H. aspirant / Nintendo character with green cap / Whistle-blower in 2013 news / Mount much hiked peak in Yosemite / Golden Flashes of Mid-American Conference

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Constructor: Ricky Cruz

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (the clues just seemed hard a lot of the time, not sure why) (11:39)

Ugh, this puzzle has notes that are so complicated, but if you do it in app / on paper, you maybe don't need notes because your grid looks like this:

image courtesy of Jake Goldstein
THEME: "Keep the Change" — looks like the idea is that there are two nearly identical 5x5 blocks in the middle of the grid, with the only difference being five squares that spell out BLACK in the left block v. five squares that spell out WHITE in the right block. What "black" and "white" have to do with anything, or why the words BLACK and WHITE are unchecked on either side of the grid, I have zero idea. There are two theme-related answers:

Theme answers:
  • TELL LEFT FROM RIGHT (26A: Make heads or tails of a situation ... or an alternative title for this puzzle)
  • SPOT THE DIFFERENCE (110A: Kind of visual puzzle ... or what to do with each line in this puzzle's two shaded areas)
Word of the Day: DISTURBIA (3D: 2007 Shia LaBeouf thriller or a 2008 #1 hit by Rihanna) —
Disturbia is a 2007 American thriller film directed by D. J. Caruso, written by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth and stars Shia LaBeoufDavid MorseSarah Roemer and Carrie-Anne Moss. The film follows a teenager who is placed on house arrest for assault and begins to spy on his neighbors, believing one of them is a possible serial killer. (wikipedia) // "Disturbia" is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna for Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded (2008), a re-release of her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). It was written by Andre Merritt, Chris Brown, Brian Kennedy and Rob. A!, with production of the song helmed by Kennedy. The song was released as the third single from the reloaded edition of the album, and seventh overall. "Disturbia" was sent to US Contemporary hit radio on June 17, 2008, and was released as a CD single in the United Kingdom on July 22, 2008. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a drag from the second I opened the file. There were puzzle notes, and I thought fine, I'll read them, but they were soooo long and tedious that I just ignored them and solved without understanding what I was supposed to be seeing. This is because in my software, there were no shaded squares. Black Ink (which I love) still can do only black or white squares, I guess, so that's how I solved this thing. Eventually the circles that spelled BLACK and WHITE filled themselves in, and so it was easy enough to write BLACK and WHITE in the spaces along the edge of the grid, but ... why? I read the two long themers and their clues: still no idea. I looked at the circles and thought, "well, yes, the one on the left is different from the one on the right, and yes, I can SPOT THE DIFFERENCE ... what is the point of any of this?" Finally I went back and read the puzzle notes and painstakingly recreated the two sets of 5x5 shaded squares and noticed that both shaded areas are exactly identical, throughout the whole 5x5 region, *except* for the letters that make up BLACK and WHITE, respectively. Ok, but, so ... why? There's just a huge W H Y? hovering over this whole enterprise. I kept thinking "what is the metaphor? Chess? Backgammon? Surely I'm supposed to see ... something. The whole kids' placemat puzzle conceit ... that can't be it—those are never BLACK and WHITE, have nothing to do with BLACK and WHITE ... [exasperated sigh]." And it's all so condescending: can I SPOT THE DIFFERENCE? Well, yeah, you Circled The Letters That Are Different, so ... I do indeed "spot" that, yes. Yes. I have no idea what any of that has to do with telling my left from my right (which, in its phrasing here, feels awkward—without the personal pronouns, i.e. my left, my right, or her left, her right, etc., the phrase feels strange). And, as I've said, the isolation of BLACK and WHITE on the grid's edges also makes no sense to me. It's a fussy gimmicky puzzle with no payoff. Please don't make these.

If I just ignore the theme, then there are some nice parts to this. BONESAW is slightly gruesome, but SPONGEBOB is cute, CUTTING EDGE is edgy (cliché in real life, but somehow nifty in the grid). REAL DEAL and LEGOLAND are pretty flash as well (though LEGOLAND took me So Long to get, as there are LEGOLANDs all over, including the one I went to near San Diego, so if the "Danish" part was supposed to tip me off, well, it did not). I think of AWS as cries of cuteness, not [Cries of disappointment]. GET OFF A SHOT ... get a shot off ... not sure where I fall on the phrasing there. I guess it's fine. It's an unusual answer, at any rate, so that's good. I had some trouble in the area between the two shaded areas, especially with LEXEMES (65A: Units in linguistics). I came at that answer from the back and it just seemed like there were a Lot of potential [Units in linguistics] that end with -EMES. Graphemes? Phonemes? Morphemes? I guess none of those fit, but the fact that I could think of three very quickly made me not at all confident of anything I might put in there. Also, instead of NIX and ACE I wanted AXE and PRO, so things were quite messy through the middle for a bit. I like the expression NO DICE. I use it. Feels slightly olde-timey, but not in an overly quaint or affected way. Or maybe I am quite quaint and affected and just living in denial. That's fine. Denial is truly my preferred residence at the moment.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. some users have been getting "this site might be dangerous" warnings from their browsers when trying to access my site. My site is definitely not dangerous; I'm working to see if there's anything to be done on my end, but in the meantime, if you use are a Comcast/Xfinity user, try turning your "Safe Browse" setting to "Off"—here's how. This is the one thing that I know worked for at least one user. Anyway, there are no safety issues, only miscommunication issues between browsers and my site. If the problem is on my end (in part or in full), it will get fixed shortly. Turns out I have some helpful readers who know how to do computer things! Anyway, thank you for your patience!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:05 AM  

Got off to a miserable start by dropping in Tesla where KODAK belongs. Ended on a worse note when I couldn’t figure out what the shaded squares were supposed to be. Finally, after reading the “Wordplay” notes (twice, but who’s counting?) I had my “aha moment”, but truth be told it was really an “oy vey moment”.

Clearly, this puzzle was more fun in constructing than in solving.

Brian 12:08 AM  

Easy. I got a Congrats which said “116 Sundays in a row”. Never noticed this before. When did this start?

chris b 12:20 AM  

Had no idea the two shaded were the same letters even after solving. Worthless theme.

Ken Freeland 12:28 AM  

Ditto Rex on this one.... a real yawner of a theme... booo!

CS 12:37 AM  

Re: Legoland -- well, that was really a gimme since Lego is a Danish company (Legos were invented in Denmark (and "Lego" comes from the Danish words "Leg Godt" or "play well")). Have been to the original Legoland, it's something special (also the new Lego House).

Found this much easier than Rex, I just think we have completely different wheelhouses. And I enjoyed it much more. Themes and clever constructions can just be done for the fun of it..... does not need a "why".

A nice distraction!

George NYC 12:43 AM  

I usually don't care for puzzles that in the end seem more about construction wizardry than wordplay. I skimmed over the note and used the Times' app which showed the shading just as it appeared in the print magazine. The trickery didn't interfere with the solving; the shaded areas were irrelevant until the very end. I have to say I was impressed with what Mr. Cruz managed to pull off with the final answers. So kudos from me.

Otto 12:47 AM  

Every time I see BONESAW, I can't help but think of Randy Savage in the first Raimi Spiderman movie. He was very ready.


Anonymous 12:53 AM  

I think the theme is clever and works great if one solves on paper. Rex calls it gimicky. I thought it was intricate and meta with almost no garbage fill to pull it off. I also liked the mix of challenging and easy clues. Haven't seen IDITAROD in a while. Had LEGIT instead of LICIT. and LTD instead of LLC. Um, is Bahama a singular place?

Z 12:54 AM  

I was expecting harsher from Rex. There are so many ways to play with BLACK and WHITE and the puzzle did none of them. Oreo, Othello/Reversi, Zebras, Referees, newspapers,... But, no. Instead we get a couple of “hey dummy” themers in case we’re too dense to see it for ourselves.

So... should we point Rex to this from today’s constructor? I'm fine with coming across them(notepad notes) in other puzzles, but for my own puzzles I'm a purist; if it can't be done without a notepad, it's not worth it for me to construct.

The KODAK clue just about made my head explode. “Hey you effing narcissistic a-holes, all innovation is ‘disruptive.’ Quit acting like a bunch of love-struck 14 year-olds who think they invented heartbreak.” What’s even more dangerous than the narcissism is when someone does something that’s just disruptive and calls it an innovation. Uber comes to mind. It’s a cab. A cab without any of the protections for the rider or the driver that traditional cabs have. And a company that, despite screwing its workforce, still is losing money ($8.5 billion last year). Pro Tip: If anybody tries to sell you on their “disrupt innovation” hang on to your wallet.

