Sainted 11th-century pope / THU 3-12-20 / Shortening in coffee order / One of only remaining people's republics

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Constructor: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin

Relative difficulty: Easy (4 flat, w/o really trying)


Word of the Day: [this whole theme]  —
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn." is the entirety of what has been described as a six-word story, making it an extreme example of what is called flash fiction or sudden fiction. Although it is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, the link to him is unsubstantiated and similar stories predate him  (wikipedia) (emph. mine).
• • •

Why? So much Why? Why is this exceedingly non-Thursday quote theme running on Thursday, which is supposed to be the day for tricky and clever puzzles, innovative themes, nuttiness. Where is my nuttiness!? And why is a quote this simple and (overly) familiar running at all? Why is SIX-WORD (!?!) considered a valid revealer? Why is ERNEST HEMINGWAY clued as the "author" of the quote when there is in fact no concrete evidence of that? And above all, why oh why would you run a puzzle about a dead baby, particularly in the hot middle of a pandemic?! Weak theme, weak revealer, fake quote, tone-deaf timing. Did I miss anything? The fill is pretty crusty and olde-tymey, but only LEOIX (?) seemed particularly horrible. Otherwise it was just NYT-average, i.e. routine blah.

Got CANASTA right away (1A: Card game with melds) and just blazed down and through the center of the grid down to the far SE corner. Eventually hit a handful of trouble spots, none of them major. The worst of these was 24D: Cat hate (BATH). I could not understand the clue. I still can barely understand the clue. I guess that phrasing is supposed to mean "a thing a cat ... hates," but it sounds like the clue wants a word for "hatred *of* cats" ... it's just a terribly worded clue. I had -ATH and still no idea. Clue on ABO was also awkward (2D: ___ group (hospital classification)). Not having "blood" annnywhere in that clue is just bizarre. It's a blood typing system. That's what it is. It's like the editor knew this puzzle was way way way too easy and so instead of making hard-clever clues, instead made bizarrely worded clues. Not clever, not fun. I also had trouble with "IT'D" (32A: "___ better be good!"). The only word I want in that slot is "THIS." I wrote in GRIT before GUTS (20A: Fortitude) and SPIT OUT (!?) before SPILLED (8A: Divulged). Was not really sure about MIDI, but all the crosses checked out (I assumed that last "I" cross was LEOIX and not, say, LEOXX). Not much joy today. I wanted something much more fun and light-hearted on this otherwise depressing and chaotic day. I hope you all are following best practices during this pandemic. My university is requiring that all courses be taught exclusively online for the rest of the semester. It's gonna be a weird, lonely couple of months. But shuttings  down is the right call. Gotta slow this thing down. Please don't hoard and panic and conspiracy theorize. Please do look out for the vulnerable. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, for others if not for yourself. I appreciate you all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:09 AM  

This may be a first: I'm in 100% agreement with @Rex today.

This story by Hemingway inspired the “Six Word” collection of stories and books, including the book “Six-Word Memoirs” which features many well-known personalities. These six-worders are great fun to read and a real challenge to do. But why did we have to have a puzzle with the absolute saddest six-word story ever written? And on Thursday, the day when fun is supposed to be added to the puzzle with tricks, puns, and rebuses.

I’ve come across this story many times; it never fails to sadden me. I did not like seeing it in my Thursday xword.
My six-word memoir: “Named for uncle with no car.”

jae 12:15 AM  

Easy-medium. The NE corner was on the tough side, the rest was easy. Reasonably smooth but odd for a Thurs. Liked it.

Richardf8 12:31 AM  

Did you miss anything? Yes, Rex, yes you did. ABORTED and UNWED in the fill with the whole dead baby thing leaves the whole puzzle feeling like a bit of ‘80s era anti-choice polemic. I naticked at MIDI/MAA. Had a B at the cross.

Oh and with both LEO IX and KNEELER in the puzzle, I was half expecting an APSE.

JOHN X 12:45 AM  

Well this was a pretty pleasant puzzle! I found the whole dead baby thing more humorous than tragic, but that was probably just the booze talking. I’ve been on a strict regimen of drinking heavily all day long in order to ward off the Cordoba virus, and I think I’ve really got the upper hand on it now.

I really zipped through this thing too. Only snag was that whole MIDI MAA LEOsomethingX section. My original farm animal went BAA not MAA (although it could have gone MOO) and I didn’t figure there twenty Pope Leos, even though I guess there’s been twenty three Johns (including the tenth one - - JOHN X - - the patron saint of liars).

As a super-accredited doctor and qualified brain surgeon my advice to you is to drink that second bottle of wine.

