Kvass ingredient / FRI 3-6-20 / "The Spanish Playing Cards" and "Nude With Mirror" / Opposite of mainstream / Eugene O'Neill's "Desire Under the ___"

Friday, March 6, 2020

Constructor: Caitlin Reid

Relative difficulty: Easyish

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Marianne Craig MOORE (25D: Poet Marianne who won a 1952 Pulitzer) —
Marianne Craig Moore (November 15, 1887 – February 5, 1972) was an American modernist poet, critic, translator, and editor. Her poetry is noted for formal innovation, precise diction, irony, and wit.
• • •

Hi all, Rachel Fabi in for Rex today. I'm doing double-duty today blogging the NYT here for Rex and the New Yorker over on another crossword blog whose name rhymes with Fiery of a Tossword Greened. Friday is my favorite crossword day of the week because we get (at least) two themelesses! What I love about themeless puzzles is that they really give the constructor's voice a chance to shine through the marquee entries they choose to highlight and the flexibility they have in their choice of fill, which is *definitely* the case with this puzzle.

In today's puzzle from Caitlin Reid, we have: one sparkly, colloquial, very much in-the-language long central entry (I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY), two super-solid stacks of 9s in the NE and SW, and six-ish crunchy long downs (including highlights MOCKTAIL, THE CASBAH, and TEA TOWELS). That last one was a struggle for me to parse, but it was very satisfying to finally crack with my last two letters (the W and the L).
"The Spanish Playing Cards" by Joan Miró

In terms of fill, Caitlin delivered a truckload of trivia, including Eliot NESS and his autobiography "The Untouchables," Pulitzer prize-winning poet Marianne MOORE (see above), Mariah Carey's "The Emancipation of MIMI," Alfred BINET (Alfred who pioneered in I.Q. testing). AHAB (Literary character played by Gregory Peck, Patrick Stewart and Orson Welles), MIROS ("The Spanish Playing Cards" and "Nude With Mirror"), and Eugene O'Neill's "Desire under the ELMS." Whew! I almost had to double-check that this was the NYT and not the New Yorker, because that density of arts-and-culture fill would not be out of place over there. Not that I mind! This is a key feature of themeless puzzles that makes them fun; you can up the difficulty with trivia and wordplay in ways that might distract from a theme in a regular weekday (M-Th) puzzle.

Speaking of using wordplay to ratchet up the difficulty, we've got some fabulous doozies in here. "Turner on a record" for TINA (no question mark!), "Set out on the highway?" for TIRES, "Big cast?" for HEAVE, "Old knockout?" for ETHER, and my personal favorite, "Threat bearing small arms?" for T-REX. These are all so good! And the last one melds wordplay with the mental sight gag of a dino with tiny arms in a way that, again, really highlights the constructor's voice and sense of humor (see also: "Heavens to Betsy!" being the clue for OHMYGOSH for no reason other than that it's a funny expression. And the clue "Like a hospital gown, maybe" for DRAFTY).

There were a few things in this puzzle I didn't recognize, which is pretty par for the course on a Friday. K STATE, for instance. There are multiple "K" states! "Which state is K STATE?", you might reasonably wonder. Wonder no more, for I have googled, and the answer is Kansas State. I also didn't know this meaning of BREVE ("Two whole notes, essentially"), and I have never heard of HAIR TONIC, although that one is probably on me. Finally, I had no idea what Kvass was, and assumed it was a cocktail that had RYE whiskey as an ingredient. In fact, Kvass, is a fermented beverage made from LITERAL RYE BREAD. What a world!

Overall, in case it's not clear by this point, I very much enjoyed this puzzle. It was clever and fun and a little sassy, and I totally dig it. It's also yet another kickass puzzle coming out in the broader context of the Women's March of constructors (and the NYT's Women's First-Week-of-March). Keep 'em coming!

(...and, relatedly, I wrote this Saturday's Universal puzzle as part of Women's March, if you're looking for something silly, light, and/or themed).

Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld

[Follow Rachel on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:03 AM  

For a relatively easy Friday, this puzzle sure had a lot of new (or so it seems to me) fill. Fresh and doable with some clever clues - I liked it.

And 34D reminded me to stop by the library tomorrow and check out the “My Cousin Vinny” DVD. Been meaning to watch it again.

okanaganer 12:16 AM  

Here is the OH MY GOSH girl sampled in the Skrillex song Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Count the OH MY GOSHes!

jae 12:25 AM  

Bottom half easy, top half (especially NW) tougher. A very fine Fri. The tough partials and WOEs like MIMI and MOORE had me wondering if I would finish. Fortunately the crosses were fair. Lots to like and Jeff gave it POW.

Anonymous 1:18 AM  

why rachel you are a breath of fresh air. i enjoyed your review even more than the excellent puzzle. it was a tad easy but completely uncontroversial.

hope to see you again real soon on the rextacular site. or was he rexcalibur? only the nasal nose.


chefwen 1:53 AM  

Thanks Rachel, great write up.

I was doing fairly well here until I arrived in the SW corner where I had rope at 45D and snog at 61A, had a DEVIL of a time sorting that out when ORDER HERE popped into my feeble brain, the rest was history.

Liked it a lot.

Anonymous 4:08 AM  

The puzzle and the commentary were as delightful as the time in 1968 when Marianne Moore threw out the first pitch in Yankee Stdium.