Z 12:59 AM  

@Anon12:53 - When referring to the song lyrics it’s LICIT
Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take ya
Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego baby why don't we go

Unknown 1:48 AM  

After I excluded what was circled and removed those letters to the left and the right, I “‘Kept’ The Change”. What identically remains in each shaded area is ESO MES NADA SON SAD - literally THAT MONTH NOTHING IS SAD. Too early in the AM to call any of my Spanish speaking friends to ask about Spanish idioms. Help wanted. Gracias.

Loren Muse Smith 2:22 AM  

When I get my nails done and have to sit there and wait, I always grab a People magazine and turn to that page with the SPOT THE DIFFERENCE pictures. I’m pretty impatient, so I usually give up with two or three differences still not found and then kick myself when I read the key upside down and see what I missed.

No kicking myself today. I missed the note, and I print the puzzle in Across Lite, so I had no shading. Without shading, it’s hopeless to understand what’s going on. When I saw the “shaded areas” in the clue, I was too lazy to get up investigate on my laptop. Settling in just so with the throw, the remote, the two pillows behind, one pillow in lap, coffee right there. . . it’s quite an enterprise. I have to agree with Rex on the *why* question. Why BLACK and WHITE? Why even opposites? I mean, couldn’t the circled letters have been TIGER and ZEBRA? And why circle the differences? Isn’t the point to locate them and circle them yourself? And then why repeat them unchecked? My questions as I asked them were more in the spirit of I’m-dense-here-and-must-be-missing-something. I bet someone is gonna come here and enlighten us. So I wasn’t annoyed or mad or anything, just baffled.

Wanted “decade” for the time machine choice. I would go back to the ‘50s maybe. Maybe the ‘20s; I do a mean Charleston.

LICIT feels a little weird without its prefix. Like sheveled or kempt I guess, though, that LICIT is, well, a little more licit.

I like that for 25A “Here’s the thing. . .” we can say either LISTEN or Look.

Listen, you need to back off.
Look, you need to back off.

Rex – for those units in linguistics, I went straight to “sememes” and panicked a little since I’ve never really quite understood what a seme or a sememe is since I did theoretical Chomskean linguistics and spent my time pondering universal grammar and government and binding theory and stuff. And yes, I’m throwing that in there to remind everyone that what I write here about language is *The Truth* because I’m Little Miss Prisspot Expert just kidding love ya mwah.

I tell ya – linguists love their -emes

"In customary stratificationalist parlance . . ., one refers to the sememe as the realizate of a lexeme, or that piece of fragment of a network of man's cognitive knowledge that the given lexeme happens to realize. For technical and working purposes such a definition of the sememe is quite satisfactory and one need take no further issue with it. The evolution of the concept is fairly straight as well: in [Leonard] Bloomfield's Language (1933) the term sememe refers to the meaning of a morpheme. Bloomfield offered no clear distinction between morpheme and lexeme, however, and this lack of clarification . . . meant foregoing the benefit of a powerful generalization. . . .
"The reason for this neglect of a most useful principle in linguistics arises from the fact that it is difficult to explain to linguists of other persuasions, to students, etc., just what it is that the stratificationalist means by the term sememe." (Adam Makkai, "How Does a Sememe Mean?" Essays in Honor of Charles F. Hockett, ed. by Frederick Browning Agard. Brill, 1983)

In hindsight, I really admire the construction. And what with SPONGEBOB, CUTTING EDGE, ICE/IDITAROD, TWO-HANDED. . . I was fairly gruntled all in all.

Gio 2:36 AM  

I felt same way as Rex. The black and white refer to nothing. I kept going back trying to find the secret message. Since I'm new to this, I thought I don't have the skills to understand these themes. I started looking at the letters next to the black squares for another meaning. Then I read Wordplay explanation and constructor notes which made my head explode and didn't fill me in on any hidden fun.
I really thought that Rex would call out the fact that the identical "words" in both squares are non-words except for SON). I did like the Spanish but I felt NADA. A marvel of construction, I guess.

Joe Dipinto 2:49 AM  

I kept reading the clue for 68d as "Manage to leave the ball before time expires", and thought it was Cinderella-related, like the answer should be NOT TURN INTO A PUMPKIN. Even after I had the correct answer entered I was seeing the clue as "leave the ball", and thought GET OFF AS HOT must be some new slang to describe making curfew.

I wanted to like this puzzle when I first looked at it, and even as I was filling in the gray sections and noticing that all the letters were identical except for the circled ones, I was thinking, oh cool, but then I was thinking why black and white?, because you could very easily spot the difference between black and white, and also why are they *in* the puzzle but at the same time over on the sidelines looking at the puzzle?

And then I didn't like the puzzle so much after that. REAL DEAL was a good answer, though.

You get a two-fer today.

Frantic Sloth 3:05 AM  

@Unknown 1:48am - That looks like a brilliant catch to me. What are the odds that the uncircled letters in the 5x5s
make up a sentence unintentionally ?

If not for that possible little fun fact, I'm inclined to agree with Rex regarding the theme. And that whole stand-alone rim-dwelling words business was pure banalia, which deserves a made-up word.
This is too bad because if I just ignored the theme (which is ultimately what I did), all the rest of the fill was a nice combo of easy/medium/hard.

I'm interested to see if anyone gets back to Unknown148 about the Spanish idiom angle.

Anonymous 3:26 AM  


I have hiked many times in Yosemite. I thought, what, how did I not know there was a much-hiked trail up Mt. DANA?

Mt. Dana is not much-hiked. The "trail" to the top is in Wikipedia but neither on the Park brochure nor on the US Geological Survey topo map. Wikipedia says the trail is not often maintained.

jae 3:32 AM  

Medium. The fill isn’t too bad but the theme didn’t really do it for me, or pretty much what Rex said.

@Z - thanks for saving me the trouble of digging up the lyrics.

Ricky 4:17 AM  

Heyo, constructor here. I’m a little sad at how this thing was published because the original puzzle didn’t have the circles in the grid, and it’s responsible for most everything that’s wrong here. The solving experience gets thrown out the window, the .puz becomes a mess (with a notepad I wanted to avoid to boot!), and the unchecked answers become irrelevant.

I have realized that those unchecked answers were probably unnecessary even with the intended execution, and while I figured BLACK/WHITE was a crosswordy-enough set of opposites, it looks like it needed something more to it. I’m starting to see why this came off as “constructing feat” to lots of people, which is understandable. Regardless, I hope people got some enjoyment out of it. Very much a learning experience!

(Btw, to those asking about the identical letters: nothing intended there. Wasn’t until I read the comments that I saw each line made a valid English or Spanish word! :P)

MexGirl 5:28 AM  

Yeah, I was gonna say that ES MES NADA SON SAD doesn’t mean anything in Spanish.
Otherwise, very confusing revealer and circled letters.

GILL I. 6:06 AM  

What gave me DISTURBIA was LEXEMES....Hey @Ricky, glad you stopped by. I can't help but think that submitting a piece of your art and then having it sabotaged has to be the worse KODAK moment of all. Imagine if van Gogh's "The Potato Eaters" were to be replaced with a bunch of apple eaters.... he'd probably cut off his other ear.
I had the shaded areas and like probably everyone else, I had to wait till the end to figure out that BLACK and WHITE thing. Everyone has their likes and dislikes and mine is waiting for the end and then having to go look for the little circled things to figure out what I was supposed to do. But that's me.
Next time you clue VEAL, please make it schnitzel or even piccata.....
I'm going to look up humdingers and try to figure out how they became DOOZIES.

Lewis 6:34 AM  
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Anonymous 6:34 AM  

An appearance by the Constructor! Thank you, Ricky. The whole thing would have made a little more sense without the circles, because of course then we would really have to SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.

Google Translate actually confirms the "meaning" for Es Mes Nada Son Sad. If one trusts Google Translate.

LEXEME was my favorite new word. I'm not sure all "SO-AND-SO's" are "no-goodniks"... And most job seekers will need resumes, not CV's - there is a difference, as any academic will tell you.

While I agree the theme was a bit of a head-scratcher, I always appreciate whatever effort was put into a puzzle's creation, and ALWAYS appreciate input from the Constructor here on this blog. This was actually my fastest time ever to my recollection. And didn't need help from my wife.

Toodles, and stay safe and healthy!


Lewis 6:38 AM  

This filled in faster than my normal Sunday; I noticed the circled BLACK and WHITE and dutifully filled in those side slots, then afterwards sat and thought, "Is that all there is? Surely I'm missing something."

And I was -- I hadn't noticed that the letters in both shaded areas were identical, save for the circled letters. Because I make puzzle, I was impressed with that, which must have been tough to make, coming up with legit across and down answers, totally different on the left and right, and ending up with two identical shaded areas, save for the circled letters.

But being impressed with construction, IMO, pales to the solve experience, and here, that experience was handed to me on a platter. It was like solving a traditional spot-the-difference puzzle, with two photos identical except for some hard-to-detect differences, but with those differing pairs marked somehow, say, with little smiley faces placed in them, so there was no challenge.