Ciao, babe

Jyqm 1:22 AM  

Terrible. Just terrible, for all of the reasons Rex mentions. None of the interesting cleverness one usually associates with an NYT Thursday. And, far worse, no indication of the by now well known fact that Hemingway is almost certainly not the author of this “story.” Of course, Rex has to take it way too far by trying to establish a non-existent link with a current illness that by now is also very well known *not* to affect young children. But Mr. Hashtag-Woke’s own failings don’t detract from the actual failings of this uninspired, simply wrong puzzle. I can appreciate a swing-and-a-miss Thursday puzzle. The fatal flaw of this one is that I don’t even know what it’s swinging for, beyond the supremely basic “here’s a famous quote” non-theme.

okanaganer 2:38 AM  

Re Coronavirus, what we are experiencing is probably an overreaction but I can't fault those who have to make the call for erring on the side of caution.

Re puzzle's downer vibe, I quote Jeff Chen: "Bold choice for Will Shortz to run this one for his broad audience". Maybe, just maybe, this puzzle shouldn't necessarily be our Happy Place. Thoughts?

chefwen 3:02 AM  

JOHN X, you’re the best thing that has happened to this blog in quite a while. Still laughing. Unlike the puzzle which was depressing and not enjoyable, at all. Pretty disappointing for my favorite puzzle day.

salty 3:03 AM  

MAA instead of BAA is ridiculous.

MAA MAA Mack Sheep...

GILL I. 6:51 AM  

Good gravy...what was this? @John X to the rescue. Forget the wine....get out the scotch.
Was I the only idiot that had SPAMALOT at 35D?
Not only that whole dead baby thing but you've got ABORTED GUTS ARSON STAINS DEPOSE ICY WEASELS SOIL. Was Ruth having a bad day?
I think our world has gone mad. I'm just glad I don't need toilet paper.

Lewis 6:52 AM  

Well crafted / Lovely solve / Sad aftertaste

CDilly52 6:53 AM  

Not Thursday fare with the oddly phrased clueing and the dead baby. I was further saddened as @Richardf8 points out by the addition of ABORTED and UNWED. What a way to start the day. I may join “Doctor” @JOHN X in a glass of wine!

Suzie Q 7:01 AM  

What a depressing start to my day. Thanks for nothin' Will.

The personal hygiene recommendations should be followed anyway, pandemic or not.

The "voice" of this puzzle never really connected with me. The clue for bath was bizarre. I had sways before spars and I like my answer better. I can't decide whether I like the clue for looser or not.

I feel ripped off today.

Suzie Q 7:39 AM  

@ Joaquin, I just now got your joke. Good one! You and JOHN X to the rescue. Thanks, I needed a grin.

Ellen S 7:45 AM  

Well, first, amazed and delighted that Will ran another puzzle by a woman constructor, and I was also amazed and delighted that (IMHO) the answers to the clues were intelligent for the most part, where I dreaded that they would be purely trite crosswordese. I gave the “authorship” a pass on the grounds that Part I said “attributed to” Hemingway, which is apparently what Will was hoping for.

Now, as to the appropriateness. @Jyqm criticizes @Rex, saying. COVID19 is very well known not to affect small children. I don’t know about this “very wel known”. The CDC doesn’t seem to know it. they say young children seem to be less susceptible, and cases are *relatively* uncommon (true also for SARS and MERS). When cases do occur, the symptoms are mostly mild but cases of septic shock have been reported. That’s not quite the same as “does not affect.” But, just to be ghoulish, “small children” have probably outgrown their baby shoes. More likely is this scenario (quote from the CDC web site):
Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses [SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV] during pregnancy.

So I’m with @Rex, that in a pandemic, where pregnant women are as likely as anyone to get the virus, and thus run an increased chance of miscarriage, with attendant unworn baby shoes, if you’re going to run a puzzle with this poignant story at all, let alone on a Thursday, this is not a good time.

pabloinnh 7:52 AM  

Could not get past PINOCHLE for 1A and CANASTA was about the last thing I filled in, this after playing CANASTA every Sunday afternoon when I lived in Spain. Family tradition, men against the women, brandy and cigars. I still like that the wild cards are called "monkeys".

And that was the bright spot of this one for me. I very much look forward to Thursdays and this was not a Thursday. Quotes should be longer and run on Sundays and they should make me smile, so no boxes checked at all. Those of us with low expectations are seldom disappointed but this one managed to do it, even for me.

Friday please come soon.

And let's be careful out there.

Hungry Mother 7:56 AM  

Very quick here also. I guessed that the quotation was the theme. I’ve never been inside the Hemingway House in Key West because I don’t like house tours, but I’ve waited outside of the wall for others many times. I have been inside of Sloppy Joes, Blue Heaven, and Tony’s however.

Unknown 8:18 AM  

This six word story is extremely stupid anyways. My baby has tons of shoes which have never been worn, and which will probably be sold someday, but he is alive and well.

SouthsideJohnny 8:29 AM  

I agree with the consensus thus far - there just is no “there” there today. It’s a boring snooze fest, and depressing as well.

Rube 8:36 AM  

I'm washing my hands...of this whole puzzle.

Mo Pariser 8:38 AM  


-Said the sheep

webwinger 8:43 AM  

Great @Rex review, wonderful early comments made for an upbeat start to this likely downer day despite the puzzle.