Rex Parker 6:24 AM  

I loved this puzzle.

Thanks for being there for me on such short notice, Rachel.


Karl Grouch 6:25 AM  

Heavens to Murgatroyd!
Exit, stage left.
Signed, Snugglepuss

Lewis 6:31 AM  

@Rachel -- Terrific writeup, detail-dense in a very good way, and clever.

This was a stop-and-go solve for me, something I hate in traffic, but love in puzzles, when I'm steadily going forward as I'm steadily meeting resistance. While there was never a frustrating delay, there was still fight all the way through, and at the end I was pumped from the successful effort.

What I especially loved was how fresh the puzzle felt, and no wonder -- it had nine NYT debuts, and all of them superb, so much so that I have to mention them here: CLOSE KNIT, ERROR CODE, I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY, MOCKTAIL, NEW AGERS, OH MY GOSH, ORDER HERE, POOR DEVIL, and THE CASBAH. Wow! Freshness not only from new words and phrases, but from their clues, which of course, are first-timers as well.

The cluing, which accounted for much of the "stop" of this stop-and-go solve, was right on the mark, a blend of vague and clever clues, mini-puzzles that felt great to figure out, that nourished the whole journey.

It felt like I was being taken all over the place on a rousing vacation, all as I was sitting in a chair. Thank you, Caitlin for this!

Mom 6:56 AM  

I love that Rex loved the puzzle! And the review! A first? I loved both.

GILL I. 7:03 AM  

Now THIS is what I call a clever Friday puzzle. Nary a STINKEYE to behold. Fiendish cluing and no worms to be found in the apple.
The Sheik he drove his Cadillac...Yay... Rock THE CASBAH. Try dancing to that one...
So why is Barely ILL?

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

This was a great way to end A work week’s set of fine puzzles. Not a stinker among them, but the cluing in this one was brilliant.

Joe Dipinto 7:58 AM  

Won't you take a day off,
Decide to run along?
Somewhere far away off
And make it snappy!

STINKEYE again so soon? Basically this was very enjoyable, except for several clues aiming to be cutesy/witty and failing. "Big cast?" What is that supposed to be – like "a cast of thousands?" It's not an expression, "big cast". "One famous for seeing double" is another strained attempt at cleverness that falls flat. And the clue for T-REX...

But I liked ORDER HERE, STAGE CREW, MOCKTAIL, BLENDED IN. I'd forgotten all about HAIR TONIC. I certainly used my share of Vitalis back in grammar school.

All in all, a better than average Friday. And the best puzzle of the week.

Suzie Q 8:03 AM  

Fresh and fun. Besides @Lewis' list I also liked the clue for straights. Lots to love today. Nice review as well. Too bad Rex had to call in a sub since it sounds like we would have had a positive review from him as well. Nice start to the weekend.
The clue for T. Rex was great. I thought I got the word play and wrote Brat. Turns out that I was on the right track. The joke reminds me of cartoons I have seen making fun of that dinosaur.

Paul Emil 8:15 AM  

Once I sussed a few entries, I had few error codes. I did have all day but did not need it. Oh my gosh, did I just write this. I sound like a new ager.

QuasiMojo 8:20 AM  

Best NYT puzzle of the week so far. I don't have all day to comment. Late for work. Lol. But thanks to poster and constructor. Excellent job. PS I have read a lot of Marianne Moore. Fascinating writer and person but an enigma to me.

Crimson Devil 8:31 AM  

Very good cluing SET on HIGHWAY, OLD KNOCKOUT, MATCHES, IN GOOD HANDS, and SMALL armed THREATS. Also enjoyed Joaquin’s reference to Miss M L Vito’s classic compliment of Vinny’s attire.
Good Friday.

TinaTinaTina 8:42 AM  

Asked my husband what HAIR TONIC is (was able to fill it in because I had seen mention of it in a novel or something). He points me to this ad for Vitalis that's a knee-slapper in present day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqXkzI3Gku4 The talking camel... The hints at virility... then the tag line: "If you want to make time with your girl, better use Vitalis." OH MY GOSH.

Music Man 8:44 AM  

Can someone please explain ILL for Barely (40A) and SEES for Matches (62A)? Those seem like stretches of their intended meanings, unless I’m missing something.

Sharon 8:45 AM  

Review is a refreshing change from Rexian hyper-PCish vitriol. Please TEMP more often!

Brian C. 8:46 AM  


Z 8:57 AM  

”The only band that matters.”

I love the consonant to vowel ratio on STRAIGHTS.

I briefly pondered the sublime tragedy of Desire Under The ELLS,

Hardest corner here was the NW, I started in the NE with The Clash, and steadily worked clockwise around the puzzle, enjoying the solve all along the way. But then I stalled, nothing above TINA. I ran the alphabet at -IGHTS, and ar —sIGHTS the light bulb flashed. I had considered poker hands at —eIGHTS, which helped. Having STRAIGHTS still didn’t help much because I was still thinking lo-res. When I gave lo-CAL a try, LOOFA became obvious. POLO then helped me see that the oath locales were places one might take an oath, not places used in oaths (Damn you STRAIGHTS to ELLS).

I remember as a young boy seeing the bottles of HAIR TONIC for sale at the barber, always in a green bottle. I just did a google image search and none of them look quite like I remember, but green is a very popular color. I still have no idea what the HAIR TONIC was meant to do.