Without the circles, the constructor's purpose would have been accomplished, IMO, leaving the solver two identical 25-square blocks, save for five differences, and the unchecked words on the side would have been a way to document what those differences were. That is, without the circles, the theme would have been more involving and effective, I believe.

Otherwise, the puzzle appropriately felt Wednesdayish in difficulty, mostly directly clued, with a great clue for IDITAROD [Dog days of winter?}. Thank you for all the work you put into this, Ricky, and those blocks were one terrific piece of construction!

schwartzy98 6:43 AM  

@Ricky So Hey, Be Encouraged! You had a(nother) puzzle published in the NYT! That’s an accomplishment. As far as the way it was published, that’s on the Editor and his team. Will’s got a crew who’s whole job is to put these things into a form that we all get to enjoy. You had an idea, put it together, submitted it and it was accepted. Fantastic and Bravo! FWIW I enjoyed the solve on the NYT app even though I didn’t really get what was going on until I was done and really studied the grid. Only sticking point was at my final entry of LEXEMES. Thanks for checking in and please continue your constructing sideline.

Lewis 6:56 AM  

This is not about today's puzzle, but it is crossworthy...

In a novel I'm reading, a couple was solving a crossword puzzle, and in it there was a most wonderful clue / answer. I'll give the answer later, but here's the clue:

[Bud's comforting comeback] (6 letters) .

007 7:22 AM  

I had the same issue as many others here - I wanted the uncircled letters to spell something out or have something else more clever than just taking circled letters off to the sides. I spelled out ESO MES NADA SON SAD. If I squint at it and incorporate Spanish, French(ish) and English, I come up with "This month, nothing is sad". I wish that were true. Other than that, my only sticking point was after initially filling out -RI- for "vim and vigor" I ended up with gRIt instead of BRIO, causing me to scratch my head over gONESAW (perhaps even more macabre than BONESAW) and STANDSO for No-goodnik. Eventually it clicked.

Hungry Mother 7:35 AM  

Really quick here today after the slogfest yesterday. I’m not sure I got the theme, but the solve was easy enough that I didn’t need it. Maybe I’ll remember DOBBY if I see it a few dozen more times.

BarbieBarbie 7:36 AM  

I stared at this puzzle forever, wondering about the significance of the two gray “N”s in the middle. Had LEFT and RIGHT up top and so when I saw xLACK in one set of circles I just wrote in BLACK and WHITE (Making the overall solve too easy) and didn’t notice the not-DIFFERENCEs until later. Like one of those optical illusions: vase / profiles / vase.

I agree, it would have been great with no circles and preferably no shading and no unchecked words- just maybe an outline around the areas- unless those Ns really do mean something.

I liked BODICE with NODICE.

@LMS, Chomsky was what turned me off linguistics back in my major-choosing years. Couldn’t get past that Ebonics crap.

Mr. B 7:52 AM  

I solved this rather quickly for a Sunday (about half my average time).
Waited til the end to enter BLACK and WHITE since the circles made it quite obvious those were the differences.
I do the puzzle on an iPad so I didn’t visualize those two 5x5 shaded squares in the middle because of those darn circles. ugh.
So I completely agree with constructor Ricky Cruz about the inclusion of those circles. They completely removed the “puzzle” part of this otherwise fun Crossword Puzzle to me.

JHC 8:02 AM  

@Ricky, I'm glad you posted here. I came here to cite your twitter post on the same point. I tried imagining the puzzle the way you designed it, without the circles, and you're right, it would have been a lot more fun. But thanks for a cool puzzle!

webwinger 8:02 AM  

Ugh! For once I thought @Rex was too kind in his review, which unlike the puzzle really hit the mark and had a lot of sparkle. Countless write-overs for me. Time over an hour, which doesn’t happen to me much any more. The theme seemed a pointless exercise in constructioneering. Last letter to go in was the X at crossing of 65A and 52D: Never heard of LEXEMES and Strike out seemed a very odd clue for NIX.

I finally found a workaround to avoid the most painful struggles I’ve had reaching the blogspot on my computer: Google Rex Parker 2019, click on 2019 in the first entry that shows up, then click on Proceed Anyway, then when the 12/31/19 page appears click on Home in the upper left corner, above the day’s review (by Clare, it so happens). Will be very happy when Rex gets this fixed!

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

Not fun. If this item was on a menu I'd never order it again.

SouthsideJohnny 8:16 AM  

I came here expecting OFL to explain the theme to me, but found him perplexed as well. Unfortunately, the constructor had to drop in and explain that the editors at the Times bastardized his puzzle and basically obliterated the theme. Shortz needs to give up both drinking and mild hallucinogens - he has definitely lost his fastball and is now in danger of sinking into full-blown Norma Desmond mode.

Another sad day in NY Times CrossWordLand. Just bad judgement (again - remember the wedding puzzle fiasco) - this one is such a rookie mistake that it is sad though.

Rique Beleza 8:17 AM  

It would have to be ESTE MES NADA ES TRISTE. And it is still nonsense.

Suzie Q 8:18 AM  

I print my puzzles and got the circles and shaded areas. After completing my grid I was amazed at what I found in the shaded parts.
That is some impressive construction. The rest of the puzzle was filled with interesting words with nothing startlingly bad in the fill. Thank you Ricky.

@ GILL.I, You've probably looked this up but doozy comes from an old automobile called a Dusenberg. I used to live about an hour from their headquarters in Auburn, IN. Now those were real cars!

kitshef 8:39 AM  
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pabloinnh 8:47 AM  

Well now. You can't use ESO to modify a noun, SON=ARE, and SAD, of course, is not Spanish, so a literal translation is something like "that (sic) month nothing are (sic) ________ (some random English word, quien sabe? . Kind of bad Spanglish.

Let me join in the chorus of thank yous to the constructor for his explanation, because like everyone else I had a big that's it? moment when I finished, which was too bad, because otherwise I was having a good time. Solving on paper seems to eliminate a lot of problems that you newfangled types run into all the time. My only technical issue is an eraser that smudges things so much that it makes a writeover hard to see.

Thanks for a nice Sunday Cruzicgram, senor. Sorry that they messed it up for you.

Z 9:01 AM  

@Ricky - I am trying to imagine this without the circles. The “hey dummy” clues then make more sense and are necessary, so that part is better. Still, a little too much emphasis on the “puzzle” part and not quite enough on the “wordplay” for my taste. Still, lots and lots of people prefer the puzzling elements.

In defense of Shortz’ decision to use circles, that’s the ongoing struggle between creators’ visions and the need to make money. Where is the balance between that vision and putting out something too difficult for the masses? Looking back at the puzzles that generated the most comments* illustrates Shortz’ dilemma. Make the puzzle too good and a lot of people are going to be angry. Would a circleless puzzle have stumped too many people and caused lots of anger? We’ll never know, but I guess we know what Shortz thinks.

*From discussion late yesterday, 9/11/14 and 9/15/16 both generated over 240 comments.

Michael 9:02 AM  

Fastest Sunday on record. Enjoyable process filling but also didn't see the square sameness until done solving, which was unfortunate, and probably due to how easy the solve was for us, it didn't require any secondary work. As someone who diffs text for a living a lot (software engineer, source/revision control natch), it's appealing.

@Ricky, very interesting to hear how the editors can manipulate and what effect that has.

kitshef 9:04 AM  

ON TOP OF symmetric to NAKEDLY.
FRAT symmetric to BARF.

Alternative clues:
Snot hot? – SCOLD
US Congress? – THEM ASSES
Burma-shave signs? AD VERSE

webwinger 9:16 AM  

Back after reading comments. Note from constructor @Ricky almost made me cry—puzzle’s punch absolutely deflated by use of the circles. I probably still wouldn’t have liked it much without them (and not sure if I even could have finished), but at least it would have earned my respect. And the unintended pidgin message emerging from the identical uncircled letters in the two squares made me shiver…

TJS 9:36 AM  

I'm glad I dont read titles or notes before doing a puzzle, and don't really care about the extra sidelights of the construction. So, taken as just a damn Sunday puzzle to be solved, I thought this one was way better than our uaual Sunday fare. Tons of entries you dont usually see, not alot of PPP I would imagine, though I'm not going to do the work to find out. I just had a good solving experience. And I always thinks it's great if a constructor tales the time to respond to our comments, so thank you, Senor Cruz.