The virus hasn’t had much visible impact yet here in Colorado, but wife’s son and daughter-in-law in Seattle paint a grim picture of things there. An unanticipated consequence of my recent surgery is that I can’t wash my hands. (Have you ever tried to wash just one hand?) I’m using a lot of sanitizer, which in my not very distant hospital practice days was considered virtually the equal of washing. Not sure why it’s being so much downplayed now. Cancelled plan to travel to Austin for a meeting scheduled the week after recently axed SXSW. Really glad my daughter is living with us now. Finally, nothing has made me feel old as much as the apparent consensus that age over 60 is the criterion for deadliness in this pandemic.

Stay well, fellow bloggers!

Dylan 8:50 AM  

Exactly. Especially crossed with a proper noun. (Sure, it's also a foreign word, but it's clued as a proper noun.)

QuasiMojo 8:59 AM  

This felt more like a haiku than a story. Here's mine.

For free.
Baba Ghanoush.
Never Eaten.

LeaveItToYourGoat 9:01 AM  

I think this puzzle could have benefitted from indirect cluing on the theme answers. Since each of the three components - FOR SALE, BABY SHOES, and NEVER WORN - could each stand on their own as answers, clue them individually and then have the ERNEST HEMINGWAY answer clued as something like, "Author to whom the short story hidden in this puzzle is often attributed."

It would've even made the SIX-WORD revealer less groan-y.

IDK. This wasn't what I wanted in my Thursday puzzle.

No No No 9:06 AM  


Remove this puzzle from the Puzzle archive. Deep six it. Replace it with this notice: "The Times withdraws this puzzle and apologizes for its poor judgement in publishing a puzzle that is tasteless, offensive and unfit to print."

CDilly52 9:07 AM  

@Suzie Q. Thanks; voice. That’s exactly the word I struggled to find in my post. This was not easy all over and I just was nowhere. Ear her wavelength.

Aunt Hattie 9:16 AM  

When I realized what the story was I stopped doing the puzzle. this was so cruel to spring on innocent puzzle players--for shame.

Karl Grouch 9:19 AM  

Thursday's child:

(Apologies for not embedding this properly but you can copy paste it if you want to hear a beutiful song, sad but wonderful, unlike this tasteless puzzle).

Take care everyone and stay positive.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I liked the puzzle. And since Rex bashed you--after predicting that their wouldn't be any more female constructors for a while owing to last week-- I'd like to thank you Ms Bloomfield Margolin.

Z 9:33 AM  

The next quote puzzle that I like will be the first quote puzzle that I like.* Got to “Part 1 of the story” and almost put the thing down. Realized it was dead babies and said out loud “ What the f*&$? Seriously?” So, not only did you inflict a quote puzzle on me, but it’s a quote puzzle about tragic personal loss? And! And! “PITY Party,” that snide allusion to over-reacting to something that doesn’t actually merit PITY? Imagine, “Oh, you lost your baby, let’s all have a PITY party.” Tone-deaf doesn’t begin to describe this puzzle. How can someone so adept with words be so blind? Gob-Smacking. Just flat out gob-smacking.

@anon - I left a late answer for you.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

I read it.

gruffed 9:38 AM  

IT'D better be good? It had better be good? What tense is that - future pluperfect? Rex glossed it ("I also had trouble with "IT'D" (32A: "___ better be good!"). The only word I want in that slot is "THIS."), but I say it's just bad English!

TJS 9:39 AM  

I liked it. No dreck in the fill, a nice smooth solve. I don't get all hung up trying to relate puzzle answers to current events. This is not an editorial, it's a crossword puzzle.

TJS 9:41 AM  

Forgot to mention that @Leaveittoyourgoats' suggestion would have been a big improvement, IMO.

Frantic Sloth 9:49 AM  

When even @Lewis seems to have difficulty finding a bright spot, you know you have a disaster on your hands.

Speaking of hands, @webwinger - nice to see you're maintaining a sense of humor during your healing process. The idea of washing one hand reminds me of the "sound of one hand clapping", which is a fitting ovation for this crossword. Or crickets. Either is appropriate. (I'm being kind here.)

Can't swing a dead cat (or WTF? its "hate") without hitting something ridiculous, tone-deaf, or just downright stoopit in this whole Thursday-NOT puzzle.

AND I absolutely despise quote themes. Even the "clever" ones, which this isn't.

Thank goodness for @JOHN X (got anything stronger, Doc?) and @GILL I. (SPAMALOT was just too funny!) for saving the day. Same goes for everyone here -- group hug!

Frantic Sloth 9:54 AM  

What @Z said.
If you can suss out his opinion. ;-)

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Keeping with the "feel-good" theme, I worry that someone will write in to inform us that a canasta, a Spanish basket, was what dead babies were traditionally buried in. The term went over to the card game as the place where "dead cards" were thrown. But no, this is only a worry, since I don't know much Spanish and don't know the rules of the card game. With the stock market crashing and everyone about to die of plague, I thought I throw this in. Please, someone send some happy news, or even images of photogenic cats!