@Gill I - Re:ILL - no idea. I even looked at the Urban Dictionary and found nothing.

@Music Man - SEES as in matching the bet of an earlier better in poker. I think it is only used as in “I’ll see your bet and raise you.” My sense is this is dated, but maybe an actual poker player can illuminate us more.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

I took the answer "ill" as in "I could ill afford to..."
"Sees" could be a poker reference.
"Heave" for big cast as in throwing something heavy.

Karl Grouch 9:04 AM  

Of(f) course, even!

Z 9:07 AM  

Vitalis ad (from @unknown 8:42).
No talking camel in the 2004 ad.

Randy (Boulder) 9:26 AM  

Like this puzzle. I was looking some kind of rebus the whole time based on assuming that SEXT must be SEXtape, and then no rebus materialized.

Can anyone top this as a ridiculous single-square error, based on things you convinced yourself might be plausible while solving a puzzle?

At the R crossing of RYE (Kvass ingredient) and ETHER (Old knockout?), I put an L instead!! :)

I assumed kvass might be some lutefisk-type food that required lye to make, and thus Ethel Merman was the old knockout!

Nancy 9:30 AM  

A master class in great cluing -- especially in the NW, where I didn't know LOOFA, didn't think of POLO (which was pretty dumb of me actually), and was utterly confused by the marvelous clues for AUTO, STRAIGHTS and DRAFTY. I had ?R??TY for the hospital gown and could only think of gRitTY. When DRAFTY finally came in, I laughed out loud.

The clues for TIRES and NEW AGERS also flummoxed me for a while. For a while, doWAGERS were my "crystal collectors". (Think of Downton Abbey and the ultra-lavish way their tables were set.)

Also, there are so many new portmanteaus these days that I don't know, I tend to make up my own when solving puzzles and hope for the best. With the benefit of ????TAIL, I guessed MOCKTAIL and was right. (How would I know MOCKTAIL since it's something that I have never and would never order. Hic.)

The hospital gown may be DRAFTY, but this puzzle is GRITTY and I loved it! Think it's the best puzzle of the week so far.

pabloinnh 9:32 AM  

Definitely like me a puzzle when I can fill in, eventually, an answer that makes me say, of course! What's wrong with me anyway? (See MOCKTAIL, Exhibit A, and MIROS, Exhibit B, as I didn't realize it was a plural.) Duh, and d'oh.

Agree with @JoeD that it's too soon for STINKEYE, but it's still a great word.

I'm old enough to remember HAIRTONIC and even the jingles that go with them. I even posted one a while back for Vaseline Hair Tonic (eww). How soon we forget.

Great puzzle, great review, and it's Friday, so there will be a new New Yorker Puzzle too.

God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

Wow! That was a dismal write up for a sparkling puzzle.
Implying that arts-and-culture clues and answers are the purview of The New Yorker and not The Times. Really?!!
Marianne Craig Moore? Rex had a conniption just recently about Hilda Doolittle being clued Hilda instead of the more common HK. Well Rex, what about your temp using Marianne Moore's middle name? That's much more tin-eared than the Hilda usage. And for the record her Pulitzer win was a very big deal. Miles away from trivial. And I think The untouchables, in particular Elliott Ness have become part of the culture. To call that trivia, trivializes how seminal his efforts were to the FBI and bringing down the Chicago rackets.
K state was problematic? Really there are two US states that begin with K. Maye one if you want to be a stickler. In any event there is Kentucky State is trivial when compared to the much larger Kansas state.

Music Man 9:45 AM  

Ah, that explains it! Thanks

Frantic Sloth 9:45 AM  

Well, once I got Steppenwolf out of my head (yeah, I know it’s not exact wording, but stbarely...)

I loved this puzzle! Furthermore, as @Anonymous 1:18am already said, perhaps Rachel’s spot-on writeup even more so. It was like reading a more eloquent version (to the nth degree) of my own inner voice. Eerie.

Really, there’s nothing more to add, except of course:

Awww! Poor TRexy!

@Joaquin Second thing I thought of after “Born to Be Wild” (and helped clear my mind of it!) was Miss Mona Lisa Vito

Sir Hillary 9:46 AM  

Phenomenal puzzle, for all the reasons others have stated, but for me in particular as a reminder of a wonderful time...

My 80-year-old father is battling cancer, so HAIRTONIC was the perfect TONIC for me. I have vivid memories of my 5-year-old self hunched over the Los Angeles Times sports pages on the floor of my parents' bathroom while he went through his morning routine -- shower, shave, brush teeth, gargle and expectorate with enough force that how could Mom possibly stay asleep, rub Vitalis HAIRTONIC through his modest but full head of hair, comb it perfectly, then dress. After asking him yet again what "cagers" were and what in the world was meant by oddly-worded headlines like "Wicks-Led Bruin Cagers Down Indians", I would read him the agate-type scores and learn in the process things like how it's Van-COU-ver, not VAN-cou-ver (as I always pronounced it) and that a Canuck was some sort of term for people who lived up in Canada. Never mind that every score I noted, he already knew, because preceding shower and shave in his routine was another "sh" step he took before I arrived, which accounted for the odd smell and was why the newspaper was in the bathroom to begin with. Never mind that -- this was our time together. Every. Single. Weekday.

That felt really good -- thank you for listening. We now return to your regularly-scheduled programming...