@Z, not clear on your diatribe. If you are using quotes, who are you quoting? And are you attacking Kodak for the "disruptive innovation" wording? That's the constructors' phrase, not Kodaks' and I am pretty sure in business classes it refers to the fact that Kodaks' camera innovations effectively killed its' film business. Regarding Uber, etal, I think the original destructive practices in that business can all be laid at the feat of the monopolistic cab companies in the major cities who were able to jack up the medallion prices so astronomically that the industry was just begging for someone to come in and say "Enough is enough". Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys, and it's a shame that cabbies are now stuck with highly leveraged medallions worth a fraction of their costs.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Wow. I fell for almost every trap, and still nailed this one in sub-11 minutes.

tesla for KODAK
legIT for LicIT
yak for GNU
Ltd for LLC
chi for TEN
EonS for ERAS

I found this one to be a lot of fun, all the way to a very satisfying reveal.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

As I was solving it, I was thinking that the circles must have been printed by mistake since they ruined an otherwise super-clever conceit. Glad to see the creator confirm it wasn’t his intent. I still had fun solving it as it was just hard enough. I was almost stumped without much of it filled in at all, and then answer built on answer all the way through. So I liked it a lot, and I admire the theme a lot, and I feel bad for the creator that editing messed it up. What a shame to not only get published, and not only in the NYT, but the Sunday NYT, only to have it bastardized by those dumb circles. Anyway, great puzzle, bad edit job.

OffTheGrid 9:44 AM  


Stop, Look, and LISTEN
Before you cross the street
Use your eyes, use you ears
Then use your feet

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

S right next to QUID in the corner opposite of SPONGEBOB was a nice touch.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

No, but it is in the song Kokomo. Well clued. Someone should let the Beach Boys know though...maybe they could correct for a rerelease.

Teedmn 9:50 AM  

Thank goodness for xwordinfo's graphic display of the shaded area and the explanation of the theme - I saw the circles and filled them in appropriately in the grid and left it at that. The explanatory theme answers at 26A and 110A didn't help because I didn't recognize SPOT THE DIFFERENCE as the name of the kids' game. But the grid gains some elegance with the shaded areas, and why not BLACK and WHITE? That's as good as any other pair of opposites.

Other than trying to figure out the theme, this was pretty easy. Not a lot of wordplay, per se, but some nice cluing, like 73A, and 115D. 73A reminds me of an article I read in some periodical my Mom subscribed to that dealt with the occult and astrology and so on. The article said that if you put a conch to your ear and went into a meditative state, you could get messages from "beyond". We happened to have a conch shell at home so I tried it. Hours later, when I woke up from my nap, I could remember clearly hearing a baseball game being announced. So much for messages. (Hey, I was maybe 13 at the time).

BOOM-BAM, DOBBY-DOOZIES, DUNN-DUDE. BARF isn't even a DEBUT answer. Ricky Cruz, this was an interesting idea, thanks for the visit here and it's too bad the puzzle didn't come across the way it was meant to.

@LMS, I had the same LISTEN/look thought. I tend to use the "look" version. Does that make me a more visual person? I always considered myself more of an audial type.

Hungry Mother 9:51 AM  

Because I grew up in the Bay Area, was a Cub Scout, and our family camped back in the 40s, I spent a lot of my childhood in Yosemite at all seasons of the year. I had pleaded with my parents to let me climb the cables of Half Dome when I was 10, but they nixed it and I had to wait until I was in my 60s to do it. I saw Fire Falls from the top and the bottom. I never heard of Mt. Dana.

Unknown 9:51 AM  

I am 81, and have done this puzzle weekly for 40 years. This one was the most fun, albeit easy.
Keep the kid coming

Teedmn 9:54 AM  

@Joe Dipinto, that wasn't a rabbit hole you fell into on 68D, that was a wormhole. You ended up in a different galaxy altogether rather than just LEGO LAND. It gave me a great chuckle, thanks.

OffTheGrid 9:59 AM  

@Ricky. Nice puzzle. The clues for 56D & 62D referred to the circles. How did you originally clue those?

Barbara S. 10:03 AM  

I too was a bit flummoxed by the theme, although I solved in a format where I could see the circles and the shaded squares -- they didn't entirely help with the why. I sure did appreciate the constructor talking to us, though.

I really hesitated to fill in SQUALID in answer to "like a pigsty." SQUALID is such a value judgement and it seemed unfair to pigs somehow. They can't help it if their sty is allowed to go to ratshit. Surely that's primarily the responsibility of the farmer. Unless, of course, we're speaking of a metaphorical pigsty, like a twenty-something's apartment. Yeah, squalid.

AMES, Iowa gets into the puzzle so often these days that I feel like I've been there. I liked its placement directly under APES. ADES was also present as was the singular ACE -- mini theme? Oh, and then there were BARF, ARF, and OOF. OK, I'm gonna to stop this now: isolation is clearly getting to me.

@Joe Dipinto (2:49 -- what were you doing up then??)
Thanks so much for the Ella link. Her voice is a slow-moving river of cream. Lap, lap.

Nancy 10:13 AM  

Quick! What's worse than annoying tiny little circles? Why, it's annoying tiny little circles PLUS annoying gray square areas all clumped together...and you don't know why. Okay, I said -- nothing too off-the-wall will happen if I stick to the normal white squares for a while. Which I did. The fill was extremely dull but normal -- no fiendish tricks...yet.

I needn't have worried. When I was safely through the gray sections and saw what would be in the two side unchecked Downs, I thought: Is this all there is? All those circles and gray space just to come up with BLACK and WHITE? [Yawn].

I stopped. I have the theme and I don't care about the rest of the fill. It's bland and sloggy and lacks imagination and humor. Over to you.

RooMonster 10:18 AM  

Hey All !
Wrote in the isolation boxes EBONY and IVORY figuring that at least it would make a little bit of sense rather than just be WHITE and BLACK which were given in the circles. Ugh, why why why did WS put in the circles? Ricky's way was way better. Then those isolation boxes would make sense as a place to put what you found line by line. As they are, they're a Huh?

Granted, if the circles weren't there, I probably wouldn't have seen what was going on, but it wouldn't be the first time I didn't grok a theme. Who knows? Maybe I'd've figured it out.

Everyone is doing the Acrosses shaded areas. What about the Downs? EMASS-EMISS. SEN-SEN, SAC-SAT, DOA-DOA, OLAND-OHAND. I know there's no there there, but neat to look at. Of course, that takes out the B and the W. I never know what I'm talking about! 😋

Again with the NW toughest section today. I think now it's psychological! NW, oh no!

Had wAM for BAM, giving me wAH__A for BAHAMA for a bit, thinking "WAHINA? Where's that?" muscle Beach first for LAGUNA, but also pro first for ACE, causing all kinds of trouble in the middle. Not too many other writeovers/tough spots I can remember.

Silly question, what are CVS in the jod-seeking world? Why not the Drug Store Chain as a clue? Asking for a friend.

Decent fill, some good clues, too bad for Ricky for his vision being ruined, but hey, good for him for getting a SunPuz in. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE, indeed.

Nine F's (4 in themers) Good F count!
QUID SOB NIX (Latin for "All my money is gone!")

Z 10:21 AM  

@TJS - Just quoting my internal monologue. I didn’t mean to imply that it is the cluer’s fault that bizspeak BS like “disruptive innovation” is out there. BizSpeak (and Education Lingo) drives me nuts. Somebody takes an old idea, adds some sparkly words to make it seem new, then writes a book/lectures/leads seminars on the “latest greatest.” Even in today’s accelerated age of change, actual paradigm shifts are rare.
Also, I suspect KODAK is cited for its failure to adjust to the digital camera innovation, which basically wiped out its core profit source. That’s akin to what happened to newspapers, where profits did not come from the core business. Since classified ads got wiped out as a profit source newspapers have struggled to make money from what they actually produce. The NYT makes lots of money from crosswords and cooking, which should really worry the people who work in the newsroom.

As for Uber, it’s a scam. They put together three separate technologies, subverted labor law and consumer protections, and still can’t make money. There’s a reason markets need to be regulated, “financial geniuses” are just at susceptible to scam artists as people who send money to Nigerian princes, only they tend to do it with other people’s money. Was the taxi industry well regulated? Probably not. That doesn’t mean Uber is an improvement. Don’t be surprised when WeWork like headlines start appearing again about Uber.

Azzurro 10:30 AM  

@Ricky I assumed the circles had to be added later, and I immediately went to xwordinfo to see if that was the case. I saw your comments there confirming. It’s a shame because that completely defeated the meta. I still thought it was a fun puzzle though.

Nancy 10:37 AM  

Hi, Ricky -- So the annoying tiny little circles turn out not to have been your doing. I feel bad about my negative comment and sorry that your puzzle got reworked in a way you didn't encourage and, in fact, didn't even know about. Having [co]-created puzzles myself, I know what that must feel like. Bummer. Better luck next time.

amyyanni 10:38 AM  

@Ricky, thanks for stopping by; can see now what you were doing. Don't feel bad, goodness, you gave us an occupying puzzle at a time when we need it.
Here's a joke's on me: instead of LICIT, I had legit for a while, so I was looking at GUTTING EDGE, wondering how I hadn't heard/read about the term.
Lots of fun fill, and a good time.

