French-founded fragrance firm / TUE 3-3-20 / Grossly distorted imitation / City railways not at street level / Fraternal order with animal emblem

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:11 despite my typoing like every answer ... took me about six passes to get COTY into the grid properly, somehow, ugh ...)

THEME: various "stars" — various kinds of famous-people stars are clued as if they were other kinds of stars:

Theme answers:
  • ANNIE OAKLEY (17A: Shooting star?)
  • AL ROKER (37A: Morning star?)
  • SIMONE BILES (59A: Gold star?)
  • PAUL BUNYAN (10D: Giant star?)
  • SANTA CLAUS (29D: Pole star?)
Word of the Day: YAW (40A: Veer off course, as a ship) —
1aof a ship to deviate erratically from a course (as when struck by a heavy sea)especially to move from side to side

bof an airplane, spacecraft, or projectile to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis (
• • •

Lynn Lempel is a legendary early-week constructor and I'm happy to see her name again today. This isn't among my favorites of hers, mostly because the theme concept feels looser and less precisely executed than it usually is in her work. My main problem is with [Gold star?], which is the only "star" in the set that isn't an actual in-the-sky star. Rather, it is a sticker you get on exemplary homework in elementary school, or a Soviet-era insignia indicating "Hero" status. If "gold star" has an astronomical meaning, it must be pretty obscure. Doesn't come up on google searches. Whereas, shooting star? Sky. Morning star? Sky (refers to Sirius when it appears in the morning sky, but also Venus or (less often) Mercury when it does the same, thank you wikipedia). Giant star? Sky. And pole star? Sky (another word for the North Star, or Polaris, though also a metaphor meaning "guiding principle"). I'm thrilled to see SIMONE BILES whenever she wants to make a grid appearance, but [Gold star?] makes this set of themers clunk, and the set wasn't exactly tight to begin with. There's nothing holding the set together besides the star stuff, and three of these "stars" aren't even real people. They're fictional. I mean, have you ever actually seen an AL ROKER in person. I doubt it.

Almost all my trouble today (and there wasn't much of it) came in the center of the grid, where I could not think of a Disney dog in five letters starting with "G" and I could *not* think of a word for [Little devils] that wasn't IMPS. So let's take those one at a time. First ... GOOFY's a dog!? But ... Pluto's a dog! Isn't Pluto GOOFY's dog? How does a dog have a dog? Wait ... OK now I'm just reenacting this scene from "Stand By Me":

I threw BOAR athwart the Disney dog answer, hoping for clarity, but things just got worse, as GO___ seemed even less like a dog name, somehow, and now I had the "B" from BRATS but still no idea how to get to there from [Little devils], a clue that seems far too cutesy to describe actual BRATS, unless "Little devils" is some kind of tailgating slang for BRATS (as in bratwurst, as in sausages). Probably not, but I do like it and I am going to start calling sausages that.

Yesterday's puzzle was accompanied by a note:
To mark the beginning of Women's History Month, every puzzle this week (Monday to Sunday) has been made by a leading woman crossword constructor.
This sounds noble enough, but only the NYTXW would think to honor a "month" with a week's worth of puzzles. I mean, if that's not ... telling, I don't know what is. It's tokenism at its finest. It's also embarrassing, considering that another crossword—the syndicated Universal Crossword, edited by David Steinberg—is actually doing the whole month. All women constructors, all month long. He's calling it the Universal Crossword Women's March (solve or print puzzles out from here, or get them here in .puz format). Here's the line-up, which includes today's constructor, Lynn Lempel, and other familiar names, as well as a slew of debut constructors:

But sure, NYTXW, one week, great. You know what they call a week's worth of puzzles by men at the NYTXW? They call it ... a week. Just kidding, most weeks this year have featured at least one woman. To find a seven-day stretch of just men you have to go all the way back to ... Jan. 16-22, 2020. Olden times. Times of yore. And there's actually a more recent twelve-day stretch where only half a puzzle was constructed by a woman. But congrats on the progress, NYTXW. Baby steps, I guess.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Lewis 6:21 AM  

    As always with LL -- and what I look forward to -- we have a clever theme, wordplay, and a puzzle that I leave with a smile in my heart.