Petsounds 9:56 AM  

Agreeing with just about everyone on this--a terrific puzzle with solid fill and some great clues. Trouble in the NW, having entered RES for 15D, and it took me a while to get over that mistake. Kudos for a puzzle that includes the wonderful, tricorn-crowned Marianne MOORE! Enjoyed MIMI and TINA in the same puzzle and truly loved the clues for DRAFTY, STAGECREW, and ETHER. Super-fresh!

The number of solvers who have never heard of HAIRTONIC was a surprise. It was a mainstay of male grooming when I was a kid. Vitalis! Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNooR4ORfbg

Also a winner? Rachel's bright and thoughtful review. I also love themeless puzzles, for the reasons she describes, and this puzzle is a perfect example of how good they can be.

Granny Smith 9:57 AM  

Please explain 50D Drop trou.
I have no idea. Finished the puzzle, and then tried to change all the surrounding answers to get something besides trou.

Petsounds 9:58 AM  

@Anonymous 9:38--Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!

Frantic Sloth 10:05 AM  

@Sir Hillary What a sweet and stinky story! I wanna say thank you for sharing and TMI at the same time.
Seriously, very adorable. :-)

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

A little bit TMI.

Hungry Mother 10:18 AM  

Easyish here as well. Nice cluing made it fun.

Tom R 10:19 AM  

K-State is a thing - its Kansas State University in Manhattan. Its nice to see a clue any midwesterner sports fan would know (AKA me) instead of a district or avenue clue for NYC (of which I do not know nor care except for crossword trivia knowledge).

I also object to calling Alfred Binet trivia. Who hasn't heard of the Binet test? If you ever took an intro psych course, I know you heard of him there.

OffTheGrid 10:20 AM  

This was a great puzzle but slightly spoiled by over use of the "?" key. It's Friday. Aren't we expected to look for multiple meanings of a phrase or word?

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

@Granny Smith:

Drop trou(sers). It means to pull down your pants, like you're about to moon someone or get a medical exam.

Newboy 10:26 AM  

First: @bobL (7:58 yesterday) bravo! it’s that level of playful engagement that keeps me coming back.

And thanks too for an excellent guest write up Rachel. That TREX was a stroke! I resisted at first, of course, but giggled when I surrendered.

Caitlin got both AHAB and MOORE BLENDED IN so well every English major has to applaud. And even we solvers with that male chromosomal damage were taken back to the frat house basement with STRAIGHTS & POLOs to sniff out the HAIR TONIC aroma mixed with the moldy spilt beer—no MOCKTAILS allowed. Truly an equal opportunity solving experience. Since I DONT HAVE ALL DAY, I will toss in the TEA TOWEL! What a delightful way to end a week.

Questinia 10:41 AM  

agree with jae and rex.

Camilita 10:44 AM  

I had all filled in except nothing in the NW. I thought of COURT but I didn't know which slot. At one point I had LOOFA but I took it out. Big problem was I couldn't think of anything preppy but a Vest (which I sensed was wrong) and Lo-? was baffling me. I kept trying to think of a different meaning for Hand-- cards? Didn't think of that. I hate my brain sometimes!
This stuckage was different than usual because these clues are all common words. Usually when this happens it's a proper name I don't know or something obscure.
After 30 minutes of staring at it, I googled Preppy and read the preppy Wikipedia entry. POLO!!! HA! for godsakes! I put in POLO and COURT in the right spot, then CAL from the C and LOOFA from the L, then the whole thing was done.
I knew I just needed one correct entry. Bah! I blame the Preps!!!

Newboy 10:50 AM  

@granny “drop trou” was a standard of frat boy scorn “mooning” the house of the Greeks across the row.. like “see” as another poker reference that made this puzzle easy for KSTATErs—Mrs Newboy alas gave up midsolve on this distaff doozie. And she was voted The Sweeheart Of TKE in 1964.

jberg 10:51 AM  

@Gill -- ILL-suited, ILL-fitting -- closer to "badly" than to "barely," but close enough for crosswords. I did love this puzzle. The hospital gowns were particularly fun -- first I misread the clue number as 5D and wrote in
"open front" (even knowing that they are actually open back), then tried scAnTY and them skimpY before I finally saw it could be DRAFTY. Then for some reason I read "two whole notes" and thought 'whole steps,' confidently writing in "third" before BREVE. (And why "essentially?" That's exactly what a breve is.)

Back in my day Marianne MOORE was famous for her definition of poetry: "An imaginary garden with real toads in it." But I guess the young'uns don't know her so well.

I never used either, but as I recall Brylcreem and other creams were different from HAIR TONIC, which was a liquid to be sprinkled on the head. When we were kids, out mother always told us to tell the barber, "not to high up in the back, and no tonic!"

Thanks for the write-up, Rachel!

dadnoa 10:56 AM  

+1 on Rachel’s pithy summary. Rex, you are amazing at finding superb writers!

CDilly52 10:56 AM  

What a treat! Wonderful review, wonderful puzzle. Fun solve. I could not crack this one and just kept searching. PADS and ERROR CODE were all I could get on the first pass at the top. Knew I DON’T HAVE ALL DAY just had to be correct, and BINET on top of that was where I finally got cruising. This was a wonderful mixture of old, new, pop, arts and just such top notch word play. Many chuckles. I had to read, reread, and change emphasis. Best example is the clue for TIRES. I finally had to read that out loud and AHA! Set. . . . . . . out on the highway!