Geezer 10:47 AM  

@Nancy. As much as you hate circles and shading is how much I hate puzzles that make use of the black squares (a certain Thursday puzzle comes to mind). Everyone has preferences but there is no need to be so judgemental and leave the puzzle (although that's your call) in a SNIT.

C. Dan Vann &c. 10:48 AM  

Rex Parker articulates all the fleeting thoughts and feelings which, during the process of working the puzzle, there is no time to indulge. A finished puzzle, the vague disquietude it engenders, and the judgments of Rex Parker make the perfect accompaniment to coffee, house shoes, and morning birdsong. Thank you, sir.

Z 11:07 AM  

@Roo - Curriculum Vitae, fancy schmancy term for résumé, itself a fancy schmancy term for “work history and other important stuff about me.” The biggest difference is that a CV is going to include stuff published, speaking gigs, and other stuff to show how much of an expert you are in your field. Also sometimes referenced as a “vita,” in case you ever run into that term out in the wild.
FWIW, I almost always know what you’re talking about.

Birchbark 11:10 AM  

GET OFF A SHOT -- For the lenten non-drinker, this sort of logical prompt can appear on Ash-Wednesday-Eve some time before bed. No real reason, other than the anticipated dryness of the ensuing six weeks -- as though it were almost a moral obligation.

Anon (3:26) -- Re not-"much-hiked" Mt. DANA: some of my favorite clues use adjectives like "Noted," "Celebrated," "Oft-cited," etc., to modify something or someone I've never heard of. "Noted" in particular is beautiful for suggesting (without committing to) the idea that an arcane answer is in fact sort of popular.

KnittyContessa 11:11 AM  

Finished this in half my regular time but without any of the joy that usually comes with a Sunday puzzle. I didn't read the notes, had no idea what was going on. Now that I get it I don't care. A very ho hum Sunday.

Leslie 11:14 AM  

@RooMonster 10:18 if it was a serious question, CVs are curriculum vitae (s?) you know, resumes (sorry no accent mark)
@Lewis 6:56 what's the answer?

feinstee 11:18 AM  

I did this yesterday, and on paper,a absolutely agree that the payoff just was not worth it. And the isolated words on the left and right made no sense to me. Also did not see the correlation between black white and spotting the difference, that would have made this overall more interesting.

Birchbark 11:20 AM  

Also, @Teedmn (9:50) -- I liked the results of your CONCH-meditation. Who wouldn't want a baseball game to be the message from beyond?

Squ 11:21 AM  

Squalid is such a wonderful word. But the glorious noun Squalor, celebrated by two authors, really rings the bell: For Esmé—with Love and Squalor is a short story by J.D. Salinger. And then the esteemed Lemony Snicket riffed off that story with his character Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor.

I searched hopelessly for the theme but loved working this puzzle. Kodak was an aha when I realized it wouldn't be a success story. Tell Left From Right reminded me of my new opinion of the federal government, 'the right hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and the left doesn't either.'

Lacuna granada, potato potawto. It was all good to me.

Smith 11:27 AM  

@Lewis 6:56
The Overstory? I seem to remember that part.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Ricky, thanks for taking the time to explain here. I read your notes on X-word info as well. Personally I enjoyed it. A fair challenge and a nice distraction for 30 or so minutes. Just what I want on a Sunday morning! Keep ‘em coming.

Nancy 11:31 AM  

I think it's called shtick, @Geezer (10:47). A little in-joke repeated from time to time over the years for the [hopeful] amusement of my pals here. With any luck some of them may even laugh. And thanks for saying it's my call to drop a puzzle I'm not enjoying. That's extremely magnanimous of you and I really appreciate being given your permission. I was quite worried about being allowed to do so in the future.

Lewis 11:33 AM  


The novel this came from is The Overstory, by Richard Powers, truly remarkable and worth reading, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

The clue: [Bud's comforting comeback] (6 letters)
The answer:

Anonymous 11:35 AM  


Suzafish 11:36 AM  

LMS: LOL. Thank you.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Same re Cinderella!

Anonymous 11:39 AM  


Newboy 11:40 AM  

Couldn’t SPOT THE DIFFERENCE since the HILL was obscured by the KNOLL, but I didn’t care. Mindless slog except for LEXEMES—maybe I should have recalled that word from Dr. LLoyd’ s linguistics courses from 50 years ago. Almost as useless as differential equations proved to be in my real world life, so today I will forgive myself, look at Wikipedia, nod my head and move on. I do xwords for fun & and today’s failed miserabl.

Couldn’t agree with OFL that “ the isolation of BLACK and WHITE on the grid's edges also makes no sense to me. It's a fussy gimmicky puzzle with no payoff. Please don't make these.” off to see better things posted previously & check out constructor notes to see what I clearly missed today.

Smith 11:41 AM  

@Lewis 6:56
The Overstory was my favorite book last year. Will not give away the answer. But it's appropriate for spring!

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:50 AM  

I see that somebody already pointed out that a SOANDSO is not necessarily a no-goodnik. Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald had a great take on this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8Ev3lXaqZ0
A little bittersweet in this time of social distancing:
As I walk down the street
Seems everyone I meet
Gives me a friendly hello.
I guess I'm just a lucky so and so

Generally as *I* walk down the street these days the few people I meet cross the street when they see me coming.

Frantic Sloth 12:01 PM  

Well, I have my answers. Pardon me while I stop hanging my head long enough to address the real reason for my return.

@Ricky - Thank you for taking the time to enter the lion's den and explain, well...everything that had me scratching my head.

It can't be easy to see all the (our) criticisms over what would have been a marvelous and, in my opinion, thoroughly enjoyable theme - especially since practically every complaint about your massacred masterpiece had to do with the editing and those circles, which just cut your creation off at the knees - and without explanation or consultation?!

As far as I'm concerned, this kind of ninja editing is reprehensible and irresponsible to the constructor and the solver.

I only wish that I could unsee this whole mess and re-solve as it was intended.

egsforbreakfast 12:06 PM  

Does all of this complaining about circles make this a circle jerk? Or is that a descriptor for WS?

Also, how did OFL miss the chance to berate the NYTXW for the thinly disguised paean to weapons of murder and mayhem in 48 A? For that matter, isn’t 68 D almost a full on invitation for gun-toting haters to act on their worst instincts?

thefogman 12:14 PM  

Others have probably said it and if so I agree. The constructor should not have provided circled letters to solve the revealer. The greyed out area had only one different letter per line and it would have been far more satisfying spotting them without being spoon fed the answer via the circles. The editor could have helped the young man out with this aspect. Alas, another missed opportunity by WS...

Suzy 12:17 PM  

@Lewis— just now in the middle of Overstory— Powers certainly knows how to turn a phrase! Bet he knows from Lexemes!
It would sure bring sorely needed relief if the annual releafing would rid us of this awful virus along with the pollen!!

Thanks for the puzzle, Ricky! It was great fun, despite the offending circles!

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Birchbark @11:10:

I agree that sometimes a clue says "noted" and it's something I've never heard of. That's fine - other people know plenty of stuff I don't know, so it can be noted to some but not to me.

But with Mt. Dana, I object because I do know the general topic (Yosemite) quite well, and I do know Mt. Dana, and I strongly disagree that it is well-hiked, and I have supporting evidence for my claim. There were plenty of legit possible clues, like "one of the highest mountains in Yosemite." Why write something that simply isn't true? It's extreme sloppiness by the editor.

JC66 12:36 PM  

@Barbara S 10:03

Your defense of pigs made my day.

jberg 12:37 PM  

Leaving out the circles would definitely have been an improvement -- and it would have saved me a lot of time if the remaining letters hadn't spelled Spanish or English words; as it was, I couldn't stop trying to make sense of it. I'm wondering how unlikely such a thing is -- probably not that much.

@Nancy, the minute I saw the grid I anticipated your reaction; IMHO you made your point beautifully.

And @Loren, thanks so much for the definition of SEMEME. I've always wondered.

Finally, 84A, BONE SAW. I was extremely disappointed that the clue didn't refer to Mohammed Bin Sultan.

Joaquin 12:38 PM  

Concerning 123A - I would have preferred a clue such as "Portrayer of José Jiménez, Bill ____." But maybe Ricky was referring to the Yosemite park ranger Dana Schmuhuckbuckle, whose peaks were often climbed by her fellow rangers.

Matt 12:43 PM  

The leftover letters in the schtick area ALMOST spell out a phrase in Spanish

"This month nothing [sad]"

except 'sad' afaik isn't a word in Spanish.

This has been enough though that I've been tortured into trying to decode an additional message here... Where there probably isn't one?

