Surrealist Maar / WED 3-18-20 / Singer Luis with 13x platinum hit Despacito / Introductory scene in some rom-coms

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Constructor: Ricky Cruz

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed, clipboard solve)

THEME: -FUL-ful — familiar two-word phrases have -FUL added to the end of the first word, creating wacky phrases, clued wackily (i.e. "?"-style):

Theme answers:
  • PLAYFUL DEAD (17A: Zombies with a sense of humor?)
  • CAREFUL BEARS (29A: Grizzlies that don't fall for traps?)
  • TASTEFUL TEST (45A: Exam in an interior design class?)
  • AWFUL SHUCKS (60A: Terrible attempts at peeling corn?)
Word of the Day: "Despacito" (49A: Singer Luis with the 13x platinum hit "Despacito") —
"Despacito" (American Spanish: [despa'sito]transl. "Slowly") is a song by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi featuring Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee from Fonsi's 2019 studio album Vida. On January 12, 2017, Universal Music Latin released "Despacito" and its music video, which shows both artists performing the song in La Perla neighborhood of Old San JuanPuerto Rico and the local bar La Factoría. The song was written by Fonsi, Erika Ender, and Daddy Yankee, and was produced by Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. A remix version featuring Canadian singer Justin Bieber was released on April 17, 2017, which helped to improve the song's chart performance in numerous countries, including various number-one positions. "Despacito" has been widely credited by music journalists as being instrumental in popularizing Spanish-language pop music in the mainstream market again. The worldwide increase of Latin pop music consumption from 2017 onwards has been referred to as "the 'Despacito' effect." (wikipedia) (DESPACITOEFFECT (15))

• • •

When I figured out the theme (after the second answer) my first thought was "this is a pretty thin concept ... I should not be liking this as much as I am." I mean, just adding "-FUL" to the back ends of words is very basic, as theme ideas go, and since there are lots of words that might be susceptible to this kind of alteration gimmick (mind, gain, pride, law, dread—DREADFUL LOCKS!), the whole enterprise risks seeming flimsy, the themers arbitrary. But ... I dunno, I think they work fine, and I actually think the last one, AWFUL SHUCKS, is legitimately funny. And since the fill is most solid and occasionally excellent, I largely enjoyed myself today. It took me until the second themer to understand what the theme was all about because when I got the first themer, PLAYFUL DEAD, I thought it was a pun on Grateful Dead. Not a particularly good pun, but ... I was intrigued to see where it was going. Then it ended up just going to -FUL -FUL- -FUL -FUL. But somehow that ended up being enough for a pleasant Wednesday experience.

I have two notes on this puzzle. One is that cluing TOOT as [Spree] and ORATE as [Deliver a stemwinder] feels very, very Shortz-voice. Quaintish. Olden. I'd be surprised if these clues were Ricky's. They aren't bad clues. They just ... have a vibe about them that seems yesteryearish. Like the voice of puzzle when I started solving in the '90s. I don't think I've ever seen the word "stemwinder" outside of crossword clues for ORATE. And when I got the "T" at 21A: Spree, the only thing I wanted was TEAR. In fact, I wrote in TEAR. That was the only mistake I made today, and the only real bit of non-theme resistance besides FONSI—once again, for the second day in a row, the only resistance the puzzle offers up comes in the form of a single proper name (yesterday, same thing happened with CECELIA). "Despacito" was a musical phenomenon that I was very much aware of, but ... I was aware of the song name only. Really seems like the song title became world famous, while the *singer's* name ... well, probably also became world famous, just a little less so. FONSI seems like it might be a pretty grid-friendly name. When you have a 13x-platinum hit (!) ... well, that kind of success gives you a certain amount of gridworthiness, at least for a while. I expect to see FONSI again, or (maybe on a Fri or Sat) to see LUIS clued this way. And, perhaps more obviously, look for "DESPACITO" to come your way, eventually.

Some great answers in here today, particularly MEET-CUTE (8D: Introductory scene in some rom-coms), which I can't believe hasn't been in the NYTXW before. The other long Downs were sufficiently lively (have you tried the PAN-SEARED FRUIT FLY? mwah, delicious), and the short stuff mostly held up—which is good, because there's a lot of it in this 78-worder. I like that the grid made room for six Downs of 7+-letter length, and then made the most of those answers (they're all rock-solid). All in all, a pleasant walk in the park. Very much the mood I seek right now. Take care, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:10 AM  

Rex – enjoyed your write-up. I liked this, too. How surprising the outcome is when you insert FUL to a fixed phrase. Ricky chose very CAREFULly so that the resulting adjective is pretty far removed from its base (see also Rex’s DREADFUL LOCKS). TEARFUL GAS or FRIGHTFUL NIGHT would’ve lacked that humorous oomph.

My favorite was also AWFUL SHUCKS. I lack the patience and the stiff vegetable brush to dispatch every single silk. Bugs the heck out of me.

“Cheer from the stands” – how many times did I yell Get it! to my kids on the soccer or lacrosse field. As though this hadn’t occurred to them, and upon hearing my helpful advice, they’d wake up and try to get control of the ball. Sheesh. And then there’s this.

Never hear of MEET CUTE, but it was easy to figure out. Headstrong, pretty girl buys a coffee and rounds the corner to run smack dab into charming, annoying handsome boy. Coffee spills all over boy’s shirt; hilarity and love ensue. Sigh.

“It’ll give you a shock” – googling to find the hours of Dick’s Sporting Goods, the only area store that carried lacrosse equipment. Go ahead. Try it. That %$&’ll flat Wake. You. Up. Especially with a middle-school daughter standing behind you looking.