Perfect Friday fare. Ms. Reid is now firmly in the favorites column.

Whatsername 11:06 AM  

A bright refreshing crossword and a pleasant informative review. What a nice way to start the weekend! Thank you Caitlin and Rachel. I had to do some hard thinking but very satisfying for me to finish a Friday without a single Google. Loved the clues for STRAIGHTS, TREX and TIRES. I remember HAIRTONIC, the commercials, the smell and the general yuck factor of it. Expected to see a few complaints about that from the millennials who probably thought “okay Boomer.” These days some men prefer styling gel and hairspray, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

@Randy at 9:26 - SEXT means a sexually suggestive text message, like some which have been the scandalous downfall of a few public figures in the past.

@Sir Hillary at 9:46 - Your story about your father brought back similar recollections. My job was to put my dad’s shoes and socks next to his chair when he was ready to go out to work. Those are the kinds of precious memories that stay with you no matter how much time has passed. Thank you for sharing; it was a pleasure to listen.

@Tom R at 10:19 - I agree! Shout out for the midwestern Ks in the crosswords! Not only did we get KSTATE but also KC’s own Coach REID earlier in the week.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

or get............

BlueMan 11:10 AM  

Sees is matching is poker?

Ill is ????

Rug Crazy 11:12 AM  

MAO suit is one of the worst partials ever!

Barbara S. 11:15 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, too. At 28D I really wanted "niche" to be the opposite of mainstream (rather than INDIE), so got a bit hung up in that area. I DONT HAVE ALL DAY suggested itself fairly early on though, so I was OK. Something grated slightly at TEA TOWELS as the solution for Hand Dryers (33D). My mother (who was really a lot more laid-back than this story suggests) always maintained a strict separation between towel types in the kitchen: hand towels were for...well, hands, and TEA TOWELS were for dishes. But maybe the distinction implied by the puzzle is drying dishes by hand with a TEA TOWEL, versus drying them mechanically in a dish washer.

Hey, Sir Hillary! I'm a Canuck and I used to live in VanCOUver. Sweet story about your Dad.

Kathy 11:21 AM  

Sing it, Pabloinnh, Joe D. and Burtonkd:

Brylcreem, a little dab’ll do ya
Use more, only if you dare
Brylcreem, the gals’ll all pursue ya...........
They’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!

TJS 11:21 AM  

@Anon, 9:38 "Yeah,you blend."

I think @Lewis (and Rachel) nailed it today. Never a dull moment all the way through. Clues and fill uniformally clean and un-forced. To say this was the POW isn't enough. This was the best Friday in quite a while, IMO. Thanks Ms. Reid.

Nancy 11:22 AM  

@Quasi (8:20): ...and not just "an enigma" to you, @Quasi. Get ready, everyone, for my modernist poetry soapbox/rant, triggered by the deliberately impenetrable MARIANNE MOORE, but not -- oh, no, not at all -- limited strictly to her. (If the last thing you're looking for in your life right now, because you DON'T HAVE ALL DAY, is an anti-modernist poetry rant, you are welcome to scroll swiftly past this comment and you will be totally forgiven.)

First, they took away everything that makes poetry poetic: The rhyme. The rhythm. Often, the very form itself. All the things that give a poem sonority. That make it beautiful to hear.

Then they mostly took away the Big Subjects. Love. Nature. Death. The Human Condition. If and when they dealt with them at all, they tended to hide them behind a curtain of cascading images and metaphors. More often, however, they heaped their pile of images and metaphors upon teensy-tiny subjects. The funniest Marianne MOORE title? "To a Steam Roller". "You lack half-wit. You crush all the particles down."? I mean really! But even The Fish is metaphored and simileed within an inch of its life. It's a nice enough creature and more important in the scheme of things than the steam-roller, but for heaven's sake: "lack of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns and hatchet strokes..." What on earth is the lady talking about???

Which brings me to my final rant: Obscurity for the sake of obscurity. "If you haven't a clue as to what the hell I'm saying, I've written a really great poem." Well I say: Not so fast! As a writer, it's your job to communicate. If you're not communicating, you've failed. And it's your failure, not mine. I absolutely refuse to take the blame.

I'm going off to read Tennyson, Blake and Kipling now. End of rant.

Danny and Rachel 11:25 AM  

Can anyone explain the the cluing on In good hands? A STRAIGHT...IS a good hand. A STRAIGHT is not IN a good hand. Am I missing something?

Masked and Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Like @Nancy and others, I thought the cluin was extra-outstandin. {Turner on a record} = TINA was the non-? clue that tickled m&e the most. {Set out on the highway?} = TIRES was a fave, of the ?-crowd.
Somebody Caitlin-like was diligent enough to spend the time to really add feisty punch to these clues. Almost essential, especially on a themeless puz -- where there ain't no opportunity for yer clever theme punch.

fave fillins: Probable seed entry IDONTHAVEALLDAY. STINKEYE. MOCKTAIL. KSTATE [I once strolled around that campus, while stationed near there in the army]. CLOSEKNIT.

Always a hoot to see some Comment Gallery names from the past pop up again. (yo, @Questinia.) (earlier yo, @Leapfinger.) (yo, @RP.)

staff weeject pick, of only 4 pretty calm choices: MAO. Re-assurin us that M+A is back.