    And nice touches, like the clue for SEWED, [Put in stitches], right by the clue for TEASE, [Needle mischievously]. Also, the cross of BOAR and BRATS (as in bratwurst), and ETNA near LAVA.

    No rising star you, Lynn, but a rock star among constructors, and I'm ever grateful for your lighthearted uplifting puzzles. Thank you!

    Anonymous 6:35 AM  

    Simone Biles was the answer for "Gold Star" because she has won several gold medals in the Olympics. Though I agree, it's inconsistent with the rest of the answers, since it's not an actual star-in-the-sky...

    GeekyBoar 6:59 AM  

    Folklore characters are "stars"?

    Loren Muse Smith 7:11 AM  

    Lynn Lempel never disappoints. Ever. When her name is at the top of my puzzle, she’s my morning star.

    GASLIT. So if you’re the victim of gaslighting, are you now GASLIT? Asking for some (most) of my colleagues.

    I enjoyed this bright, simple idea. Wonder what was left on the cutting room floor. Lassie? John Elway as a COstar? Elizabeth Kubler Ross as a death star? Poe could be a dark star. George Hamilton, a bronze star. This falling star.

    Painful to see TRAVESTY running through the OVAL office.

    Noticed PARIAH over GEEK. I guess in these techish days, GEEKs are absolutely not PARIAHS. The ones I know are the SEXY it-guys. It-gals. It-people. Exhausting trying to fly under people’s dismaydar.

    Does COTY still make scents? Man, I remember my Coty Wild Musk days in middle school. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.

    Lynn – always a delight to sit down to one of your puzzles.

    OffTheGrid 7:26 AM  

    I truly enjoy learning about puzzles from @Rex. Often the negatives that he highlights don't bother me but I appreciate his insights. His comments about the theme today are an example. I must add that he missed something. What we call a SHOOTING STAR isn't a star at all.

    Petsounds 7:34 AM  

    Lovely puzzle, with all kinds of cleverness, as noted by @Lewis. Tied my Tuesday record while enjoying the heck out of the solve. Thank you, Lynn!

    Thank you, Rex, for the link to David Steinberg's Universal page. And for pointing out how ridiculous it is to "honor" Women's History Month with one week of puzzles. The female constructors are out there, folks--you can find them everywhere. Wonder why Will Shortz can't.

    johnnymcguirk 7:43 AM  

    Saw Al Roker in the gift shop of the Peabody Hotel In Memphis about ten years ago.

    Suzie Q 7:44 AM  

    I was happy to see L.L. but this is not a good example of her usual
    fun puzzles. I was disappointed in the last theme answer. It took me awhile to remember who she was. I wondered if she was going to be the Bond girl in Goldfinger with only Simone filled in. But that wouldn't have worked either.

    I always wondered about Goofy and Pluto too.

    Bleed-over from yesterday: czar/tsar, oafs/oafish.

    mmorgan 7:47 AM  

    Lynn Lempel, as always, is a delight. Never heard of SIMONE BILES, but hey!

    Anonymous 7:48 AM  

    liked the puzzle more than rex. tuesday is the least enjoyable puzzle of the week, followed by wed. YMMV. but ACME and Lynn never fail to deliver. looking forward to the rest of the week.

    what's a star, anyway? anyone on tv? "gold star" used to mean something entirely different.

    i'm having a hard time believing "it took 6 tries to get COTY into the grid but my total time was 3:11." nowaydar glowing red. thanks @LMS for "dismaydar." classic.

    so this week's topic is "where is the month of women constructors?" let's shame the NYT, etc. ok, rex, where's the month of women guest bloggers? i'm guessing that if you had trained and nurtured enough women over the years that you'd have enough to guest blog. oh wait, that's your criticism of the NYT's apparent lack of nurture and training of women constructors.

    Bobby McF 7:50 AM  

    Don’t worry be happy.

    Z 7:58 AM  

    Not easy here for a Tuesday. AUTO started out as ford and GEEKY started out as NERDY and I thought the giant star would be the Panda or Mad Bum or some such.

    Hand up for waiting on the crosses for TSAR. I really thought we had decided on TSAR for Russian Royals and czAR for government muckety-mucks like "drug czar." Yesterday took a lighter to that idea, though. A butane lighter.