The clue for ANKLE reminded me of a training a few weeks ago when I noticed that when I sat down, my khakis rode up so that my shin skin showed between the pant leg and the trouser sock. I was panicked the entire time.

Four clues began with like used as a preposition. Ok. Fine. Not distracting. I tell ya, though, - like as a softener is like so pervasive now that like I find it like hard to like really pay like attention to Madison’s like ultimatum to Peter ‘cause like all I’m like hearing is like her likes. Don’t get me wrong: I love the word as a softener. I say it and write it cheerfully and without apology. But when it’s like every other word, I can’t like concentrate. Then there’s the vocal fry? And upspeaking?

Thanks for the laughs, Ricky. Glad that ole willful Shortz accepted this one.

Anonymous 6:19 AM  

Does tasteful test really work as a themed? For interior design, wouldn't it be a tastefulness test, or a taste test. It's not the test that's tasteful. Just saying.

SouthsideJohnny 6:30 AM  

It seemed Tuesday easy today, except that the section with GOLEM and FONSI (along with OOFS) stumped me.

Does anyone know what an OOF is, and how it pertains to a gut punch ?

Hungry Mother 6:39 AM  

I’ll take up golf when I get a bit older. I used to play as a kid and did a bit of caddying as a teen. I guess I heard of the TOE of the club.

Dave 6:40 AM  

Fonsi crossing toe was tough. I guessed tee, knowing that was probably wrong. Golf clues make me gag.

pabloinnh 6:46 AM  

Hey @LMS-how about "like" as a verb, meaning "to say"? So he's like really? and I'm like yeah and he's like when? and I'm like, I can't take this anymore. Being around high schoolers for a long time had me convinced that "to say" had disappeared.

Also, as a youth soccer coach for lots of years, my favorite advice from the sideline was "Kick it!". Uh, yeah.

CUTEDATE had to be right, but it's a first-timer for me. I did write in ORATE for "stemwinder" immediately. I'm assuming this is a function of age.

And here we go again with TAMAL vs. TAMALE. I'll let others fight it out over this one. I've thrown in the towele.

Fun Wednesdecito, Sr. Excellent example of a Ricky Cruzigrama.

Lewis 6:53 AM  

My meeting my wife was anything but a meet cute -- it was a phone conversation that ended up lasting three hours during a bleak winter's eve (someone had given me her phone number). But I will add that our 35 years together have been and remain a most marvelous romantic comedy.

As your resident alphadoppeltotter, a ROLE I have inexplicably taken on, I must inform you that there are an unusually low number of double letters in this puzzle (3). It hadn't happened in a long time until the 2nd of this month, when Acme had the same number. Maybe there's some hoarding of double letters going on, as with toilet paper these days.

Oh, it would never happen, but a theme answer I would love to have seen would be WONDERFUL BREAD, clued [Not Wonder Bread].

QuasiMojo 7:00 AM  

Apparently salmon isn't PARBOILED. I'm not a cook. Slow Wednesday for me. I've also got fruit flies in my kitchen, so clueing itvas am orchard pest was no help to me.

Unlike Rex I found this a weak offering. Some bland answers and clues. Taste Test makes as much sense as clued as the answer does so the added FUL is redundant. And not very funny.

Was hoping for Graceful Slick.

amyyanni 7:08 AM  

Excellent! Maybe one outcome of our isolating against Coronavirus will be lots of funny and fresh puzzles. Must get busy here as my office is still open.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Oof is the approximation of the involuntary sound one makes when punched in the stomach. Or at least that’s what comic books have said for a very long time.

webwinger 7:13 AM  

@Rex seems really to be, like, softening in this trying week, and I like it!

Puzzle was quite OK. My favorite answer was MEET CUTE. Can’t see those words without recalling a scene featuring both the phrase and a charming example of it, with Eli Wallach and Kate Winslet in The Holiday, probably my family’s very favorite Yuletide movie. Of course it’s not the season now, but treat yourself to watching if you haven’t seen it.

I posted late yesterday with some further consideration intended to help keep the current crisis in perspective. Increasingly feel the response may have gone beyond what is truly justified by the facts as they now stand. There can be no doubt that the situation is serious, but there is real danger that the worst consequences will be self-inflicted. See this NYT article, which I think is still relevant despite being published two days ago. Yesterday saw an accelerating count of new confirmed cases (which could just be a consequence of testing becoming more available), but only a dozen or so reported deaths in the US.

Z 8:06 AM  

What Rex said right down to the AWFUL SHUCKS being just the right degree of loony to bring a smile.

@LMS - Change the coffee to orange juice and you have the MEET CUTE from Notting Hill.

@SouthsideJohnny - Really? @Anon7:09 answered your question, but I’m a little surprised you asked it.

@Linda R - Eek - I’m an “an historic” sayer for exactly the reasons described in that link, clarity from the close “ahistorical” as well as being somewhere in between “historic” and “’istoric.”

@webwinger - Uh - deaths are a trailing statistic. Less at risk people are more likely to catch it first, pass it on to at-risk populations, who then die from it weeks later. That’s what happened in China and Italy. The good thing is that the current “over-reaction” at local levels is exactly what’s needed to slow the spread. The sad thing is that if the “over-reaction” works people like those economists in the article will use it as “proof” that it was an over-reaction.

@TJS - did you get out of the DR?

Joaquin 8:24 AM  

Sure sign that you’re old: You’ve never heard of the13x platinum hit “Despacito” and have no idea who Luis FONSI is. Wikipedia tells me he is from Puerto Rico but as far as I am concerned he could be the mayor of Natick.

Suzie Q 8:27 AM  

I felt as if I was stumbling around in the dark grasping for some sure answers but finding few on my first pass.
Never heard of meet cute ever.
My mind starts to wander during puzzles like this so I make up my own answers whether they fit the space or not. Such as:
Up the wazoo.
Socks and pant leg meet in the washing machine.