Anon. i.e. Poggius

Newboy 9:56 AM  

Rex is saying all that I thought as I blitzed today’s puzzle. In fairness to Ruth, this one probably plays better if you haven’t spent 68 semesters teaching American Lit as I did—though now retired for 35+ terms. Double ditto the cringe factor & sound advice that can’t be emphasized too strongly 😷

Nancy 10:01 AM  

I hate quote puzzles, and this one was no exception. And I agree -- to have it on a Thursday only enhances the feeling of disappointment and letdown.

But this puzzle does have one [not quite] saving grace: It introduced me to that incredibly sad and evocative HEMINGWAY title I didn't know: FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN. Now there's a writer for you!

And so I say: Well done! Not to Ms. Margolin, but to ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

gruffed 10:05 AM  

It'd better be good? It would better be good? It had better be good? Is this English? Future pluperfect? Rex glosses it ('I also had trouble with "IT'D" (32A: "___ better be good!"). The only word I want in that slot is "THIS.") It just seems wrong to me, who talks this way?

Nancy 10:09 AM  

@Quasi (8:59) -- Priceless!

burtonkd 10:12 AM  

Love the commentariat today. While my solving times are faster, the amount of time I spend on Xwords is greatly increased if I include the time spent here reading, learning and (hopefully not to often) responding.

@Suzie Q, thanks for pointing out that @Joaquin's 6 worder was a joke. Great fun to go back and figure it out.

Hands up for liking @Leaveittoyourgoats' suggestion. Is that name just for today in reference to 33A?

Hey, at least it wasn't written by a man, so we don't need to read a whole paragraph about how last week was better, just the usual transference of blame to WS.

I agree that I was looking for more fun today, but I apparently was the only one to not know or forget the quote, so at least learned something new.

Does anyone else hate the term "tone-deaf" as much as me?

On a serious note, an infectious disease specialist reported that this virus is primarily an air-borne transmission. Hand washing and face-touching avoidance help a little, but are mainly to give people a sense of being able to do something to control the situation themselves. The avoidance of exposure is the best practice.
As someone pointed out, these are all best practices and if made a habit by the population, could make for better flu seasons in the future if and when this one passes.

gregg 10:13 AM  

It had better be good. I think that is past perfect. But then I am an engineer.

Joe Dipinto 10:52 AM  

Why should I feel bad for parents who would use their "dead" baby's shoes in such a blatant bid for sympathy? I don't buy it, I think it's a scam.

Gardeners spilled soil; Norseman went solo.

Weasels tell Scarlett "It's done!" Pity.

Serene, icy heroine lies on kneeler.

Barbara S. 10:53 AM  

Read blog. Drank wine. Forgot puzzle.

Nancy 10:57 AM  

I forgot to add my voice to the list of @JOHN X lovers out there. Your writing is always very funny, iconoclastic, and completely unexpected. A breath of fresh air.

Yes, Frantic Sloth (9:49), @GILL's SPAMALOT at 35D is hilarious. It's even funnier because I think our @GILL was completely serious. @GILL????

Interesting how so many people linked the sad puzzle quote to today's nightmarish health emergency. I never for a moment made that connection, truth to tell, although I'm as worried and depressed about the virus as anyone else. I guess I tend to escape into puzzles -- even when they're not all that escapist.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Parent of a stillborn child at 38 weeks here (and parent to two live children). Really did not appreciate this. People tend not to talk about it, but it affects roughly one in 100 pregnancies in the US. Just terrible judgment.

Nancy 11:05 AM  

Oops. A DNF I didn't see. LEO II led to I BOXES for the "Popular holiday gifts of 2001."
I was asking myself, in fact, why, when I'd heard of the IPhone, the IPad and the IPod, I'd never heard of the IBox. Well, now I know why.

Junief 11:13 AM  

Goats say Maa. Do not quite understand the objection.

Harold P 11:17 AM  

@Nancy - By 10 AM, having @Rex's write up available, 40 previous posts available, you really should be aware that HEMINGWAY DIDN'T WRITE THAT. That "story" has been around since 1917 in various forms (baby shoes, baby carriage, baby clothes..).

Frantic Sloth 11:32 AM  

@Nancy - You are correct! If @GILL I. was serious, much funnier!

Also, isn't an iBox what iPhones, iPads, and all things "i" are shipped in?

I gotcher back. :)

Sir Hillary 11:34 AM  

I did / not like / this puzzle.
Why did / this puzzle / run today?
What a / waste of / my Thursday.
Wow. Wow. / I say / again -- Wow.

That is / all I / can say.
Tomorrow had / better be / quite special.

Sorry, I / will stop / this now.

Nancy 11:37 AM  

@Harold P -- I always write my initial comment before reading anything on the blog -- not Rex, not my fellow Rexites. That way, everyone gets to have my unvarnished and unsullied "first take". Even when that first take turns out to be both varnished and sullied. :)

Frantic Sloth 11:40 AM  

Just wondering why @Harold P feels the need to YELL...