Thanx for the source of buzz, Ms. Reid darlin. Superb work.
And real neat blog write-up, @Rachel darlin. Thanx for TEMPin.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


RooMonster 11:52 AM  

Hey All !
Not too tough for me today. Did have some stuck spots, though, that slowed me down. Where, you ask? (Har, cause I know you Really wanna know)
8D started as Pages, then PlOts, finally PROSE. MOCKTini-MOCKTAIL (because anythingtini), ALTAR at 13A, and then mis-entering ERROR at 16A, because the ole brain decided to mess with me. So that NW was resistance-enabling. STRAIGHTened it all out, though.

Managed to get the larger NE/SW corners first before the smaller ones, which is odd. Lots of great clues today. Took a guess at the O of MAO/MOORE. Got it correct! Still a Natick (maybe a Framingham.) ERROR free for me! YeeHee!

One F

Anonymoose 11:59 AM  

The Kansas City Chiefs and coach Reid are in K.C. Missouri.

Kentucky State University is a public historically black university in Frankfort, Kentucky. Founded in 1886 as the State Normal School for Colored Persons, and becoming a land grant college in 1890, KSU was the second state-supported institution of higher learning in Kentucky. It belongs to the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,349

What? 12:00 PM  

Zipped through most of the puzzle but took awhile in NW corner. Had RES instead of CAL , then COURT and ALTAR came in and 4D a delight.
All in all, a really good effort, the best in a long time. I would love for Reid to write up her path from start to finish. To me, it’s a puzzlement how such good themeless puzzles are constructed.

What? 12:04 PM  

Well, straight is a good poker hand and so is found in good hands.

Geezer 12:05 PM  

I don't think an explanation is needed. The clue stands OK as is. But since you asked. There are good and bad poker hands. 2,5,J,9,3 in 4 suits would be in a bad hand. A STRAIGHT would be in a good hand.

Missy 12:12 PM  

Get up on the wrong side of the futon?

Perry 12:14 PM  

Wow, a Rex blog entry written by someone who still enjoys the NYT XWord. So much better! As the puzzle, BREVE was one of those answers that I didn't know was right until I was done and, since I am not a pop music fan, I know nothing of Mariah Carey. But it was good, all in all. I too like challenging themeless puzzles.

Carola 12:17 PM  

A delightful romp, from POLO x COURT to "IT'S ME, NESS," one of those happy solves where the crosses keep yielding up the next gem. "I DON"T HAVE ALL DAY" got an extra smile for this (for me) unusually fast Friday.

Z 12:45 PM  

Sadly, the probable reason we had a TEMP today.

Suzie Q 1:07 PM  

@ Barbara S., I'm with you on the tea towels.
@ Nancy, Agree with you on the poetry.
@ Sir Hillary, Nice story.

JC66 1:07 PM  


That is sad. Thanks for letting us know.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Unlike @Lewis, this puzzle said, "Whoa" to me right off the bat. My first successful answer in was TINA and I was off to the races until I had to go back to the NW which was empty but for the final S for 1A.

I even thought of playing cards for 4D but all I came up with was Six eIGHTS? Not likely. I had earlier entered ALTAR in at 13A but that didn't go with 13D's Low-res (and neither did anything else!)

So I went off to grab my lunch out of the company kitchen while pondering mightily. Finally I thought, for pete's sake, where do you take oaths? COURT? Ah, that means Low-CAL and ALTAR work.

I went back to my desk and filled those in, saw STRAIGHTS and DRAFTY and AUTO. Done, right? Oh no, 1D was _OLO and we all know how those preppy types love their bOLO ties, right? And bADS is a new term for artificially inflates, sure, and I'll check with Urban Dictionary right after I'm done here...AHA, POLO as in those Izod shirts. Whew, saved from a very ignominious DNF.

I liked the clue for T-REX. I gave my husband a T-REX card for our anniversary. He liked it. Before he bought a new tablet, we referred to his 3rd Gen iPad as Rex, short for "dinosaur" so there's some T-REX history there.

Caitlin Reid, congrats on the POW rating on this fun Friday. I enjoyed SUSSing out your crazy clues.

GILL I. 1:30 PM  

@Questinia. You were to be added to those that I miss on this blog but my pinkie, for some reason, couldn't reach the Q... ;-)
@Nancy...Ask me why I never understood poetry..... NEVER - EVER especially when poets started talking about the trees.
@Rex...Oh dear. So sad. I think I remember when you got her? Isn't she the brown lab? I wish pups lasted longer than most people.

pabloinnh 1:32 PM  


I'm's sure @JoeD and @Burtonkd know the Brylcreem song, as it's unfortunately catchy.

But if we sing a jingle, I want it to be for Firestone:

Wherever wheels are turnin'
No matter what the load
The name that's known is Firestone
Where the rubber meets the road.

Now that's a MAN'S song.

old timer 1:33 PM  

I finished the puzzle (in the NW as almost always) and said to myself, this is the best damn puzzle I've seen in years. Months, anyway. And then Ms Fabi comes along with my answer to the question, who should take over @Rex's job should he have to suspend his campaign, so to speak? We have a great CREW of substitutes here in Rexworld, but Rachel is head and shoulders above them all. Must the the HAIRTONIC she uses.

The ILL TODO reminded me of a song, as things always do:

Oh, dear me, the world is ILL divided
Them that works the hardest, are the least provided
Shifting bobbins, warp weft and twine
They fairly make you work for your ten and nine.