George 8:29 AM  

I was going to protest that MEETCUTE wasn't a real thing, but then I did the google on it, and yep, it's a real thing in TV Land. The T of TOOT crossing MEETCUTE was my last letter and I wasn't sure it was gonna be right.

Red Smith 8:38 AM  

Hope the clue for 1 across still works next year.

LeaveItToYourGoat 8:46 AM  

I had the same theme expectation as Rex RE: PLAYFUL DEAD being a play on Grateful Dead, but even after getting the next two themers I still didn't really pick up on the gimmick until I got to AWFUL SHUCKS, which ended up being my favorite entry as well. I really blazed through this one. Way faster than a typical Wednesday for me.

The clue for OUSTS really didn't need the "as from a club" qualifier. I couldn't get BOUNCES out of my head, even though there was no way to make it fit. I have no idea how GOLEM is an "automation" of anything. Definitely agree with Rex on the clue for TOOT. I've only ever seen NEUTER as a verb, so having it clued as an adjective was interesting.

Petsounds 9:01 AM  

I'm with Dave. I knew "tee" wasn't the edge of a golf club, but since I don't play golf or watch golf or follow golf and have no interest in golf at all and hate all golf clues and never heard of FONSI (though, like Rex, I had heard the song), I just had to try random letters to get that cross.

Other than that, great puzzle. Loved the theme and most of the fill, although STALER and all never-heard-in-life comparers (less this, most that) should PLAY DEAD, playfully or no.

LB 9:16 AM  

Orate clue and toot made me think “Rex will say those are fusty.” But, fusty, who says that! Yesteryearish? Stale. Out-of-date. That’s me!

Nancy 9:19 AM  

The theme and I MEET CUTE today. That's because the theme is CUTE. Very PLAYFUL. Just wish the puzzle had been Wednesday-hard-ish instead of Monday-easy. I filled in answers quickly, with NO DOUBT at all about any of them except for FONSI. And he came in in a [NEWS]FLASH, so no WOE or OOFS there. Despite the two "tax form" clue/answers, there was nothing especially taxing about this puzzle.

webwinger 9:53 AM  

@Z 8:06: In China, where the disease appears clearly to be on the wane for now, less than 0.01% of the population is documented to have been infected. South Korea seems to have contained its outbreak with less than 0.02% infection rate. (That last link was incorrectly embedded when I cited its source yesterday.) In Italy the infection rate now stands at about 0.05%. Scenarios in which the US healthcare system is predicted to become seriously short of resources posit infection rates of 20% or more. This could definitely happen, but it’s hard to believe it is highly likely based on current statistics.

So let’s by all means see that a plan is in place to quickly create more ICU beds and manufacture more ventilators if the need arises. Wash your hands and use sanitizer compulsively. Block your coughs and stay home if you are mildly sick, or in close contact with someone who is. But keeping entire metropolitan areas under virtual house arrest now because of predictions from a theoretical model? Well, I have no control over it of course, but I can’t smugly tell those who are losing their livelihood that it’s all for the best. (And BTW, Z, next time try to resist starting your comment with the patronizing "Uh".)

meepmoop 9:54 AM  

I'm not sure that I liked this crossword. I thought "ENDED" for "Called Off" was very indicative of how lazy and fillery some of these clues were. TWO tax clues? TWO keyboard clues? Is that a theme?

burtonkd 9:55 AM  

@webwinger, that article did put a finger on some lingering questions in the back of my mind. I'm usually of the mindset to look at data when weighing risk, and would say the numbers are so low, there are greater dangers out there. BUT, if you look at how this one explodes exponentially, as it has done elsewhere and it happening here, this is probably exactly what we need to do. If it works, it will look like an over-reaction. The thing I most worry about is that this doesn't even feel like the big one - something this easily transmissible but with a much higher mortality rate. At least we'll have some practice, if that should happen.

@Z, just watched Notting Hill, coincidentally, so same thing occurred to me - although they had already met at the bookstore. This did lead to the kiss in the apartment, though.

TOE crossing two proper names FONSI and GOLEM had me playing vowel roulette to get the happy music.
Golem, as clued, was wicked for a Wednesday, no? Most famous example is a late 16th century rabbi of Prague. @LeaveitToYourGoat, it was "automaton" - object formed of clay or mud and then controlled by its master. The wikipedia entry barely helps answer the clue, but is very interesting. I was thinking this was an alternate spelling of GOLLUM from LOTR, who was controlled by the power of the ring...

@LMS, I used to look ASKANCE beMUSEdly at other hockey parents yelling specific instructions to their kids from behind a huge sheet of plexiglass while the kids had helmets on as if they could even hear them, what with the loud sounds of the game - skates cutting, pads hitting, sticks banging on the ice, coaches trying to instruct also...

A favorite English classical composer of mine is Gerald FINZI, which would have enabled TIE rather than TOE, and OOFZ. Oh well, I tried...

Sir Hillary 10:03 AM  

This was a pleasure Cruz in times when that is sorely needed.

AWFULSHUCKS is so good, it more than redeems what is otherwise a relatively bland theme set.

I love "Despacito" but needed every cross to get FONSI.

Agree with @Rex on the TOOT clue. Means nothing to me.

Neither did MEETCUTE until this morning, but I get it. Rom-coms are so not in my wheelhouse.

It took me a while, but I am in the "you can't be too careful" camp at the moment. We may very well look back and say that in hindsight some of these precautions were overkill, but anyone asserting that now is just guessing, as I am.

RooMonster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
Well, it's official. The Governor of Nevada has closed Las Vegas. Wow, never could've seen something like this happening. I'm actually surprised airlines are still operating. I guess that's a necessity.