Nancy from Chicago 11:47 AM  

I agree with Rex and others that this was depressing and disappointing, especially on a Thursday (my favorite day usually). And I'm still trying to figure out how "surmounts" = "lies on." Hopefully tomorrow will be better. Stay safe everyone!

Frantic Sloth 11:51 AM  

@burtonkd I hear you about "tone deaf" (no pun), but alas, not quite enough to prevent my using it, which likely prompted your comment.

Do you also have a running list (I do!) of terms/phrases/colloquialisms, etc. that irk you no end?

For example:

Step up to the plate.
Think outside the box.
Hashtag anything
It is what it is

Up-and-comers might include:

Tone deaf

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Straightaway getting Ernest, I knew it had to be Hemingway but had this bizarre notion that the name had two "Ms" and that fact must be related to the solve. Overcame it pretty quickly because I knew the "story" and shoe came into view.

A group in our town used to run a fund raiser where they would sell childrens' used clothes and toys. Every year they'd put out a sign that said, "Giant Kid & Baby Sale." And every year I drove past it and thought, "Gotta get me one of those giant babies."

Giant baby shoes, worn once, too tight. The sequel.

old timer 12:06 PM  

Goats say MAA. Sheep say baa. Half the bloggers say faugh. Let's call the whole thing off.

Actually it is useful to know MIDI, the French word for noon, and therefore the South, where the sun shines. The Spsnish, who love to steal from their betters, say "mediodia", which means the same thing, but has way too many syllables.

jb129 12:06 PM  

What's (a) "pity party?"

Did anyone actually enjoy this?

Carola 12:11 PM  

I hadn't heard of this or any other SIX-WORD STORY, so the theme left me at a loss. Was the Thursday trick that ABORTED, UNWED,, were also part of the story but as non-theme entries sneakily didn't count? Just sign me: Don't get it.

One do-over: my "burning passion" began as ARdOr, meaning the the quote started with a dedication: FOR dALE, But I knew Ben Franklin didn't found U PErN.

What? 12:12 PM  

Depressing stupid puzzle. Shortz has lost credibility as an editor and apparently so has his team. Or maybe they can’t complain to the “boss”. Editing puzzles should be a team effort, not just one dodo with his sycophants.

GILL I. 12:30 PM  

@Nancy knows me. We need to share a drinky poo with @John X.
Yesterday I went to get my annual blood test at our local clinic. I started to sneeze and someone came up to me and asked me to leave. I sneezed very politely into my sleeve. I told her that I had awful allergies and even showed her a picture of all the trees blooming 50 yards from our patio. She wouldn't have any of it...

America transfixed by Coronavirus Baby Terror.

As you were.

jberg 12:37 PM  

I liked it more than most -- I knew the story, so that made it easy, but I liked a lot of the cluing -- including, contra most of you, the pairing of "cat love" with "cat hate" with very different interpretations of what the clue made; and all of you claiming "had better" is not good English, go read Sir Hillary's comment. Also see @Ellen S., who pointed out hours ago that the clue does not say that Hemingway actually wrote it.

Well, that's me. I'm glad we decided to drive to Florida, so we can get back home without having to get on an airplane.

Bourbon Street 12:48 PM  

@burtonkd and Frantic Sloth: My number one disliked phrase is “There’s no I in team.” Aside from the fact that there is a “me”, that phrase grates because it’s meaningless in reality. For example, Michael Jordan was phenomenal and, if there was a player who could claim to be an “I” on a team, Jordan was him. Sadly, great players like Scottie Pippen didn’t get the publicity and adoration that Jordan got.

I got tripped up because I can never remember if Mr. Carmichael spelled his first name Hogie (my first choice), Hogey (my second choice) or HOAGY (my final and correct choice).

I'm not a doctor, but at least I'm smart enough not to play one on a blog 12:57 PM  

@BurtonKD - I'm so glad that you pointed out the essential futility of handwashing in this pandemic. The A#1 100% sure way to get the virus is to have someone sneeze right in your face as you're gasping for breath. Absent that, you do know that if someone sneezes that the expectorant eventually falls down? Say on a table top? Where it can live for 3 days? Which you may unknowingly touch? Then touch your face? Or that sneezer may have sneezed into his hands, then opened a door? Where the virus can live for 3 days? So when you open the door you have it on your hands?

You have absolutely no idea of what the portion of transmission is by airborne vs contact contagion. No one does. So don't go around giving advice.

xyz 1:09 PM  

that was special

special is not synonymous with excellence

I still marvel at the level of offence taken towards words in a puzzle

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

The SIX-WORD story was only vaguely familiar to me so this actually played pretty hard for me, making it more Thursday-worthy than many here found it.

Yes, it's a total downer of a theme. I think the left-over things of our lost loved ones, baby or no, can bring much sorrow. I always cry when I read a story about someone who was killed right before Christmas, when the story describes the presents under the tree that will never be opened. Tragedy happens every day and sometimes, it's to us.