    I see Dubya made the puzzle. I voted this morning. Feeling super despite not voting for any GAS LIT candidates (OMFG the ads - "I'm a dumb shit. Vote for me." Thank god primary season is over. Now only Liberty Mutual will be infecting my tv and computer). It really feels like someone took a lighter to the party of my youth. Yes. A butane lighter.

    Moxer 8:00 AM  

    As a relative novice/amateur, I enjoyed this one a lot. As for the theme, it didn’t inspire, but it felt solid.

    Malsdemare 8:12 AM  

    I’m out of town taking care of my grandchildren for the week while their mom is in DC at a conference. So I’m up EARLY! Hence you’re seeing me here at the crack o’ dawn. Ugh!

    I liked the puzzle but then I almost always do. I do sort of wish the themers had all been women but that would be a brutal task, so I’ll accept the three males. And I loved the clues. I’m kicking myself for missing the dual Chicago Fields clues: We used to live in Chicago, and there was a glorious night when US Steel, my husband’s employer at the time, got the whole thing shut down for employees only. That was truly a WOW! That was back when there was an exhibit called Mathmatica, devoted to visual representations of all sorts of math problems. The representation for probability came back to mind when I started taking statistics in grad school. Sadly, that exhibit is gone, replaced by something devoted to computers. GEEKY though I may be, it pales compared to the glorious Mathmatica.

    I had PAULBUNYoN for a bit, which I changed to PAUL BUNYaN when ABoSE didn’t work. ABaSE looked fine to me. So I spend a few minutes scouring the thing to find my error. ABUSE/PAULBUNYUN got the job done.

    Thanks, Lynn. I liked it just fine.

    M. Williamson 8:14 AM  

    Let us all hope that today ee can enjoy a day of zippo controversies.

    Nancy 8:30 AM  

    Star light, star bright,
    Wish I may, wish I might
    Get a puzzle with some bite
    Get a puzzle with some fight.

    Tomorrow's Wednesday. Will my wish be granted?

    Lewis 8:39 AM  

    @lms -- I was thinking Mary Poppins as a rising star and Hemingway as a pop star.

    DeeJay 8:44 AM  

    Ive had some time on my hands recently so I've read this blog every day for 2+ months. The tiresome nit-picking is, well, tiresome.

    Rex seems to approach every puzzle with the attitude that "This puzzle is going to suck, where do I begin my criticism?"

    Is there is a better daily solving experience? No.

    Is Rex's incessant carping going to help create one? No.

    jberg 8:48 AM  

    I agree with Rex, gold star doesn't quite fit. I think shooting star is OK,though. First, it's up in the sky. Second, the lights in the sky were called "stars" before anyone understood what they actually were-- so they're still stars, just different kinds of star. (Hence, the morning star is actually a planet, but we still call it that.)

    What I really liked about this puzzle were the deft two word, verb-preposition phrases: STIR UP, YELL AT. (I thought there was a third, but I can't find it now.)

    Fun, quick puzzle, once I got AL ROKER (who is he, anyway?) from crosses.

    albatross shell 8:53 AM  

    If ANNIE OAKLEY was a spelling star she might want to add an R to the STIRUP over her head.

    ALROKER, the least of our morning star cluster, somehow gets center stage. Should he be clued as morning host, and GOOFY as dog star? Would Rex be happier then? Maybe leave them both in. Nice star crossed pair.

    I was expecting the theme-perfectionists to complain that you cannot have an unclued star in your star-themed puzzle. LUI could be Eastern or Western star? Already discussed GOOFY.

    Liked TRAVESTY and PARIAH 5both in there. Little heavy on the negatives ABASE STONED GOESNUTS.

    But I had fun. No BONFIRE FUNK here.

    RooMonster 8:53 AM  

    Hey All !
    I thought the odd one was Pole Star. I get it now, North Pole, but it sounded stripper-y at first! Har.

    Nice TuesPuz. Rex's AL ROKER jab was funny. Lynn does have the Real people in the Acrosses, and the two non-Real people in the Downs. So that's a bit of elegance.

    Nice fill, pretty cool grid. My time says 10 minutes, so I figured Rex would be 3, and that was confirmed when I got here. If I can stay at 3x Rex, I'm doing pretty good.


    Anonymous 8:57 AM  

    I love the fact that the NYT is running an entire week of puzzles constructed by women and Rex bitched about it. I’m sure he doesn’t realize it (and probably wouldn’t care), but he sounds like a real jackass.