Fun-FUL puz. Does seem more of a TuesPuz theme, but my days are already messed up from being home a week now. An early taste of retirement.

ZIPS, huh? Someone explain like I'm a five-year old.

FONSI new one to me too. I guess I'm officially old (50, here), or maybe because I don't listen to that particular type of music. Fun clue on EAT. Never have seen just one FRUIT FLY, they just show up in packs seemingly out of nowhere. What is the FRUIT FLY group name? A blizzard of FRUIY FLies?

Seven F's (4 in themers)

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Never heard anyone refer to multiple zip codes as ZIPS. Surprised Rex wasn't all over this. First hit was a wiki article saying this was a derogatory term for Italian Americans.

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Rug Crazy 10:43 AM  

Disappointed that Rex liked it as much as he did, and MUCH MORE than I did

Paul & Kathy 10:45 AM  

I blew away my Wednesday record time on this puzzle. Felt really in tune with it and it all came together smooth as silk. Only mistake was putting dumb where daft belonged at 33D. I'd take more like this.

GILL I. 10:48 AM  

Yes, I was thinking we were going to have a fun pun fest with the Grateful Dead.
CAREFUL BEARS made me think of Charmin toilet paper. There's a funny meme going around showing GOLEM holding a roll of toilet paper and whispering "My precious." I wish I could stop with the bathroom humor.
I liked TASTEFUL TEST crossing FRUITFLY. Well, it conjures up memories of how California's citrus crops were almost devoured by those little critters. I think they were called medflies. Every time you crossed any boarder trying to get into California a boarder patrol stopped and asked you if you had any produce. I'd hide my BLT because it had a tomato in it.
I've heard MEET CUTE. I suppose you could say my husband and I were of that persuasion. We met on a 12 hour flight to London. He chatted me up; got my phone number, and we had our first date at Disneyland. Romantic, huh?
Didn't know FONSI - if it isn't Julio Iglesias, I don't know my Latino singers.
Nice Wed. diversion. Gotta go call around to see if anyone has thermometers. Those are the latest being hoarded and sold at the back of pickup trucks.

Whatsername 11:02 AM  

Very much on the easy side and not much of a challenge but still clever and fun. Working through the clues, I thought some of them were like, really odd - until I finished and saw the theme. Eyebrow raised at “peeling” corn which evoked an image of trying to peel the individual kernels. Made me think of Tom Hanks eating the tiny ears of appetizer corn on the party buffet in the movie Big. But I suppose it’s pretty tough to find a synonym for SHUCKS so it’ll do. I agree with Rex that TOOT is a little on the olden side. My dad had a completely different definition of that word and often demonstrated it after a TASTEFUL meal.

@Loren outdid herself with her avatar today. I can’t imagine what a gifted and popular teacher she must be.

GILL I. 11:12 AM  

@Roo...I kinda feel your pain. Sacramento seems to be following suit of Las Vegas. Our biggest mall "Arden Fair" has announced its closure. Meeting ground for bored teenagers. The Hyatt Regency is closing until May. Everything closing. I've been delivering food for some seniors that live close by and they are becoming seriously depressed. No contact allowed with kids. They are used to being social just to keep themselves active and happy. I hope you can at least get unemployment.
Sad times, indeed. Hope you have Netflix and Hulu and HBO. Follow @jae's recommendation.

Nancy 11:12 AM  

Am I the only person on the blog who finds the posts by @webwinger reassuring at a time of pure panic? That doesn't mean that I won't take all the precautions recommended by the experts -- I'm in a really, really vulnerable age group and a big-time worrier, to boot, -- but much of his analysis sounds somewhat persuasive to me. I'm not going to bet my life he's right, but I certainly can hope he's right. The guy's obviously no dummy and he seems to have a good feel for statistics. We could be headed for Armegeddon, but maybe, just maybe, we're not. Anyway, thank you, @webwinger for your calming and well-explained messages.

Coronavirus update from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Our building has just gone into lockdown. No outsiders permitted in for...who knows how long? Food deliveries must be picked up in the lobby or sent up in the elevator -- meaning I'm now paying for meals by credit card instead of cash and hoping that the poor schlub who delivered it got tipped. The restaurant claimed he did, but who knows? Can I find a market that will deliver staples to me like bread and milk so I don't have to go into them at all? I called just now to cancel...
1) The contractor scheduled to paint my bathroom for free on 3/30, after breaking through the ceiling last summer renovating the apt over me. Don't know when I'll be allowed to reschedule.

2) My PT appointments for a very painful adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. Fortunately, two earlier appts plus some painful-as-hell but effective home exercises, have lessened the pain considerably. I think they're still open, but going in there at my age would be complete folly.

3) I have worn my hair short my entire life. I have never once seen myself with long hair. As soon as it grows beyond a certain length -- 8 weeks is the maximum -- I start to look like Phyllis Diller without the curls, and I get a haircut forthwith. But I'm afraid to be in such close proximity to a hair stylist. I could start to look really, really awful very very soon.

OTOH, the whole city is close to complete lockdown now, so almost no one is likely to see me. I'm wondering how much worse it will get? Of course this is being done to protect people exactly like me; if I were 25, I imagine I'd be much more upset by what's going on.

I will go to the park today. I think it's still allowed and I'll stay far away from everyone -- assuming anyone is even there. And I won't pet anyone's dog. It will be hard for me not to, but I've been told that I ABSOLUTELY MUSTN'T!!!!

Anyway, thanks again, @webwinger. You're a ray of sunshine in a fog of pure misery.

Geezer 11:14 AM  

Be sure to get your COVID-19 information from reliable sources. Ignore the crap such as the "discussion" on this blog.