Some of my problems today - 11D, I put in UNO. I supposed the EL in the clue should have alerted me, but I figured El Mundo was merely indicating Spanish, not necessarily what kind of article.

Then, after PURR was cat love, I decided cat hate was "hiss". HEMMINGWAY fixed that but I was like Rex in not liking IT'D for 32A and I really wanted SwayS instead of SPARS, though I never entered it. So that area fell hard.

S_I crossing _NEELER in the SE had me staring for a long time. "Take to the hills?" huh? I audibly gasped when I finally saw SKI.

And I SPARred between MIDI and bIDI - MIDI won, yay.

Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, thanks for the puzzle. It fit right in with the gloomy, rainy day outside my window.

pmdm 1:34 PM  

I am in the huge majority (is that an oxymoron?). I almost never notice For whatever reason, I never notice things in a crossword puzzle that get me down.

This was submitted asa Tuesday puzzle. But for those in the minority (like me again) who are unfamiliar with the story, the puzzle would have seemed much tougher than a Tuesday puzzle should.And by my way of thinking, if all Thursday puzzles presented a "gimmick" than the gimmick effect would become diluted.

Yes, the timing of the puzzle is unfortunate.But I believe the publication schedule is set a bit in advance. I'm not so sure all the hatred aimed at Shortz for the timing of the puzzle is just. As for the subject matter? I am sympathetic. But I do see a problem. There are lots of people who hate those who are gay or trans. Should entries that remind them of the gay community be banished from the puzzle? I wish there were an easy answer.

LeaveItToYourGoat 1:49 PM  

@burtonkd, the name is one I've used for years on many platforms, and I first chose it to pay homage to my favorite literary quote when I joined a fan forum for the A Song of Ice And Fire series (the Game of Thrones books). The quote in its entirety is a very subtle joke in book 3, and it's the only time I can think of where I've actually experienced a burst of laughter while reading a book.

Peter P 1:55 PM  

Yeah, MAA is for the goats, not the sheep. Honestly, though, I learned that from crosswords. In colloquial speech making goat sounds (in the very rare context that would actually happen), it would be something like like "mehhhhh" or even a "bahhhh." But in crossword-world, apparently, sheep always BAA and goats always MAA.

Anyhow, I was, too, I little disappointed by this puzzle. Went by quickly, as I recognized the "baby shoes" short story right off the bat, so a rare fast theme fill-in-for me with only a few letters down. But Thursdays are my favorite puzzle, and I expect more misdirection and trickiness on a Thursday. The whole time doing the crossword I was thinking I was missing some sort of trick or rebus or whatnot but, no, it was an absolutely straightforward puzzle that could have been swapped with last Wednesday's and they'd've fit better in their weekly schedule.

One note about "For sale: Baby Shoes, never worn." is that while it hit me as an extremely concise and sad story as a young high school student, after I became a father a few years ago, my reaction changed to: "Yeah, baby shoes, never worn?! I got several boxes of those! (And no sad story to go with it.)"

Joaquin 2:00 PM  

@pmdm (1:34) said, "There are lots of people who hate those who are gay or trans. Should entries that remind them of the gay community be banished from the puzzle? I wish there were an easy answer."

Well, there is an easy answer. People who hate gays are bigots. But people who are saddened by the death of a baby are experiencing a normal, human emotion. Equating the two is way off base. And if you're looking for a bit of fun in your Thursday xword, as most of us are, finding one built around that six-word story is more than a little dismaying.

QuasiMojo 2:00 PM  

Thank you @Nancy! I had a momentary snafu too for a while. I put in SWAYS for SPARS and had GAYDENERS. Well we had GAYMERS yesterday so I thought maybe.... :)

Whatsername 2:06 PM  

I have to agree with just about everyone that this certainly was not the usual fun Thursday. Even without the current depressing state of affairs in our country, it would be hard to get enthused about a crossword with ABORTED as an answer and dead baby as the theme. Good grief.

@webwinger at 8:43 - Hope the hand is healing nicely. Just a thought, you might try using the antiseptic wipes instead of the sanitizer. Might be easier and they are said to be more effective. I agree the continued emphasis on one’s age vs. the virus are getting a little ... old. I especially like it when some millennial says “It’s no big deal, only old people die from it.” Or when I see the statistics on all the other diseases more people are dying from than are dying from this. Not helpful.