Newboy 12:46 PM  

Aha after reading the many posts above and constructor notes at xwordinfo. Some of my chagrin is, I’m sure, due to solving on iPad in ascrosslite app. Strange things like the word “more” dropping as the 3rd word from my previous post “ Couldn’t agree (more) with OFL....” others are complaining about other glitches in other systems/programs so probably we just sigh & slog? Add me as another thumbs up for Ricky’s effort & thumb down for Will’s added circles.

Matt 12:51 PM  

Sorry forgot one word

This Month Nothing Are [sad]

Four out of five 'words' are Spanish, plus 'sad'. Just close enough to drive one insane looking for meaning.

Farmer Joe 1:02 PM  

@Barbara S 10:03 Your defilement of farmers saddens me. Pig sties can't help but be messy. You see, pigs can't sweat so the farmer has to provide them with mud puddles in which they can wallow, otherwise they'll overheat and die. The mud protects them from biting insects. You show me a way in which pigs and mud puddles can co-exist without making a mess, and I'll implement it.

QuasiMojo 1:06 PM  

Late to the party or the post-mortem as we used to say about parties back when people still had them. The theme was OVER my head and even now with all the input, including from the constructor, I still don't understand it. BUT I really enjoyed doing this puzzle despite my ignorance. So many fun words and phrases and evocativia. Well done!

@Lewis I have to confess I understood this puzzle a lot more than your own today. RELEAF? Is that even a word? And "comforting" seems an odd word to describe a bud. Poetic fallacy, and all that.

Pamela 1:08 PM  

For me the theme, like for so many of you, was a letdown. I got the shading, but didn’t see the identical fill until coming here. Without the circles I might have looked harder for a meaning, which would have made the whole thing more interesting. Many of the clues were so straightforward that I mistrusted myself and hesitated to put down the obvious. BONESAW was a surprise- reminded me that Kashoggi’s been in the news again as Turkey completed its investigation.

@Lewis 11:33- Best book recommendation I’ve seen for a while! I hope it’s as good as that clue!

Frantic Sloth 1:09 PM  

While you're at it @JC66 and @Barbara S -- Don't pigs wallow in mud to keep cool (since giving up cigarettes) because they have no sweat pores or some-such?

Perhaps - and this is just a wild stab - someone here will know and share that answer?

For your listening pleasure and (hopefully) amusement: 4 Wet Pigs

Ethan Taliesin 1:11 PM  

@ Brian 12:08

I hate it when this happens. If one does the puzzle too late in the day tomorrow's crossword will appear. I fallen for this more than once only to discover the next day that my streak was kiboshed.

This happened to me recently and today I was greeted with "You've solved eight days in a row, keep it going!" GRRRRRR

Today's puzzle seemed on the easier side today and I was mostly joyless. I did not bother to read the notes and I don't really care.

sixtyni yogini 1:11 PM  

Usually agree w/Rex and at the same time enjoy the puzzle anyway.. 😎🧩😎
🎯True this time too.🎯
👍🏽😻 Yay for clues 🔍. 👎🏽 😾 Nay for theme.

Frantic Sloth 1:13 PM  

@Farmer Joe - Our comments seem to have crossed in the mail! Thanks for the explanation!

Justice for pigs! Stop the slander! (Not even gonna touch the other word starting with "sla..." because that just makes me think about how my food doesn't originate from the grocery store packaging.)

JC66 1:25 PM  


Too be clear, I was trying to say that I found @Barbara S's rant in defense of pigs hilarious.

Nancy from Chicago 1:28 PM  

@Ricky, thanks for the puzzle and for commenting here! Sorry to hear that it was altered in a way you didn't intend. I agree it would have been more fun without the circles, but I still enjoyed it anyway. Congrats on your first Sunday puzzle!

Frantic Sloth 1:29 PM  

Sorry - I couldn't post just one Bryan Bowers song while The Scotsman stayed...um...behind.

Frantic Sloth 1:34 PM  

@JC66 - I got that and so did I! Just trying to horn in on the conversation with an obviously irrelevant little "fun fact" and query of my own.
No harm, no foul I hope. 😕

Whatsername 1:42 PM  

@kitshef from 4:31 yesterday: I did the 9/15/2016 puzzle with 256 comments this morning. Or I should say I attempted it; huge DNF. Reading the comments was worth the time though. Several mentioned that it would be remembered for years to come and that was certainly true. I’ve been doing NYTX for over 20 years now, but had about a five-year hiatus during that time period. Although I’ve been working my way back through the archive, I hadn’t made it that far yet. Will let you know on the other one tomorrow.

Joe Dipinto 1:43 PM  

Warner OLAND, running down in the left gray box, was an old-time Hollywood actor who starred in Charlie Chan movies. I like this sentence from his Wikipedia entry:

He was also soon involved in a public incident when, having ordered his chauffeur to drive him to Mexico, he was observed during a rest stop sitting on the running board of his car throwing his shoes at onlookers.

JC66 1:48 PM  


No problem.

Richardf8 1:48 PM  

I enjoyed the gim-crackery of this puzzle, but wanted something like tell day from night for the first banner answer. That made the due north stack really tough for me; it was the last to fall. The fill was mostly good. GNU is a bit of crosswordese I have not encountered in a while, so it was like seeing an old friend in a new place. Cyans is unforgivable, especially as clued. That Cyan had better have the hue, saturation, and value of the One True Cyan or all your colors will be off.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

@Z- 12:54,etc.
Yeow!! You sound like the ardent anti-capitalist I am. Who knew? Note bene: most of these self-titled 'disrupters' are attacking the lowest labor cost sectors, and cabs is the prime example. The cabbie's wage is nearly invisible in the cost structure.

And, FWIW, the Great Recession wasn't the product of the 'financial geniuses' getting scammed by 'others' but by them scamming the rest of us, including the various government regulators who're in place to protect the rest of us from them. Happened during another Right Wing administration, of course. Had to bring in a minority hire to clean up the mess.

What? 1:56 PM  

Whatever possessed Shortz and crew to add circles and spoil a pretty good puzzle?
I had a puzzle recently accepted by Chronicle of Higher Education (didn’t make it to print before they gave up on publishing crosswords) which involved hidden words. The editor inserted circles to make it easier to solve. When editors do this it’s an attempt to tailor the puzzle to the intended audience. In my case, it was justified, but Shortz thinks Times’ audience needs baby sitting? What is wrong with him? I’m guessing they don’t know.

Masked and Anonymous 2:04 PM  

M&A solved on the paper, so no big problem understandin the theme. Gained valuable nanoseconds, allowin M&A to travel into the FUTURE. Far out, dudes & darlins. U won't believe some of the upcomin stuff. Even for Trump. But, I forward-digress…

The puz did have a coupla gray areas, I'll grant.
Spellin out BLACK & WHITE in the circles and then takin dictation from that to fill in the walled-off areas. Just kept thinkin, there's surely gotta be more to it than that. Not much more, evidently.

Liked especially: CUTTINGEDGE. BARF. SPONGEBOB. LEGOLAND. DOOZIES. SQUALID. SOANDSO. And the oh-so-barely desperate edge of NAKEDLY, which also had a cool clue.


staff weeject picks: [from a treasure-trove of 34 choices, so quite an honor]: BTU & GNU & KSU & STU. Of which KSU gets the nod for most scrabble-twerky.

Thanx, Mr. Cruz.

Masked & Anonymo10Us


Birchbark 2:06 PM  

@Anon (12:21) -- Understood and pretty much agreed. Where you rightly object that no one hikes the "oft-hiked" paths of Mt. DANA, I just sort of chuckle at the bravado of adding a (true or not) "performance enhancing" adjective to try to cure the flaw.

I do like the "Noted" clues best and their implied level of fame, when in reality we're talking the esoterica of scholarly end "notes." I know from experience how quickly such knowledge fails in conversational gambits. So "Noted" and "Of note" clues for me mean "You'll probably need the crosses on this one."

GILL I. 2:11 PM  

Yay we've morphed to Nancy's shtick and pigs. Did I say I love this blog?
I can always count on our friend @Nancy to take down a Geezer peg. AND....she'll throw you a humdinger!
I know lots of people have little pigs as pets now. It's hard to eat bacon without thinking of them. Do the pet owners allow them to wallow in mud? Just curious.

Lewis 2:12 PM  

@quasi -- "Bud" here is not a pal, and "comeback" is not a retort.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Is it just me or has the NYT succumbed to Bernie by allowing such inexperienced youngsters to be published on Sundays? I miss the days of esoteric and challenging but fun Sundays....

Bonnie Buratti 2:21 PM  

There was nothing to this puzzle. I kept looking for something delightful, something I missed, but it was just the simple act of comparing two squares, looking for the difference, and coming up with black and white (which I already had, very early in the puzzle). "Fun visual experience" is a bit of an exaggeration.