Z 11:14 AM  

@Joaquin - Now I really really really want a write-in campaign to elect FONSI mayor of Natick. That would cause me lots of AWFUL SHUCKS.

@burtonkd - That whole bit from Anna Scott walking into the bookstore right through to the kiss is an extended MEET CUTE, sort of an extended double MEET CUTE. Not quite Romeo and Juliet’s sonnet for their MEET CUTE, but charming in its own way.

@webwinger - Guilty. But you keep drawing conclusions that aren’t supported by what you’re reading. First, we didn’t do what South Korea did so expecting the same outcome is just wrong. South Korea was able to contain its outbreak to the extent they have by aggressive testing and isolating the infected. This is something the US can’t do because we’re six to ten weeks behind on ramping up testing. In effect, we’ve put ourselves (and by “we” I mean the Trump administration) in a position of universal precautions, i.e. assuming everyone has it. As for the data tracking the NYT and others are doing, recognize that confirmed numbers are significantly lower than what’s out in the population. If there were a functioning Pandemic Response team operating at the federal level from the beginning we could have responded much better with far less of an economic impact, but we don’t so we didn’t. Let me recommend the Wikipedia section on H1N1 data accuracy as a useful cautionary when trying to make sense of the numbers being reported.

JC66 11:16 AM  


Be careful not to touch anything in the park, including benches.

GILL I. 11:18 AM  

@Nancy....You can pet the furry ones. Also, I bet you'd look good in a pony tail. Also, I can tell you how to cook via e-mail. Try and stay sane, everyone.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

@webwinger. I may have missed information about your epidemiology credentials. Please clarify for me and others who may have missed it. Thanks.

What? 11:19 AM  

Really easy for a Wednesday - or for any day. Couldn’t have taken me more than 5 minutes.
Now to the theme. Before I read Rex to explain it to me, what is it? Putting FUL in common phrases to make new phrases? Is that it? This cries out for a reveal (cf. above) or at least a title: FULSOME ENTRIES, if only the Times would get with it and allow such a thing.
All in all, awful, baneful, painful and pitiful.

Joe Dipinto 11:20 AM  

@pablo – the constructor apologizes profusefully for "tamale" at XWord Info.

How I felt about the puzzle.

JC66 11:21 AM  

If you're going to use a bench, please clean it with a disinfectant wipe first.

Anonymoose 11:27 AM  

TOOT as a spree usually refers to drinking, e.g. The sot was on another TOOT last night.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Instead of peeling corn I would rather have seen "opening oysters".

Carola 11:47 AM  

Ricky Cruz managed to look FATAL and DEAD in the face and conjure up an image of NERO fiddling while Rome burned and still create a light-hearted and MORALE-boosting diversion. AWFUL SHUCKS hopefully didn't impact the quality of the TAMALE beneath.

@Nancy, I've had a pixie cut for decades and am now preparing for a transformation from pixie to yak.

Ernonymous 11:56 AM  

I also thought that PLAYFUL DEAD was going to be a Grateful Dead theme. Then I was doubly sure when I got PANAMA RED as the salmon. It fit perfectly.

Panama Red, Panama Red
I'll steal your women it'll rob your head
Panama Red!

TJS 11:57 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Thought it was just fine for a Wednesday, and happy to take my mind off the current situation

@Z,Thanks for asking. Nope, still down here in the D.R. But the gov. down here is following all the usual protocol. Flights in are for "ferrying" foreigners out only, now including Americans and Canadians. We don't have to leave, as I understand it, but every day life down here will be very constricted. No bars or restaurant service, etc. But we will still have the (somewhat deserted) beach and 80 degree weather, so better off than most at this point. If the stats start to explode to the upside things will change dramatically. My biggest concern at the moment is whether US carriers will continue flying empty planes down here to return an ever-decreasing number of people out.

Hope you all are coping. Be safe.

Newboy 12:02 PM  

Bountiful fun. Grateful solver. Thankful for @z, @webwinger, @loren, @all delightful moments & insightful comments.@Nancy fresh air and gentle walks are healthful styling—not needful.

Nancy 12:03 PM  

Now that's funny, @Carola!!!

I'm gonna sit on the bench, @JC66, not put my face against it. I'll try to use my forearms to get up and down. In any event, I'll be wearing my winter wool gloves.

I'm a lot, a lot more worried about crowds and close proximity in indoor places.

Frantic Sloth 12:06 PM  

Good, solid, fun-ish puzzle today. Did not know Luis FONSI or DORA Maar, but always happy to learn new things.

Favorite commentariat bits:

@LMS's avatar and the whole Get it! and other brilliant "fanisms".

@Lewis's "hoarding of double letters" and the imagery it evokes in my mind's eye.

@GILL I. hiding her BLT made me chuckle to myself - again, it's the visual, but also reminds me of a former co-worker who went to see a presidential candidate (waaaaay back in the day) and was pulled aside by the Secret Service because of the bulge in his jacket pocket. He had to unwrap the foil to prove it was a ham sammich. Didn't help that he was a shifty-looking character to begin with.

pabloinnh 12:11 PM  

@JoeD-Thanks, that's good to know. Clearly, I never read XWord info.

Of course it did give me the opportunity to use "towele", which was pretty funny, thought no one but me. As I used to tell my students, they can't all be gems.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Wikipedia tells me he is from Puerto Rico but as far as I am concerned he could be the mayor of Natick.

and, as a USofA citizen, he could be.

@Z-11:14 & @anon-11:18
well done. worth noting: China got 'control' by locking down a large swath of the country, and South Korea and Singapore by going balls out on testing and tracking from the get go. Orange Caligula called it a "hoax" until yesterday when he claimed he knew it was a pandemic before the 'experts'. vote early and often.