@Frantic Sloth at 9:49 - I’ll join you on the list of hated expressions with “at the end of the day“ and “moving forward.“ Sorry, no group hug though. Per best practices, we are all supposed to stay at least 6 feet apart. But Im sure a virtual hug couldn’t hurt. 🤗

burtonkd 2:07 PM  

@Frantic Sloth, funny response. I think it is the smugness of "tone-deaf", and I wasn't intentionally directing it at you, but the phrase in general. There aren't that many phrases that really irk me. I either have a skill at letting things roll or I just don't get out enough (have been told both). They Might Be Giants had a list of phrases banned from rehearsals that is a little dated, but instructive on how things get overused:

@I'm not a doctor, I was quoting someone who does know what they are talking about, and the point was not to ignore handwashing, but to not think that this would offer protection so as to not do other apparently more pressing preventative measures. I have read various reports of how long the virus lives out of the body. I hope you and everyone stays well, sincerely.

burtonkd 2:09 PM  

@Peter P, that was my understanding of the baby shoes also:) Along with all kinds of toddler clothes, toys, books, etc.

Teresa 2:58 PM  

I'm shocked, shocked that Will Shortz clued something as "one of the only". There can be only one "only". "One of the few" is correct. I should know; not spotting this error cost me the job I was applying for at the LA Times many years ago.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

I was disappointed in this Thursday puzzle, but didn't find it depressing or inappropriate. I thought the baby shoes quote was an attempt at humor, since babies aren't walking and therefore aren't "wearing" shoes in that way.

Z 3:05 PM  

On a happier note, the World Health Organization has determined that dogs do not transmit COVID-19 and so all dogs currently quarantined can be released. That’s right, W.H.O. let the dogs out.

I’ll show myself out.

*shamelessly stolen from a sports radio show

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Did you guys know that the ACPT has been canceled? They are trying to reschedule it.

Masked and Anonymous 3:39 PM  

Kinda also admirin ITSDONE, as a final grid entry.

staff weeject picks: SRI & SKI. Would make a good brand name for Sri Lankan suntan oil. Or somesuch.

fave clue: GARDENERS = {People found in rows}. Just about the last answer M&A thought of for that.
fave clue from the netherworld: MIDI = {The south of France, with "le"}. Wanted le SUDS. Wrong again, M&A Breath.

Thanx, Ms. Margolin darlin. This ThursPuz was a BUTTE. Enjoyed learnin about the ERNESTHEMINGWAY attributed stuff.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

Whatsername 3:53 PM  

@Z at 3:05 - Now that’s funny! Awful but funny. Thanks for sharing a good laugh on a day when everybody needed one.

Joaquin 4:00 PM  

@Z (3:05) - Good one! Shamelessly steal some more. We bloggers don't rat out our homies.

Frantic Sloth 4:32 PM  

@Z - are you here all week?

Ed C 4:58 PM  

People in rows can be GARDENERS, yes. But they can also be MURDERERS, which shares a lot of letters and really threw me off on my solve.

David 6:11 PM  

Wow. It never occurred to me to think "dead baby." I never heard this but got the attributed author off the ERN. Baby Shoes was the last cross, and last answer, I filled in. The evoking of baby shoes actually made me smile.

When we were young artists just starting out, we moved to an unheated, raw loft at the bottom of Washington Avenue in Brooklyn, across from the entrance to the Navy Yard, which was still very much a Navy Yard. The roof leaked. A lot. You wouldn't believe it if I told you how much. We went up on it often with our buckets of tar. Three buildings down was an old storehouse or something, one of the many abandoned buildings on the block, also two stories high, which had suffered a fire which burned through the roof at some point in the past. We walked over the two roofs between and peered down through the huge hole and there, sitting on the floor, was a tremendous pile of bright white baby shoes, unscathed by whatever fire had eaten through the roof. It had a certain je ne sais quoi quality to it. We had few friends brave enough to come to Brooklyn in 81, but when they did come, we'd take them to see the baby shoes.

Other than that, this was way too easy for a Thursday, and I did like the juxtaposition of Cat Love and Cat Hate.

Joaquin 6:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RooMonster 6:13 PM  

Awesome, stolen or not.

This virus reminds me of the movie Twelve Monkeys. Pray to whomever you believe in/want to we don't have to start living underground.

RooMonster Everything's Being Cancelled Guy

Unknown 6:42 PM  

You guys are way too sensitive. This was a solid Thursday.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

about covid-19. the apologists for Orange Caligula point to the mortality number for seasonal flu, and say "what's the big deal??" of course, the 1918 Spanish Flu was no big deal at the beginning either. epidemiologists are professional scientists, who also know the history of epidemics and pandemics, and thus know that snowballs falling down Mount St. Helens tend to get bigger as they roll and speed up. citing China and South Korea as reason to "what, me worry?" is silly, simply because those are autocratic regimes which took no sass from anyone. also, it's in Orange Caligula's MO to ignore the issue, and thus force states and local governments to bear the burden. I mean, he's charged the taxpayer at least $1.2 million for his use of his resorts. it's always about him.

Teedmn 8:04 PM  

When I saw ABORTED in today's grid, with that clue, my mind immediately went to the cancellations I had to do of my flight to Boston next Tuesday and flight home from LGA due to the ACPT cancellation (Boston was a side trip before the tournament.) It only took (and I'm not being sarcastic here, I was gratified) an hour hanging on the phone with Delta to get everything sorted out. Amtrak tickets were cancellable online. Bummer but better than COVID-19.