    Mr. Cheese 9:08 AM  

    If there’s a nit to pick... Rex will find it.

    pmdm 9:09 AM  

    I'm not good with PPP but on a Monday or Tuesday, when the crosses are easy, I solve the puzzle enjoyably. Like today.

    If ever one wants an example of damning with faint praise, perhaps today's write-up could serve as an example. Perhaps if one desired the write-ups to become less strident, the one for today took baby steps toweard the goal.

    To be honest and serious, I respond to the puzzle, not who constructed it. (Although when commenters here - Lewis is an example - have a puzzle published, I am happier than normal.) I dislike discrimination, but I also recognize the importance the "getting on the wavelength" of Mr. Shortz to get your puzzles published. He's in charge, like it or not. Up and at him.

    BobL 9:23 AM  

    Lynn, Loren, and Lewis makes my day.

    Anonymous 9:25 AM  

    I rate it one star.

    TJS 9:40 AM  

    This "puzzle" was a total waste of time for any day of the week. And Rex is back to being a one note bore who just cant help himself.

    3:11 with all those diversions ? Yeah, right.Now to find out how anyone besides @Lewis could have loved this.

    Anonymous 9:44 AM  

    @Rex, @Off the grid, Why does it have to be an actual star in the sky? Can't it just be wordplay with the word star?

    Anonymous 9:53 AM  

    @DeeJay, Agree with all you say about the blog. But the WSJ is frequently a better puzzle. Not always, but frequently. And a few of the constructors at The New Yorker are just super stars. But that puzzle can be sloppy about word meanings (e.g., clue for Siege, an epic battle), and some of the constructors are overly reliant on pop culture.

    Edna Ferber 9:54 AM  

    Once I had the PAUL, I thought the Giant star was going to be Newman. Oh, wait, that was James Dean. (Hey, Dennis Hopper and xword favorite Sal Mineo were in it, too!)

    Andrew B 9:58 AM  

    COTY was a bit of new crossword-ese for me today. I wonder what factoid it'll replace in my brain...

    Perhaps I grew up with more exposure to the House of Mouse than Rex or some of the other commenters, I definitely knew GOOFY was a dog. It didn't stop me from filling in Pluto first, but I was able to roll with the punches in the center of the grid.

    OffTheGrid 9:59 AM  

    My point was that it doesn't bother me, just that @rex missed one. (I did, too, as morning star is a planet) BUT it was all good to me.

    CDilly52 10:09 AM  

    Never disappointed by Ms. L. Never. Ever. Some “inconsistency” in the theme construction does not bother me in the least when the theme itself is interesting and entertaining. Super word play. The one that got me was Focus on the road? Even with the ? I went down the rabbit hole and “puzzled and I puzzled ‘til my puzzler was sore,” (homage to Dr. Seuss whose birthday on March 2 is now Read Across America Day). The GET AT, AMOUR crossed with AUTO was the place that slowed me to a dirge-like crawl. I think it was the spelling of AMOUR. Anyway, good one LL. Enjoyed it enormously! Happy Super Tuesday!

    RooMonster 10:24 AM  

    @albatross shell
    Wow, what a great catch on GOOFY! How did no one see that? Dog Star, it's right in the center, perfect for another Down themer! Plus, it fits the non-Real category. For Lynn to miss that is amazing.

    @Nancy from yesterday
    Sorry, in your first post, you wrote you had LEMAR. Maybe it was just a typo, or auro-correct got ya.

    RooMonster Goofy Guy

    JBab 10:31 AM  

    When Goofy first appeared in a Disney cartoon in 1932, he was called Dippy Dawg. Later the same year he was renamed Goofy.

    JOHN X 10:41 AM  

    I’m really happy the NYTX is featuring women constructors this week and giving the gals a chance to shine. And so far I’ve really been impressed! The puzzles haven’t been nearly as tedious as you’d think they’d be. Well done ladies!

    In the spirit of inclusion, wouldn’t it be great if they had an all male constructor week? And I don’t mean “identify as male” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but I mean male stuff, like all the answers would be about cool things like race car engines and WWII bombers and astronauts who went to the moon and various types of hand tools, etc etc. Wow, I want to do that puzzle already!