It's an old song about the women who worked in factories in Britain, a jute mill as I recall. (The original lyrics are in Scots, but this is the way I remember it).

Unknown 1:34 PM  

Rex, she was a breath of fresh air. I hope you took notes.

Joaquin 1:46 PM  

Thanks, @Z, for the sad news re: Rex's dog.

Dang dogs. They chew stuff they're not supposed to chew. They puke on your brand new carpet. They dig holes in your lawn. They fart when the boss comes over.

But the main problem with dogs is they don't live long enough. They take over your heart and then leave. Dang dogs.

Whatsername 2:05 PM  

@Anonymoose at 11:59 - Yes the Kansas City Chiefs are headquartered on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, and not in “the great state of Kansas,” as so infamously claimed by Donald Trump. Still, a Midwestern sports team starting with a K. Thanks for the history on Kentucky State. Very interesting.

@Barbara S at 11:15 - I had the same thought about TEA TOWELS. Growing up at my house you dared not dry your hands on one because they were strictly for drying dishes. I can still hear my mother’s admonishment, “don’t use my good TEA TOWEL.” Out of curiosity I looked up the term and here’s what I found.
Dictionary.com: “dishtowel”
Merriam-Webster: “a cloth for drying dishes”
Vocabulary.com: “ a towel for drying dishes”
So I see a definite trend here. It wasn’t just our moms.

Very sorry to hear @Rex’s unfortunate news. They come into our lives and when they are gone, they leave a paw-shaped hole in our hearts. To better days ahead.

Suzie Q 2:09 PM  

There is nothing in the world to match the love and companionship of a dog. So sorry Rex.

Barbara S. 2:22 PM  

Is this not the second beloved dog who has recently passed away from Rex's family? Earlier in the year he told us about Dutchess. I really feel for those who are grieving.

Nancy 2:41 PM  

Such sad news, Rex. I'm truly sorry. I know it's a terrible and irreplaceable loss.

Frog Prince Kisser 2:56 PM  

Oh Michael - so very, very sorry for your loss.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

How did you come to that tweet @Z? Rex had shut down his twitter account for Lent. And apparently has shut it down again.

What? 3:46 PM  

You don’t understand. Marianne Moore is herself a metaphor.

john towle 3:47 PM  

A Jim Dandy from the giddy-up go!!! Reminded this old salt’s days of solving Manny Nosowsky’s gems. Twenty-one down a gold standard. Nancy et al., worth checking out W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden. You won’t be disappointed. Then go to James Joyce…oh my!



Lewis 4:50 PM  

@questinia -- Good to see you!!!

Nancy 5:06 PM  

@john towle (3:47) -- These guys I know well, John. In fact, each one has written lines that I consider among my favorites of all poetic lines ever written. A few:

Shape without form, shade without color,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;

...And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom...

Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Well, I love pretty much everything by Yeats, actually. But then I've always thought of him as being a bridge between the traditional and the modern. "Irish Airman" is as traditional as anything Tennyson or Keats or Shelley wrote.

FWIW, as much as I like "The Hollow Men", I don't like Eliot's "The Wasteland." I find it both deliberately abstruse and rather show-off-y. How many languages has he shoehorned into it, again?

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

@Susie Q:
There is nothing in the world to match the love and companionship of a dog.

What??? I thought that was one's husband/wife?? Or, may be not.

My sister, 13 years junior, insisted on a dog (she was 5-ish), in a family that could barely feed the humans. She got a Boston Terrier. Decades later, I married into a family that always had dogs. Until the last, a bad tempered mutt, Joe, died. The wife said, 'No mas". I doubt she will be as traumatized by my passing.

Some quotes from here: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/dog-quotes/

You can usually tell that a man is good if he has a dog who loves him.
-- W. Bruce Cameron

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man. -- Mark Twain

Love – that which biologists, nervous about being misunderstood, call ‘attachment ‘- fuels the bond between dog and master or mistress.
- John Bradshaw

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.
-- Gilda Radner

I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a Schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Vietnam War.
-- Kurt Vonnegut

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

Sorry about his dog but I don’t think he understands the concept of giving things up for Lent. My guess is that his is a secular version of Lent.

Z 5:47 PM  

@anon3:03 - It was in my notifications. I posted it here immediately after I saw it. It seems Rex broke lent to post it then went back of Twitter immediately.

QuasiMojo 6:03 PM  

@Nancy, thank you for chiming in regarding Marianne Moore and modernist poetry. The odd thing is that Elizabeth Bishop, who was her protégée, wrote some wonderfully clear, easy to understand poems, some of which occasionally rhymed, and some like her famous, "The Moose" are pretty straight-forward (although there's plenty lurking between the lines.)

I go to a lot of poetry slams and readings and the thing I've noticed most about current poetry (at least among the enthusiastic crowds I come across) is that everything now, although often very good, is only about "me, me, me." It makes ME sad.

Sister T 6:24 PM  

@Anonymous 5:40 PM: There is no such thing as a secular version of Lent.

Camilita 6:35 PM  

I'm also sorry to hear about Rex's dog. May the Dog Princess of Crossworld rest in peace.

Z 6:57 PM  

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov
“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?” - Jesus

I dunno. Just seemed appropriate.

Chim cham 7:13 PM  

Double-quick time!

Anonymous 7:44 PM  

Why do you feel compelled to carry Rex's water?

Anonymous 7:55 PM  

Sister T is correct. Lent is the antirhesis of the secular. And rhe antidote.