@Roo, my husband decided we had to re-watch "12 Monkeys" last night. The night before, we watched "The China Syndrome", which is a lesson in management making poor decisions due to monetary issues. I swear someone is deliberately programming disaster movies right now. Are we supposed to be comforted, that things could be worse?

albatross shell 8:05 PM  

Corona, Corona

It is everywhere, man
It is everywhere, man
Floatin' in the air. man
At the county fair, man
Know you'll spread your share, man
Coronas everywhere

And what I never noticed is after the first list of cities in the regular song, before the chorus is the line "I'm a killer".

Look at the bright side: Social Security may be solvent at last.

Richardf8 8:12 PM  

OK. You’ve cheered me a bit.

Nancy 9:11 PM  

@Whatsername (2:06) -- I really, really hate "at the end of the day, too" and was tempted to mention it earlier, only I was already over the limit on posts. I became even more aware of just how prevalent the phrase is when, a number of years ago, two Brits on holiday in NYC referred to it as "an Americanism".

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

I was saddened by the dead baby, but the Hemingway cats were a nice touch.

albatross shell 10:30 AM  

I agree with Unknown642pm. A solid puzzle. First Rex: The clue for the story clearly implies Hemmingway did not write it. Reputed author would have been better, but redundant. It was more important to the story clue, since the other likely clue was in the puzzle was used as a revealer. If I ever knew the story or the concept, I had forgotten. Made for a tough puzzle. The PURR/BATH clues were a clever pair. Getting PURR first misdirects you from BATH. He is entirely correct on one thing: It was a Tuesday puzzle made more difficult by changing the clues. And why have such a puzzle on Thursday? Why not? It's fun to get a surprise. And maybe Will likes to put surprises close together (See early last week) just as he often repeats new clues or answers close together.

Now to others here: So your day of fun and cleverness and escape ended when a little reality bit your ass. Now we also are banning anything sad in the crossword? After banning anything controversial, after banning bodily fluids. And of course the silly breakfast test. The story is short and may be interpreted in many ways. Maybe its even a story of a woman's right to choose. Using the puzzzle I got this:

Our unwed heroine spilled her guts, declined the pity party, went solo, and aborted. The entitled weasel peeked in the door, saw the scarlet sheets. "It's done?" he asked. She gave an icy nod. "Take a bath" he urged and shut the door. He walked to the phone and dialed. "Classifieds" he said.

WinthorpeIII 4:48 AM  

I've never heard a goat say Maa.

Hotels Careers 5:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
kitshef 8:59 PM  

Back-to-back absolute stinker puzzles. Just at the time when everyone is staying home and has time to work on puzzles, we are getting the dregs.

Joe in Syndicationland 9:27 AM  

Teresa at 2:58 pm is absolutely right. I came here out of Syndicationland only to make that point. It is a shocking illiteracy.

rondo 10:30 AM  

Sure, the SIXWORD story is not uplifting. But it is genius. Everyone pictures their own story to TELL in their mind’s eye. And this was 5 weeks ago. I’m afraid to see what the real-time blog looks like now. Wailing and gnashing of teeth? Didn’t realize so little (SIXWORDs) could turn so many folks upside down. Proof of genius. Now, pull your collective selves together or ITSDONE. No time for a PITY party. Spine, not whine.

@JOHNX often a good read.

Pick your favorite HEROINE.

The 4 corners give street CRED. I, for one, give this puz some CRED.

spacecraft 12:00 PM  

As one who never heard or read this "story," I too was saddened while still admiring the trademark conciseness. Even if I hadn't had ERNE in place before coming to the revealer clue, I'd have written Papa's name in without hesitation. Let us try to separate our emotional reaction from the skill level while critiquing this puzzle.

It is well crafted, including the fill--despite the RU (random university) and the RRNP (random Roman-numeraled Pope). Those are just my personal bugaboos. Clues feisty enough for a Thursday; I'd call it medium, not easy. DOD is just about anybody who ever donned the WW costume; my favorite: Lynda Carter. Par.

Burma Shave 2:43 PM  


UNWED SCARLETT was forewarned:
“IT’SDONE should a BABY be born.”
that WEASEL’S condom was NEVERWORN.


Anonymous 2:52 PM  

Whoa, take a breath. This was a good, challenging puzzle and as a bonus, not a single rebus.

rainforest 4:42 PM  

Bit of a gruesome SIX WORD story, but that didn't bother me. Why should it?

Amazing how many Popes get to be saints.

Love a PEATY Scotch.

Liked the puzzle.

rondo 4:44 PM  

@anon 2:52 - on the nose.

leftcoaster 4:44 PM  

This Hemingway-attributed "story" is a downer, tainted by sentimentality, IMO.

Needed crosses in the NE and SW to fill in the theme. Elsewhere, theme is propped up by doleful words like ABORTED, SIN, STAINS, and PITY.

ITS DONE, but not ending up with a good feeling.

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