    Sorry I haven’t been around lately, but since I got out of Mexican jail a lot has happened. I was getting hammered with a guy in a bar in Manhattan and the next thing I know I’m hired as a senior vice-president at General Electric. I totally lied on my resume! I got a big-ass office (with its own bathroom and shower!), I got two secretaries, and I really don’t have to do anything. I’m not even sure what my division does, but I figure as long as I keep my mouth shut and don’t say anything stupid, I can probably milk this gig for a couple of months. I think we do medical imaging or something weird like that.

    Gotta go play golf with the CEO. Ciao!

    Ernonymous 10:48 AM  

    That was my fastest Tuesday, 4 Rexes, 1.3 @roomonster. I'm only solving about 2 months. I did an archived puzzle and there was COTY just yesterday otherwise I had no idea.
    The other amazing thing I learned was @Nancy saw the Willie Mays catch in real time. We're not worthy! We're not worthy!

    Barbara S. 10:49 AM  

    I've been doing the NYTXW for a while but I'm a relative newbie (or should I say noob) to this discussion. Could someone please explain what PPP means - see @pmdm 9:09. I get from context that it refers to names of people or maybe proper nouns in general, but what do those three Ps actually stand for? I tried bravely looking it up on my own with the help of Google and got literally hundreds of suggestions. Among my favourites:

    Prepare Prime Paint

    Platelet Poor Plasma

    Penultimate Profit Prospect

    I am not enlightened by these. Someone, Please Provide Panacea.

    Z 11:06 AM  

    @albatross shell - Great Catch. Can't believe it wasn't a themer, now. I just checked the note over at and Lynn wrote, I do remember trying to fit in a dog star like Rin Tin Tin or Lassie, but to no avail. Wow.

    @anon9;44 - As OffTheGrid9:59 pointed out - It's a consistency thing. Since all the others are actual things we see in the sky, "Gold star" sticks out as not fitting the pattern. Having all of them being things we see in the sky would be better. Just like having the real people going across and the fictional people going down is a nice touch.

    Whatsername 11:15 AM  

    Seemed super easy but wow! Just pleasant and fun for me. I enjoyed it more than most Tuesdays which can sometimes be on the dull side. No quibble whatsoever with a non heavenly “gold star” in the mix. SIMONEBILES is absolutely a star and in a galaxy all her own. Even though he’s now an ex-Giant, I wanted Eli Manning for 10D but then I’m still on a football high from the Super Bowl.

    @Monty Boy from 11:03 last night: “THAT” is an absolutely hilarious story. I will laugh every time I think of it.

    @Loren: I remember the days of COTY Wild Musk. I always wore the oil rather than the spray because it was more intense and I’m sure made me even hotter than I already thought I was. I like dismaydar and @Anonymous’ (7:48) nowaydar and BTW, agree re 3:11 solving time.

    Like @Loren, I sensed a subliminal message in the crossing of OVAL and TRAVESTY. The calendar I use to keep myself somewhat organized has a daily quote from different people, some famous and some not. This morning one popped up from Ann Broadstreet: “Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.” Coincidence?

    JC66 11:16 AM  

    @Barbara S

    As coined by @Z

    PPP=Pop culture, Product names, and other Proper nouns. 25-30% is pretty NYTX typical. More than 33% almost always causes some subset of solvers trouble.

    Anonymous 11:18 AM  

    Z did not coin PPP. He just uses it a lot. But it's neither his idea nor his coinage.

    Masked and Anonymous 11:20 AM  

    yep. Definitely also immediately thought GOOFY deserved "dog star" status.
    Also, could SIMONE BILES maybe have been clued as "first star" instead of "gold star"? First place is sorta like gold-medal, right? Maybe that woulda tightened things up slightly, theme-wise.

    Cool Lempel fillins, as usual. faves: GOESNUTS. OVERHERE. BONFIRE. STIRUP.

    staff weeject pick: SRS. Had this in a puz I made, lately. Feelin a dash better about it, now.

    Thanx for the fun, Ms. Lempel darlin.

    Masked & Anonym007Us

    Frantic Sloth 11:22 AM  

    Great. Now I got 🎶LIBERTYLIBERTY LIIIBERTY LIIIBERTY🎶 careening through my brain. Thanks for that, @Z. ;-)

    This was a fun puzzle with no bones/nits to pick - and very pleased to have SIMONEBILES trotted out from the back of my mind.