"I felt it was a pandemic before it was called a pandemic." only a complete idiot would believe that.

Nancy 12:18 PM  

@GILL -- You don't own a thermometer?? You don't own a thermometer???!!! Obviously, you didn't have a Jewish mother.

Thanks, @Newboy (12:02). I agree completely, that is: about the fresh air and gentle walks. About the hair -- maybe not so much.

webwinger 12:26 PM  

I’m going to shut up for now about our pandemic, because this is after all an x-word blog and one of its important functions is to distract us from the upleasantness of the real world. I will say, though, that informed citizens who are not certifiably expert still have an obligation to form opinions concerning important public policy questions. I urge all of you to check out the links in my earlier (7:13 and 9:53) posts (to very recent NYT articles and a paper in the journal Science). And to check out movie The Holiday for a wonderful take on MEET CUTE. And to stay personally safe and sane...

Masked and Anonymous 12:28 PM  

yep. Good WedPuz. A mindful meld of neat theme, lotsa U's, and smoooth fillins. And even a FRUITful FLY, buzzin around in there. Now that's what M&A calls "Cruz Control".

Only nanoful-second challenges came in the MEETCUTE and FONSI areas. Both gettable from friendly crosses.

fave-o-rightful fillins included: DENMARK. FRUITFLY. NEWSFLASH. OOFS.

staff weeject pick: ONA. Feminine version of ONO, I reckon. Primo weeject stacks in the NE & SW, btw.
Better OOFS clue: {What's said when one clumsily drops a piano on oneself??}.

Thanx for the fun and congratz on the unusually real favorableful @RP blog review, Mr. Cruz.

Masked & Anonym8Us

p.s. Double runtz today, for all them extra-desperate, but hopefully extra-safe, stay-at-homers.



OffTheGrid 12:30 PM  

@Joe D. Thanks for the amusing link. Lily Tomlin is a treasure and pretty much the only reason I watch "Grace & Frankie"

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

I've had a pixie cut for decades and am now preparing for a transformation from pixie to yak.

the wife, who resembles Whoppi Goldberg more than Halle Berry, allows as how any 'older' (number left unspecified) woman with long hair, esp. silver, looks like a 'sea hag'. I'd never heard that before or since. so is that a term of art in the feminine domain?

jae 12:39 PM  

Monday easy. Cute theme, but not a Wednesday. Liked it.

FONSI was a also WOE for me and ditto for Tear before TOOT.

Another show to consider:

“The Detectorists” was a 1/2 hour BBC series and is one of my all time favorite shows. It’s about the friendship of Lance and Andy who are members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. Beyond that it’s hard to explain concisely. The problem is it’s hard to find on streaming. It used to be on Netflix but they took it off a couple of years ago. If you have YouTube TV it is available through the BBC America series archive. If not, you could subscribe to Acorn TV for around $6 a month, watch the show and then drop the subscription. There are only 19 episodes, so you could actually binge it during their 7 day free trial.

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow with a show for the baseball deprived...not because I’ve run out of shows but because I think these are enough for now. Hopefully, this craziness will all be over sooner rather than later.

What? 12:52 PM  

Where did you get these numbers? Unless you test everybody, the infection rate refers to those tested, not to the entire population. The Times today lists confirmed cases vs specimens tested. For the US, 18%. For Italy, 20%. South Korea, 3%. There are many caveats. We test only those with symptoms so this inflates the number per population. The number tested refers to specimens, not people, and multiple specimens can be tested for each person.

QuasiMojo 12:56 PM  

@JC66 it's never a good idea to touch benches in parks. Lol. At least not where I live. They only get washed once a year it seems to me.

@Nancy, we have the same proscriptions where I live in Florida and nowhere near the statistics you all have. Thinking of you. Time to join the NYTimes crossword online and tackle the marvelous archive. And check out if it's still delivering.

Joe Dipinto 1:01 PM  

The worst thing about the Coronavirus is that the Union Market stopped setting out olive and cheese samples. What am I supposed to do now when I want a free afternoon snack?

Yesterday I went to the Queens courthouse to submit a petition for administratorship of an estate. There was no one there. NO. ONE. Surrogate's Court is on the seventh floor – all the office doors were shut and the hallway was empty except for a lone soul sitting in a glassed-in Information booth aaalllll the way at the end. It looked like something out of "Barton Fink". There was a little table of in-boxes set up outside the window so I left my packet in the one labeled "Administration". God only knows when anyone will see it.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

@Nancy, good one on the taxing remark.

@pabloinnh, I smiled at "towele".

@Gill I, I LOL'd at "precious".

Best dook today is EXCELAT. I started checking the crosses on that one before the other SHOD dropped.

I loved the "Writer who went through hell?" clue for DANTE.

And AWFUL SHUCKS took the cake today for theme answers. I'm still trying to wrap my head around a crossword entry that Rex liked and Jeff Chin critiqued!

Ricky Cruz, congratulations on NYT puzzle # 2, thanks.

puzzlehoarder 1:17 PM  

Another Monday easy puzzle. Even the FONSI/TOE crossing along with the fairly obscure DORA clue barely created a speed bump.

GOLEM is a fairly common word. A good pop culture appearance of it is from a "The Sopranos" episode in which Tony is hired to muscle an Orthodox Jewish motel owner and the man's father-in-law refers to Tony as "a golem."

It's surprising how many are unfamiliar with the phrase "meet cute." Then again like most here I've never heard of this multi platinum FONSI.