CDilly52 2:21 PM  

@CS. Very nicely said. A while back, I did a mini-rant about @Rex’s propensity (one old woman’s opinion only, mind you) to pan (or worse) a puzzle that is obviously just not in his wheelhouse. As @Rex would say, this propensity of his is definitely “a thing.”

CDilly52 2:36 PM  

@LMS. Thanks (as usual) for my morning chuckle! My family will frequently ask each other if one is “gruntled,” because my father, when I was quite young and working on vocabulary words, one of which was disgruntled, used “gruntled.” I asked him (thinking he would be impressed with my new word), “Dad, why are you disgruntled?” His response was, “How can I be, when I have yet to be gruntled?” And a tradition was born. Thanks for the chuckle and the memory.

QuasiMojo 2:38 PM  

Yes, my friend, @Lewis, I figured that out, but wouldn't it be "releafing"? Or just "leaf"? It's the bud that comes back, although it's entirely a new one, so not exactly a "comeback." So it would be leafing for the first time. A DEBUT. I'm not a botanist. And "comforting" to whom? All I would think of is having to rake up all those new leaves when they fell off. Hardly comforting. :) I meant "pathetic fallacy" anyway. Perhaps I am overgilding the lily here. Just kidding, really. I thank you for sharing it.

CDilly52 2:43 PM  

Marvelous work from constructor Ricky Cruz. I absolutely marvel at the work that goes into any crossword, but a Sunday opus and of this magnitude, well. Kudos! I am also a purist am become immediately disgruntled (or worse) when I see an alert to notes. I stalwartly refuse to read them until after my solve. Thankfully, the notes are entirely superfluous. Nicely done.

I was slow off the mark, and just had no momentum until the bottom half. Seemed to me (and it could be the difference between starting late at night, falling asleep and finishing this morning. . . hmmmmmm,) but the clues in the top half seemed more clever than the bottom half. Could be the old wheelhouse issue. But we saw a definite increase in typical fill in the south.

Anyway, I admire the effort and enjoyed the solve.

Barbara S. 3:08 PM  

@Farmer Joe 1:02

I've just come back online after several hours away only to see that I unwittingly set off a porcine controversy.

I would never "defile" farmers although I might criticize them if I thought they weren't doing the best for the animals in their care. Both my parents grew up on farms and I'm proud of my agricultural heritage. My mother, I have to say, was particularly eloquent in her defense of pigs. She thought they were wonderful animals, more intelligent and less inherently dirty than commonly believed.

I take everyone's point on wallowing and I realize it's an activity critical to the well-being of pigs. I would never expect a pigsty to be shiny as a new pin. Yes, there's going to be mud, but the presence of mud isn't going to make it SQUALID.

Here's the OED:
SQUALID, adj. (of a place) extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect.
- showing or involving a contemptible lack of moral standards.

First of all, I want to free pigs from all moral judgement to which we might be tempted to subject them. Second, the words "extremely" "unpleasant" and "neglect" in the first part of the definition are words which I don't think are applicable to well-maintained pigsties. Messy and muddy, yes -- you don't want to go in there in your glad rags. But SQUALID? Not unless there's a serious lack of attention on the pigherd's part.

Aketi 3:13 PM  

@Ricky, sorry the circles got added.

I’m looking for the pig rant everyone keeps referencing. Guess that will teach me for literally being a lazy 91A and only mustered the energy to get up out of bed and start the puzzle in the afternoon. It looks like it was deleted.

Also too lazy too lazy to 110 A and resorted to cheating by reading the blog before I figured it out.

Liked the fact that there were SNAILS in the puzzle with SPONGE BOB. Gary was the coolest pet ever.

Old Lady in Tampa 3:15 PM  

What does Geezer peg mean? We call our $10 Nat'l park permits "Geezer passes" but I never heard of a Geezer peg.

JC66 3:32 PM  

@Barbara S

I'm a city boy born and bred and thought your first pig rant was funnier.

@Old Lady

I think @GILL I meant to type "take down Geezer a peg" not "take down a geezer peg," but I could be wrong.

kitshef 3:48 PM  

@Whatsername - I consider the 2016 puzzle to be even worse than the 2014 puzzle. In the 2016 puzzle, once you understand the theme you then have a long, utterly joyless slog ahead of you. In the 2014 puzzle the slog is a bit shorter.

bertoray 3:57 PM  

Ditto here.

Masked and Anonymous 4:18 PM  

M&A is a bit slow on the uptake, but am startin to realize what all this funky SunPuz is up to…

1. The gray rectangular areas contain exactly the same letters, except for the circled ones.
2. And, the circled B-L-A-C-K letters in the left gray area change to W-H-I-T-E, in the right gray area.
3. So, that's how you TELL LEFT FROM RIGHT, between the two gray areas.
4. And, since the circles are sorta like "spots", they kinda SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.
5. And, since BLACK spots change to WHITE spots, and we end up puttin both of em out there in the holdin pens at the LEFT and RIGHT puz edges, we are thereby sorta KEEPin THE CHANGE.

Congratz, Mr. Cruz. U get a delayed M&A thUmbsUp. U may have been almost too clever for my own good. Most of the others here probably had already figured all the above out, but I decided to M&A Help Desk all over em, just in case a few hadn't, yet.


Barbara S. 4:20 PM  

@Aketi 3:13
My original pig "rant" -- hey, I thought it was merely a justifiable attempt to separate the notion of pigsties from the notion of squalor -- was at 10:03.

JC66 12:36 and 3:32
People who like my humor always make MY day. Sorry I had to get temporarily serious but the challenge of @Farmer Joe (1:02) required a considered response. Rest assured the funnies will return.

Z 4:22 PM  

@kitshef 3:48 - Looks like I liked the 2014 puzzle but not the 2016 puzzle. The reason I disliked the latter one is probably obvious.

@Anon1:53 - Yes and No. Free markets are good for driving innovation at times, but there’s way too much faith-based fact-free support for them. One way of understanding the housing crisis and the recession is that a bunch of “financial geniuses” got taken by other “financial geniuses,” and then everyone else was left with the fall-out. .

LenFuego 4:27 PM  


I figured out even before your appearance here that the circles were not intended to be included. It would have been maddening fun to have to parse through those shaded grids, guided by the instructions in the puzzle to “spot the differences” to “tell left from right” in order to finish the final 5 letter words, and get that final moment of solving satisfaction. I feel robbed actually. Bravo for creating something absolutely novel in crosswords - most solvers here may not fully appreciate how truly difficult and rare that is, but I for one do. I do not share in many of the criticisms of Shortz on this blog, but he deserves to be skewered for this - if you are going to publish this puzzle, it is imperative to leave in the part of the solving experience that makes it unique in crossword puzzle history.

GILL I. 4:43 PM  

Oh my gosh...this is fun. @Aketi finally comes back because of a pig. Thank you @Barbara S. And @Old Lady from Tampa has just informed me that it costs $10.00 to get one of them geezer passes. @JC66 to the rescue. Where's @Nancy?
I'm making Swedish meat balls.

Barbara S. 4:46 PM  

Wait a minute, @JC66, YOU'RE not @Farmer Joe, are you???

JC66 4:58 PM  

@Barbara S

Haha, no. Second time you made me laugh today.

JC66 5:08 PM  

Talking about the 9/15/2016 puzzle, today's Newsweek puzzle has the same feature, but much more limited.

Masked and Anonymous 5:16 PM  

@LenFuego et al. - yep. Leavin the circles out all together woulda made this a spectacularly different SunPuz. Also changin the clues back to what the constructioneer originally envisioned, of course.

That also then would eliminate the confusion for non-print solvers, since the gray areas (without circles) in the revised print version could've just shown up as fully circled areas, in the non-print versions.

My p.s. explanation one msg above was before I realized what the constructioneer's original intent was. Wrong again, M&A breath.

U gotta wonder then what happened, here. Did test solvers perhaps complain to the Shortzmeister that the puz was just too hard, as originally set up? Or was this more of a gut feel change by the Editor? Is he maybe tryin to make the SunPuzs a tad easier and more widely accessible?

I'd think the lesson here tho is, in the FUTURE, to avoid havin both circles and gray areas in one puz -- as it is gonna cause someone some serious solvequest problems. With an appallin loss of precious nanoseconds.

Great puz idea, Mr. Cruz. They can't take that away from U. And it wasn't too bad, even after the change, at least in the printed version. But it woulda been spectacular, if they hadn't decided to "Keep the Change". So to speak.


Lewis 5:18 PM  

@quasi -- The other element, and I don't know if it was intended, is that RELEAF sounds like "relief". I don't know, the whole thing probably doesn't stand up to logic, but it just felt beautiful and artful to me. And amen to the ugh-ness of the chore of raking!