    It’s mildly disconcerting to me when in the space of only 4 years I can go from watching (usually with my chin on the floor) someone perform unforgettable feats of physical prowess to “oh, yeah...NOW I remember.” *sigh*

    Thanks to @LMS and @Anonymous 7:48 for “dismaydar” and “nowaydar” respectively. Today’s chuckle. :-)

    Anonymous 11:23 AM  

    @Z and DeeJay, I knew what you meant. But if this will sate your craving for consistency, here ya go:

    "Albireo – also called Beta Cygni – isn’t the brightest star in the sky. It looks like an ordinary single star to the eye. But peer at it through a telescope, and you’ll learn why stargazers love Albireo. With a telescope, you’ll easily see Albireo as a beautiful double star, with the brighter star gold and the dimmer star blue."

    Ragu 11:31 AM  

    @Barbara S PPP stands for Pop Culture, Product Names and other Proper Nouns. Legend has it that when those are above one third of the clues/answers we tend to see some people with very fast solves (in their wheelhouse) and others who struggle.

    Frantic Sloth 11:37 AM  

    Thanks to @JC66 (and @Barbara S for asking) for the PPP explanation.

    Was previously able to infer the general meaning, but I always prefer exactitude.

    Now “People Places and Poppycock” can vacate the cranial premises.

    webwinger 11:44 AM  

    Well above average Tuesday. Yay LL! And boo RP for dissing WS because he’s declared bias in favor of women constructors for only one week, when he could have done it for a whole month, or even for all time, like some of those other x-word guys.

    Re the theme: Interesting question, what makes a metaphorical star? Jussie Smollett, now again facing criminal charges for apparently staging a racially/homophobically motivated attack on himself in Chicago last year, was consistently designated a “star” of his TV show Empire in media accounts early on. When it began to look like it was all a hoax, he became merely an actor.

    Still in a quandary over how to vote today. Have seriously considered at one time or another opting for each of the 6 Dems still in the race as of 2 days ago. Yesterday drove to Denver for a planned Klobuchar rally that was cancelled literally minutes before it was supposed to start when she suspended her candidacy. Now thinking a brokered convention leading to, say, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown as the nominee might not be so bad. After all, that’s how we got A. Lincoln...

    Last thing: I shook hands with AL ROKER just last month while impersonating a tourist outside the Today Show studio on a cold dark morning.

    Finally: Welcome back, JOHN X! Congrats on your GE gig. Maybe you were channeling the newly departed spirit of Jack Welch while in a blackout state.

    pabloinnh 11:51 AM  

    Given the month and the week, as soon as I got ANNIEOAKLEY I was pretty sure we were going to have a puzzle filled with just female stars, but PAULAUNYAN eliminated that hopeful assumption.

    Never understood the GOOFY/Pluto connection. Pluto is clearly the dog in the equation, but he doesn't talk, while GOOFY, on the other hand, talks goofily, so where does that leave us? Wondering, at least for me.

    I read quite a lot of sports stuff and just saw somewhere that SIMONEBILES was called the greatest female athlete in history. I'm not sure how exactly we measure that, but if you have never seen her (or heard of her?!), she's phenomenal.

    ALROKER may be harder to see these days, as I understand he's lost a lot of weight.

    Fun puzzle, LL. Zipped right through it before we burned a big brush pile, which I was not in a hurry to do, but thanks anyway.

    Walt Disney 12:25 PM  

    Just to clarify for some of you, Goofy and Pluto are cartoon dogs. That's.....cartoon.

    jae 12:49 PM  

    Medium. Liked it.

    ccredux 12:58 PM  

    3:11! Wow! I cannot imagine doing that even if I had all the answers beforehand. The blogger says he made typos . What about pondering and cogitating time? I’m new here but gather from previous blogs that some things don’t count in computing time, such as correcting errors, taking notes, “going slowly”, working on a clip board (? ) —— anything else doesn’t count?
    Anyone else complete the puzzle successfully in less than 4 minutes? "

    Teedmn 1:02 PM  

    Had to laugh at Rex's AL ROKER comment - not only have I not seen him in real life, I've never seen him on TV either! I know him only from crosswords (most likely Runt puzzles). I Googled him so if I ever see him in real life, I might recognize him. Okay, AL, I'm ready!