Sam Buggeln 8:03 PM  

Yes indeed Rachel thanks for this really great write-up. I learned something about how to appreciate Friday puzzles and what to look for!

Ecumenist 8:24 PM  

If he wants to pretend to observe Lent that’s his business. It’s a free country.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

I'm Jewish. I thought lent is what usurers did.

Frantic Sloth 12:02 AM  

@Z Oh, dear. That is heartbreaking. And so soon after the passing of his other furry friend (whose name escapes me at the moment). Thank you for telling those of us who otherwise never would have known.
@Joaquin 1:46pm Well and truly said.

Leapfinger 12:12 AM  

I thought "It's Not On Usurer" was Tom Jones' trademark hit from ye olden times. Whadjew think of that, tateleh?

@Nancy, so much for Marianne Moore! Whadjew think of Henry? I'll tell you the snippet that's donne stuck with me for decades now: Batter my heart, three-personed God.
I think it's the rebellious hubris of it; what do you think?
Really liked @jberg's contribution about the garden and I'm glad he toad me so.

Asper usurer, @GILLy-fleur made me to laugh for quote/unquote not understanding poets when they start talking about trees. I think that I will never see so lovely an opportuni-tree, but didn't want to Kill more Joys, so I'll just stick with putting robins in my neither hair nor there. Hugs, baby girl!

@Sir Hillary, lucky you, to have those memories. Namaste to your father.

FriPuzz puzzled me bec I thought TONIC was something you usta drink, so why is it on your HAIR? I'll tell you what came before Vitalis and Brylcream's little dabble dooya, if you like. There usta be macassar oil, which came from squeezing a lot of macassars that came from Ceylon, which was how they called Sri Lanka see-long ago. And this macassar oil was especially good for slicking down the hair from that part in the middle, making it look like it was varnished down to your ears, but it left the most Gawd-awful oil-slicks on the good velvety parlour furniture when visiting men-folk would rest their heads back. So the maiden-aunt industry got real busy tatting up lace doilies which everyone knows that lace is impervious to the most oleaceous substances, and that, Dearly Beloveds, explains the birth of the Anti-Macassar Movement, the remains of which can be seen in some museums and a few unevolved living rooms that still have sofa cushions inside plastic covers.

It's been a lovely week and toady was lovely and, oh look, it's tomorrow.

57Stratocaster 9:27 AM  

"She could ill afford a new coat."

"I'll see your bet of $5, and raise you 5 more."

57Stratocaster 9:30 AM  

Heave your fishing lure can be a big cast.

Swagomatic 2:07 PM  

So sad. My streak is over. I FORGOT to finish the Friday puzzle. I usually finish Thursday night, but I was tired and went to bed. Dang! 😡

kitshef 6:31 PM  

I'll be the huge outlier today and say I did not enjoy this at all. The cluing, far from being clever, felt like it was done by someone not familiar with English as She is Spoke, but with a dictionary and a thesaurus on hand. And Rachel's review highlights my other plaints, "a truckload of trivia", and "density of arts-and-culture fill". She thought those were positives, but I found them as big negatives.

spacecraft 12:57 PM  

I'm with @Danny and Rachel: the word "in" should be deleted from the clue for 4-down. One other clue bordered on unfair: "Barely" for ILL. I get it, as in "I could ILL afford that," though even there, what I really mean is that I CAN'T afford it. ILL was hammered in on crosses, one of which was INDIE for "Opposite of mainstream." The east and NE were bears to get done. I don't know from MIROS, or ERRORCODEs. Thank the stars I was able to rock THECASBAH, which gimme let me in.

I wanted to get the nits out of the way, because I liked everything else about this puzzle. The central gridspanner reminds me of a lyric:

We're so sorry, Uncle Albert, but we haven't done a bloody thing ALL DAY.
We're so sorry, Uncle Albert, but the kettle's on the boil and we're so easily called away!

DOD candidates richly adorn the grid: there's Mariah Carey from the clue, TINA (Turner per clue or Fey), and MOORE. Well, maybe not Marianne, but surely Demi! Choose wisely.

Lovely, lively fill--and lead write-up as well. Let's award co-DODs to constructor Caitlin and blogger Rachel. Done! Eagle.

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

The puzzle of the year. 15D, 21D,and 53A should win awards. What fun!

Burma Shave 1:53 PM  


those POORDEVILs ORDERed MIMI lunch.
They HADIT IN mind to drop TROU and play,


leftcoaster 4:12 PM  

After slow start, fun, gettable, well done; semi-isolated areas helped make it more of a tussle.

Good tri-stacks in the NE and SW, and lively long downs. Especially liked STRAIGHTS as clued. Oh, heck, I liked them all. Special mention goes to MIDI and MIMI.

NE took most time, and BREVE as "two whole notes" was a new one.

I DON"T HAVE ALL DAY to savor this one any longer.

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

The clue for 43D contains the reason why KSTATE works and the other "K" states don't. Kansas State is in the Big 12 conference, and the others aren't.

leftcoaster 6:16 PM  

Thanks, @Anonymous 5:37, I thought it might be Kent State, but it's in the Mid-American Conference.

rondo 7:40 PM  

The corners yield SPICES.
Third line from top ALTAR ERRORCODE yields divorce, POORDEVILs.
OHMYGOSH, TINA yields yeah baby.
Ms. Reid yields good puz.

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