BobL 5:23 PM  

This comment section lately has really been troll-free. In the words of you-know-who - "Incredible" "perfect"
"Terrific" "Really, really good" "incredible"

Anonymous 5:31 PM  


I hear many people say so.

Anonymous 5:33 PM  


Hats off to the mods.

Nancy 5:38 PM  

Hi, @GILL -- Yes, I'm here and very much appreciate your spirited defense of me -- even though it was expressed... oddly. "Geezer Pass", indeed. Maybe we should make that the hip new term for "Senior Movie Ticket." As in: "Surely, ma'am, I can't need a photo ID to get a Geezer Pass to this theater. Just look at me, for heaven's sake."

I read @Barbara S's stout defense of pigs and their environs earlier today. I didn't take it as any sort of humorous aside. Rather I took it as a sincere attempt to invest pigs with the porcine dignity to which they are entitled.

jae 6:12 PM  

@Lewis - Thanks for book recommendation, I read The Echo Maker a while back and enjoyed it. I did not know Powers had new one out.

QuasiMojo 6:14 PM  

@Lewis, plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is! And how. I've been enjoying the blossoms (non-cherry) here in Florida. @Nancy, I'm not old enough for geezer passes but they give them to me anyway without asking for ID. @Gill (Gadot?) you are Wonder Woman. I love Swedish meatballs! Had some Italian ones last night. No comparison. @Barbara S. I enjoy your elegantly phrased comments. Keep em coming.

Petri 6:22 PM  

Sunday usually takes me in the 20-25 minute range, so my 13 minute time today felt like a total blitz. I found it super easy, with only LEXEMES causing a problem, and even there all the crosses were fair. Gotta admit, I love a puzzle that makes me feel smart, so this was just fine by me. That said, I didn't notice the theme whatsoever, neither for better or for worse, and had to stop and take a second to *actually* see what was going on on the sides of the grid. I'm not so sure it stands up as a theme, but I don't really care as long as the rest of the puzzle is enjoyable, which it was here.

Nancy 6:55 PM  

@Quasi (6:14) -- I don't quite know how to break this to you, but you are old enough.

pabloinnh 7:29 PM  

I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. We raised pigs for several years, usually three at a time.

Now, if you have pigs, and you have homemade clay tennis courts, always remember that if your pigs somehow escape their (not squalid) sty, they may think it a good idea to go and root in your exceptionally high-maintenance tennis courts, causing damage that is just short of irreparable. This will lower your opinion of pigs considerably.

QuasiMojo 8:23 PM  

@Nancy, lol. It's 65 where I live for movies and buses. Now you know how young I am. Sort of. :)

xyz 8:32 PM  



Cyrus 11:05 PM  

In reply to the Mt. Dana as a Yosemite peak that is "much hiked." It stumped me too at first, even though I've climbed Mt. Dana. But it's a legit (or licit) answer, as Dana is among the few 13,000+ ft. peaks that is easily accessible (from a parking lot on Rte 120, the spine of Yosemite), and doable in a long day. Meanwhile, my wife and I whizzed through this puzzle (on paper, in a few hours of work), and while the theme was terribly fun, we thought it was beautifully constructed.

Stan Wagon 11:56 PM  

The clue for SOLARDAY is wrong. It is the time between when the sun is due south, and the next time it is due south. It has nothing to with noon, which is our civil time and is not when sun is due south.

Roadkill 9:13 AM  

Kick start? Kay? Sorry, but I’m just not seeing that one at all.

Z 9:14 AM  

@Roadkill - “Kick” starts with the letter K, spelt KAY the same way S is spelt ESS or N is spelt EN.

David 9:20 AM  

Funny. I had the b and the l and said to myself, "Oh, it'll be black and white." because, you know, KODAK.

Got my Brownie Super 7 before I was 10 years old and have been an avid photographer ever since.

Railing against the "gig economy" isn't "anti-capitalist," it's anti monarchist. Uber et al are fiefdoms of wage slavery with the serfs paying the crown for the honor of using their apps to eke out a meager living. They're also all huge tax frauds which, 20 years ago, would have been prosecuted by the Feds before going very far. If you don't get that, it's quite simple; they have employees they call "independent contractors," but the actuality is they're EMPLOYEES. Many a company that used actual independent contractors were investigated by the IRS back in the day to make sure they weren't employees in fact.

Roadkill 10:37 AM  

That is what happens from my years with motorcycles. Mentally I never got past kick starting the bike. Feeling stupid now!

Z 12:08 PM  

@Roadkill - We’ve all been there. See me in the Saturday comments if you need proof.

Joe 11:33 PM  

I thought this was pretty easy for a NYT Sunday puzzle. I enjoyed much of the fill, but agree with Rex that the theme was lacking.

Unknown 7:07 PM  

My paper didn't show the circles. Ugh.

Burma Shave 2:21 PM  


I URGE you usin' this FOR FUTURE reference


spacecraft 2:46 PM  

Yeah, the whole thing seemed ungainly. Two totally walled-off words, normally a no-no, and two shaded blocks with several single BLACK squares--which make for choppy seas indeed. The long themers didn't exactly hit the mark either. YET for some reason this didn't play as that much of a slog. Maybe it's because of some quite lively fill. The constructor did GETOFFASHOT or TWO[HANDED]. There were some DOOZIES. In fact, find a less awkward theme and you could be the REALDEAL, Ricky.

Since they're cordoned off, I'll award twin DOD's to Karen BLACK and Vanna WHITE. Failing to SPOTTHEDIFFERENCE between OPIateS and OPIOIDS cost me some extra ink from my SAC. Also...FLIP book???? I get the phone, though even this dinosaur hasn't had one of those in decades, but WTF is a "FLIP book??" Never heard of it. Unless...was that one of those old things where you rapidly flipped the pages and created a primitive "motion picture?" Did they call those flip books? Man, now you're going WAAAAAY back! Par.

rainforest 3:02 PM  

I'm of two minds on this puzzle, maybe not BLACK and WHITE; more like shades of grey.
First of all, there was no note, nor any circles in my copy, so I was kind of lost regarding the two set-off side sections. Before I got the bottom revealer, I was trying to see something - anything - significant within the two shaded sections. But when I read 110A, I started to try to see *differences* between the two sections, trying to see which letters that might have been circled. Nothing.

After I completed the solve (yay, triumph) I went back to the shaded sections and then actually had an "AHA" moment when I discerned B,W, and then L,H etc. So, BLACK and WHITE went into the side sections.

So, there were two aspects to the puzzle: one, simply solving it from the clues. This was easy/medium from that point of view. Having an AHA was uplifting, but really had nothing to do with the solve, except for filling the squares of the side sections. Two, that effort was more like what @LMS described: find the differences, and the result was not crossword solving - rather, kind of a word search.

Did I like it? Yes, once I recognized that there were two components to the solve. Filling the grid was satisfying, fun in places - SPONGE BOB, REAL DEAL, IDITAROD, DOOZIES, and sorting out DISTURBIA, CEDRIC, DO AWAY, and DOBBY. Getting the mcguffin, a la @M&A, was sort of icing on the cake.

rondo 3:12 PM  

Low fun factor, quite a construct. OFL is right to ask "Why?"
I guess it'll do for a stay-at-home Easter.

Anonymous 7:12 PM  

@David - Nothing monarchist about gig economy. No ruler dictates that you have to work. You choose to work or not. But you must pay taxes to support the Feds, and State, and local government or you will end up in the slammer. And your income is less because of that. And you will obey the Feds, or you end up like SNOWDEN (good to see him in the puzzle), or worse, like Assange. At least the gig workers are able to avoid taxes when they can, like others in the cash economy.

Agree mostly with OFL's comments, but must give Mr. Cruz some slack as he appears to have been hijacked by the nyt. Especially liked the fill.
It looks like he has an excellent career ahead of him.

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

@Z - Uber is such a failure that Lyft copied them and is also doing quite well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And regulation is the tyrant's dream.

leftcoaster 9:37 PM  

So why spend so much time on Sunday slogs? There must be better ways to have more fun with them. Must they be super-sized?

wcutler 9:11 PM  

@Ricky 4:17 AM
There were no circles in my syndi version of the puzzle, as someone else mentioned. But there were the two clues that referred to the circles. So I thought that my newspaper had got it wrong, how was I supposed to solve this thing, let's see what I can do, and then I felt SO clever when I figured it out. And I even figured it out soon enough to use the sidebar black and white to fill in where the circles were supposed to be, so that was extra fun and I thought I was getting a special only-for-me workout and treat.

I know this is a little late, but I like Sunday puzzles that take me all week, and I do them in bed until I realize I've fallen asleep, which comes more quickly some nights than others.

Unknown 1:32 PM  

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