Ernonymous 1:22 PM  

@jae Detectorists was great! There is also a movie starring the guy playing Lance - Toby Jones- about a true story of an English football club, it was excellent called Marvellous. It was on Britbox which I have so not sure where else you can see it. He us a helluva an actor.

albatross shell 1:25 PM  

Faster than Tuesday which was faster than Monday. Bizzaro world. This one I thought the best of the three. Knew GOLEM. Think it was in puzzle not too long ago clued or answered as robot. But memories are a bit malleable. I knew it first from silent movies.
TOE inferred from shape of the club or knowing the heel of a club. The grouch that hangs out at the bar? So the crosses gave me FONSI. The CAUSE USE area was a bit slow. Hand up not knowing MEETCUTE. Sounds awkward but sounds entertainment industry too. It filled in quickly but EXCELAT dooked me. Read it as one word. French maybe for expert? Did not see EXCEL AT until I started writing this.

Graceful Slick. Good one. Gimme a clue.

Pretty different out here in the country. Not so panicky. Stay home, watch TCM, silent movies. Read be distracted. Dial it back if you can. I finally posted my review of your puzzle last night. Short and sweet. Hey, do another one!

Not so awful, aw shucks to all.

jberg 1:25 PM  

Loved the puzzle. However, the FRUIT FLY is not an "orchid pest" -- they are pests in fruit markets, kitchens, and other places ripe fruit is fine.
At least, in ordinary usage-- I guess the notorious medfly is actually a "Mediterranean fruit fly," but that's not what we mean when we say "fruit fly."
One of my college flies was anesthetizing and counting fruit flies by what kind of eyes they had.

As others have said, the point of these drastic measures is to limit the exponential growth of the disease -- the issue for hospital space is not how many cases we have in total, but how many we have at one time. And if we can hospitalize everyone who needs it, the death count will be much lower.

old timer 1:31 PM  

MEETCUTE went right in. Romcom staple. Easy puzzle except for my almost DNF at FONSI. Finally came to me that the part of the golf club that meets the ball (often atop a tee) was the TOE.

Yeah my immediate thought was the puzzle would focus on the GrateFULDEAD or bands from that era. Sorry it didn't. I saw more DEAD shows than your average BEAR, that's for sure.

Yeah, it is TAMAL, plural is TAMALEs. But TAMALE is the historic name for a TAMAL here in California. TAMALE parlors go back to the Gold Rush days in San Francisco, and I think that was the word where I grew up in Los Angeles, too. Definitely was. Tuesdays were Red's TAMALE day. I think the Roosevelt TAMALE Parlor in San Francisco's Mission District may still survive.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  


the superior results from South Korea and Singapore is just because they test widely. we know now, with nearly 100% certainty, that 'kids' are asymptomatic carriers, who never go symptomatic. those countries tested widely enough that they found considerable asymptomatic carriers, who were then corralled. turns out Covid is contagious mostly pre-symptoms. the symptoms are clear enough, and different from cold/flu, that testing just the ill provides almost no new intelligence. since there's no therapy anywho, testing the ill is nearly 100% useless.

Whatsername 2:06 PM  

@Nancy at 11:12 and @Carola at 11:47 - I have an appointment for a cut Friday but I am probably going to cancel it. Every time I convince myself there could not possibly be anyone in that small salon who would be a threat, I read another horror story. I hate to admit it, but it’s likely fear and loathing will prevail. So I’ll soon be joining you in the bad hair competition except that rather than a yak, I’ll more closely resemble a sea hag (@Anonymous at 12:34).

Carola 2:14 PM  

@Anonymous 12:34 - That is a new one to me, and one I'll remember. Quite evocative!

Mary 2:35 PM  

Sir Hillary at 10:03: I thought you were going to make a joke about the double meaning of "you can't be too careful"

Anyone remember the SNL skit in which two workers at a nuclear reactor take different meanings for "you can't use too much water" when doing something important and dangerous with the reactor. One worker thought it meant "don't use a lot of water" and the other thought it meant "there's no such thing as too much water" and hilarity and worldwide destruction ensued.

Barbara S. 2:54 PM  

As one of the resident Canadians on the list, I learned a new word today: STEM-WINDER. I gather from the relative lack of reaction (except to note that it's dated) that it's a term well-known to most here. I looked up the derivation and found it fascinating. I'll tell you about it at the risk of droning on redundantly in this crowd (but maybe you have time on your hands, or wrists -- sorry, appalling pun!) It's a reference to wristwatches introduced in the late nineteenth century that were wound by means of a knob on a stem. This was so vastly superior to previous technology -- watches which required a key -- that STEM-WINDER came to mean anything that was excellent or top-notch. And over time it further came to mean a rousing speech, particularly a political one. And is it more southern U.S. usage, would you say? I don't believe I've ever heard it used in this context in Canada, but we do get the occasional STEM-WINDER out of one or other of our politicians.

I remember well the next breakthrough in wristwatch development: watches that were wound by moving your arm back and forth. My father had one and I can still hear in my mind's ear the tiny whirring noise it made when he demonstrated.

I gather Trudeau and Trump, in a spirit of friendliness and co-operation, are closing the border between the U.S. and Canada. I'm sure glad there's no border on this blog.

GILL I. 3:05 PM  

@Nancy. Hahahahahahah. Well, yeah, I do have a thermometer. I've had it since my two adult children were young. was the kind you stuck up in your nethers. I'm only buying for seniors who don't want to go out. I'll be sure and ask them if they had a Jewish mother..... :-)
Picturing you bending down on a park bench with your ears.
Oh....just thought I'd let everyone know that people that are out there have kept some semblance of sanity and especially a sense of humor. I went to the pharmacy to pick up some wine and there was this young man in line with a very small bottle of scotch. I asked him if that would keep him company for the next 3 months. He howled with laughter and said he usually stocks up at Costco but he got scared of the lines and decided to cut back on consumption.
Wear your hair in a pony tail like I do.

albatross shell 3:11 PM  

Somehow using today's puzzle to distract from the real world seems fated to fail. I mean adding ful to a phrase, anagrams anyone? Tried to get a ...ful flu answer but nothing alters meaning very much or is a phrase without ful. Here's to unfluful days.