    9D I thought could be clued, "What hens and onions have" but it doesn't work - one HAS and the other DOES. Oh well, another nail in my crossword constructing career's coffin.

    I also had Rex's problem with the Disney dog - G____Y. GorkY was what my pattern-sense brought to mind. OAFS broke through that one.

    Thanks, Lynn Lempel.

    Unknown 1:03 PM  

    Felt like there was a lot of tired fill (COTY, TREX, EMAIL). I liked the theme, and wasn't troubled by the lack of consistency. Finally, while I come for the answers if needed, and the comments, I find Rex has turned into a tiresome one trick complainer. If you hate this puzzle so much, FTLOG, find another hobby. There's a reason why I never donate money to the site.

    Ernonymous 1:04 PM  

    @johnX I've put you in charge of the Penske file.

    ComicSans 1:18 PM  

    I read Rex because he has a comedian’s heart. Today, for example, he gets to the Stand By Me line. Then he makes the bratwurst connection. He finishes with the third: ”You know what they call it a week of puzzles by men at the NYTXW ... They call it a week.” Observation. Expression. A love of the art of pattern and misdirection. I wish he’d push it further, but, yeah, he’s working a tough room.

    Whatsername 1:28 PM  

    @JOHN X: I want to do that puzzle too. Congrats on the new job. Just be prepared if they ever start looking for the Penske file.

    Barbara S. 1:31 PM  

    Re: PPP

    @JC66 and @Ragu
    Thanks for your Pleasant Pair of Posts. Now I know.

    @Frantic Sloth 11:37
    When I was doing research on my own, I came across

    People Places Plants

    as a possible explanation. I briefly considered this might be right as plant and flower names do come up in puzzles, but somehow plants seemed generally out of keeping. But I like your Poppycock a lot.

    Anonymous 2:21 PM  

    If your addicted to 'How the Universe Works', then you know that there are three 'color' stars - white, blue, and red. Some colors have additional modifier, viz. dwarf, giant. SFAIK, gold is not a accepted color designation. BUT... if you watch regularly, you know that all the heavy elements (well, all of them really), as gold, result from super novae spilling there guts.
    "Gold is thought to have been produced in supernova nucleosynthesis, and from the collision of neutron stars, and to have been present in the dust from which the Solar System formed."

    "Current astrophysical models suggest that this single neutron star merger event generated between 3 and 13 Earth masses of gold."

    the wiki, for those wanting a textual reference.

    So, yes there is 'gold in them thar stars'. Get me a backhoe and a warp speed astroliner

    Anonymous 2:24 PM  

    @ComicSans is the first person, other than Humble Self of course, who gets it.

    Frantic Sloth 2:28 PM  

    @Giovanni and @JOHN X RE: All things "Penske" LOL!

    @Barbara S Your research seems to be more rewarding than the brief attempt I just made.

    Fell down the "Purchasing Power Parity" rabbit hole without a Parachute, a Plan, or any attainable Pfleeing* from my Predicatment.

    *If it's good enough for Pfizer, it's good enough for me.

    Azzurro 2:39 PM  

    @Malsedemar 8:12 am

    It’s actually BUNYAN/ABASE. I also had it as BUNYUN/ABUSE, and it took me forever to find my mistake.

    Anoa Bob 3:02 PM  

    "We are made of star stuff." Carl Sagan

    Wordsmith 4:01 PM  

    Delightful, clever puzzle. Al Roker a mainstay Of the Today Show for decades. Lovely to see Simons Biles in any context. Comprehensive review of American culture in a crossword is quite a feat!!!!

    VancouverNana 4:18 PM  

    Al Roker is Today Show Weather Guy and Co-Host. Has been for years. Also used to be on Weather Channel sometimes.

    Barbara S. 4:43 PM  

    @Pfrantic Sloth


    I think my PPP query led me to sites like and

    Anonymous 4:50 PM  

    Rex is always going off on people not appreciating women enough, frequently taking it to a trite and obnoxious level. It's like he's trying paint himself as the #1 male feminist white knight champion of womankind. To what end one wonders?