What? 3:18 PM  

Respirators seem to offer some relief. Forcing oxygen into the lungs can compensate for decreased lung function.

Anonymous 4:03 PM  

I thought that since a ToE was located at end point of a hole at a golf course, it would be at the edge of a golf club (a golf club being another name for the entire golf establishment). Therefore I would call that a full-fledged Natick, since FONSI vs FeNSI was truly unguessable.

QuasiMojo 4:13 PM  

@albatross shell -- Since you kindly asked:

Elegant magazine, slang: Graceful Slick

And a couple more:

Miserable Zero: Dreadful Nought

Guilty French despot: Rueful Bonaparte

And for computer geeks: Shy handwriting: Bashful Script

Smith 5:09 PM  

Or it's a word in Latin that is neither feminine nor masculine. Like "oppidum". Neuter.

Smith 5:19 PM  

Hi @nancy (it's Lisa from Sunday)...working from home this week so printing out puzzles to do during the downtime. Today's was super easy! Glad to see you all are here during the week. I'll try to stop by more often!

Smith 5:22 PM  

Zip codes! Took me a minute, too.

Smith 5:29 PM  

Our building west of the hudson just got the same info - all deliveries must be picked up in the lobby.

My 24 yo son who works in the arts is beside himself. All jobs canceled. Stuck in Brooklyn, can't go out or do "anything." He and his gf almost came here but finally thought better of it... nothing to do here, either, although we did go for a walk.
Gotta get that fresh air!!

Z 5:42 PM  

@Barbara S - Personally, I don’t recall ever running into the term before, and just presumed it was some old slang of which I was unaware. Thanks for the research.

@jberg - I’m guessing “orchid pest” was an auto-corrupt error. Wikipedia was unhelpful on the fruit fly’s range, but seems to indicate that it’s pretty much everywhere, including orchards I assume since rotting fruit could be found there. Interestingly, Wikipedia, way at the bottom, says that fruit flies aren’t pests. Yeah. Right. Anyway that would make the “orchard” part more technically correct than the “pest” part of the clue, but I think I’m okay with both parts for a crossword clue. Either way, I’m guessing no fruit fly has ever been called a “stem winder.”

pabloinnh 7:20 PM  

@BarbaraS-Well, I knew all about the stem-winder kind of a watch, and I remembered the term being applied to speeches, so I had always assumed that a "stem-winder" was a speech so long that while listening to it you had to wind your watch. I still kind of like that idea, but your research is no doubt more sound than my imagination, so thanks for that. As others around here say, fun to learn something.

Frantic Sloth 8:18 PM  

@pabloinnh Ditto on the stem-winder as long-winded speech theory.
But, I also think @Barbara S did the right thing in actually researching the term, so I'm happy to go with that. Thanks, Barbara!

PK 12:31 AM  

Who are you and what have you done with Rex?

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

So glad someone asked about this!

thefogman 9:35 AM  

Had TeE and FeNSI. Did I like it? NAH !!!

spacecraft 11:18 AM  

Please don't tell me that MEETCUTE is a real thing. How can anyone mangle the English language so badly? I filled it in because there was no other choice.

I am way far away from OFC on this one. The no-revealer theme is just OK, and the fill? ATAT? OOFS plural? Not "ooves?" And how about EXCELAT? If that's not an AP I don't know what is. Then we come to FONSI. Outside of Happy Days, I never heard of this guy, or even his 13x platinum (?? Really??) song.

All I can figure is that Mr. Cruz and OFC are buds. Me? IMIN a generous mood today, so I can manage a par rating. You know, sometimes even when you hit it off the TOE, it goes in.

Burma Shave 12:10 PM  


the LOCAL anchor said, “AW SHUCKS,


rondo 1:58 PM  

I was aware of the Despacito phenomenon, but in my world FONSI stands for Findings Of No Significant Impact, having to do with environmental studies preceding certain construction projects. A much more detailed and involved subject than TAR. So don’t get me going.

Like OFL, I at first thought of something doing with The Grateful Dead. But the puz was just FUL of it.

DORA Maar gets a posthumous and TASTEFUL yeah baby in perhaps her only shot at it.

Better than some, STALER than some. Meh.

Diana, LIW 2:27 PM  

Put me in the Grateful Dead camp with OFL and @Rondo.

This wasn't a "stemwinder" for me, but I did notice that clue. All my wristwatches (yes, yes - no cell phone for me) are classic Timex battery-operated ones. But Mr. W has a Rolex (whoo hoo) and a couple other fancy schmancy watches that need to be worn or wound. So off he went and bought some "watch winders," AKA automatic stemwinders. Didn't even know they existed, but they will automatically twirl your hoity-toity watch for you so it won't lose more than a minute or two a month. Unlike my Timex, which is perfect. Rant over.

Happy Wednesday, all.

Diana, the still-feeling-great Lady-in-Waiting

leftcoaster 4:01 PM  

Dutifully worked my way down to the SW without catching on that FULs were the KEYS to the theme.

CARE[FUL]BEARS was least helpful on the way. Hadn't heard of CARE BEARS. But, okay, I gesso. After getting the conceit, liked AW[FUL]SHUCKS best.

MEET CUTE was a "what's that?", but there were a couple of better, longer downs making up for it. Last letter in was the O in the unknown FONSI. It went well with the golf club's TOE

I'll have to borrow @rondo's Meh on this one.

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