    GILL I. 5:28 PM  

    Late to this ANNIE OAKLEY party. I wanted to grow up to be her holding a big ole rifle and having Buffalo Bill propose to me. I would've made him shave that beard, though.
    Yes, Lynn is one of the primos. Today's was Tuesday fine. Not so sure about Al ROKER. I learned all about him when he went on national tv and told everyone about how he pooped his pants while at the White House. He then went on in great detail about his gastric bypass. I'm not sure who was President at the time, but if it were our present great leader, I probably would too. STONED TRAVESTY, indeed.
    @Nancy from late yesterday...A big HAHAHAH. The wannabe Beatles Spanish singing group I fiddled with was called (of all things) The Shakers and they needed wannabe back ground groupies to do some hey hey yeah, some ooh-oo-oo and a few naan's, naan's, na. I was good at that. Today, my friend, I will sidle up to the piano bar with you and in my very low voice sing: Catch A Falling Star.

    Anonymous 5:53 PM  

    Hey Rex, Pluto is Mickey's dog. I guess a mouse can have a dog.

    Mike 6:37 PM  

    I hand the exact same problem.

    craftj2 7:54 PM  

    Had PAUL BUNYUN crossed with ABUSE and never dug out of that hole...the dream of a perfect month delayed again

    Anonymous 8:09 PM  

    I have seen Al Roker in person!

    Z 11:05 PM  

    @ccredux - Rex ain't even that fast.

    Re:PPP - Here's the full story:
    First there was Lewis providing Post-Puzzle Puzzlers (PPP). He'd find something in the puzzle and create a little brain teaser. Shockingly - someone(s) complained to Rex and Lewis stopped. What is wrong with people? If you didn't want to do the little brain exercises nobody was making you. I'm still pissed at Rex over this.

    Some Saturday after this I was spouting off about how great a puzzle was and how little pop culture was in the puzzle. Later, @OISK complained about the excessive level of pop culture. Huh? So I went through the puzzle and counted and it was actually quite high - just in my wheelhouse. I then spent some weeks counting the Pop Culture references everyday. It was pretty obvious after about a month that somewhere right around 33% was the line. More than 33% and we'd see comments from some subset of solvers about really struggling with the puzzle. That's when I coined PPP, meaning "Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns." There are other factors involved, but if you ever see lots of comments about how hard a puzzle was and lots of comments that the same puzzle was easy you can be assured that the PPP is >33%.

    Unknown 7:20 AM  

    جلب الحبيب

    kitshef 11:25 AM  

    Third puzzle solved working through vacation backlog and I've loved them all. This is really weird - for me to like a Monday or Tuesday is pretty rare. To like both in the same week is almost unheard of.

    AVA could also have been clued as "shooting star".

    spacecraft 11:09 AM  

    OFC misses a point: all across themers are (or were) real people, while all the downs are (sorry, kids) fictional. Yes, I said all, not both: Ms. Lempel missed a wonderful opportunity for a fifth themer by NOT cluing GOOFY as "Dog star?" That one's even in the sky! OFC: The notion that ALROKER is not real is more out-of-touch than His Orangeness.

    One clue nit to pick involves SWEEP. To win overwhelmingly is to trounce, or rout. A SWEEP is simply the win of a series without loss, even if they were all by one point. But this is hardly a TRAVESTY. Our constructor, bless her heart, has sprinkled a TON of SEXY DOD candidates throughout the grid: MILA, GWEN, LIU--but we award today's sash to the full-named SIMONEBILES, along with condolences for having the Games canceled this year. Birdie.

    Burma Shave 1:23 PM  


    MILA’s an EVIL TEASE but I POSIT she’s SEXY,
    while ANNIEOAKLEY’s USE of a GUN is REFLEXy.

    --- PVT. CAL COTY

    rondo 1:32 PM  

    Hand up for ford before AUTO; ford is a better answer for that clue. Totally agree with @spacey on the SWEEP clue.

    Lynn GOESNUTS with the SEXY GOOFY GEEKY ladies’ names Lucy LIU, SUE, GWEN, AVA, MILA, ANNIEOAKLEY, and SIMONEBILES. No TRAVESTY to pick any of them, not a PARIAH in the bunch.


    leftcoaster 2:08 PM  

    To the five "star" themers, let's add MILA Kunis, AVA DuVernay, Lucy LIU, GWEN Stefani, and golfer Ernie ELS for a total of ten.

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