Cartoonist Hollander / THU 4-9-20 / Group HQ'd in Ramallah / Trick to increase one's efficiency in modern lingo / Sea creatures that move by jet propulsion / Frost formed from fog

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed, but with very few problems)

THEME: MORSE CODE (58A: Method of communication needed to understand 17-, 25-, 36- and 49-Across) — clues require that their dots and dashes be read as letters; looks like "." represents "e" and "-" represents "t" in MORSE CODE, so if you swap those symbols out for their respective letters, you get a regular old clue with a regular old answer:

Theme answers:
  • PUT ON HOLD (17A: -able)
  • SCHNOZZOLA (25A: Big nos.)
  • MADE A CHOICE (36A: Op-ed)
  • ROAD MARKER (49A: Mil. post, say)
Word of the Day: NICOLE Hollander (12D: Cartoonist Hollander) —
Nicole Hollander (born April 25, 1939) is an American cartoonist and writer. Her daily comic strip Sylvia was syndicated to newspapers nationally by Tribune Media Services. [...] During the 1970s, she was the graphic designer of a feminist publication, The Spokeswoman, where she had the opportunity to transform the newsletter into a monthly magazine. While designing pages, she occasionally added her own political illustrations. "Around 1978," she created a comic strip, The Feminist Funnies, later introducing the character who became Sylvia. Selections from The Feminist Funnies appeared as a calendar, Witches, Pigs and Fairy Godmothers: The 1978 Feminist Funnies Appointment Calendar, and in her 1979 book, I'm in Training to Be Tall and Blonde. The book's success led Field Newspaper Syndicate to distribute Sylvia to newspapers as a daily comic strip starting in 1981. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hollander drew comics for Mother Jones magazine. Many of these did not include the Sylvia character. (wikipedia)

• • •

The theme left me a little cold. Something about MORSE CODE feels musty and bygone and played out (a bit like the bowling theme felt yesterday)—even the theme answer SCHNOZZOLA feels like something no one has said since the '50s—and whatever aha-moment there was was weak and came early. I had to hack my way to PUT ON HOLD, having (at that point) no idea how you got there from [-able] (which, side note: having an apparent suffix as your clue, not thrilling). I decided to hunt the theme clue early, just in case it gave me any help. At first, it didn't—or, I didn't figure out the correct "method of communication" right away, but at least I had an Idea of what I was looking for. Then before I tried to work my way out of that NW corner, my eye caught 12D: Cartoonist Hollander (NICOLE), which was thrilling for me, as she is a really wonderful and important comics artist and I rarely see those in the puzzle (beyond the usual suspects) and I almost Never see women comics artists, so the thrill of recognition led me into the NE. That corner fell fast, and then, with --HN---OLA in place, I took one look at [Big nos.] and realized it was supposed to mean [Big nose] and thus SCHNOZZOLA. Then I went back and looked at [-able], finally saw that [Table] could mean PUT ON HOLD, and bam—I went down and wrote in MORSE CODE. So I was basically done with the theme and any interest it might hold ... here:

Now it's always possible that a theme might still hold surprises for you even if you know the basic gimmick. You can look forward to the clever ways the theme might play out. But the nature of this theme means that I am basically "looking forward" to abbrs. and hyphens, so ... nothing very thrilling was gonna happen in those theme clues. Theme answers could've been strong on their own, just as stand-alone answers, but MADE A CHOICE and ROAD MARKER just fizzled. Undoubtedly there is cleverness to this concept, and it's executed just fine, so there's nothing really Bad happening here. It just felt quaint. And adequate. Not the Thursday sizzle I might've hoped for.

Luckily there are some more exciting moments in the fill. I hate the *term* LIFEHACK, but as a crossword answer, I really like its currency and liveliness (40A: Trick to increase one's efficiency, in modern lingo). Genuine moment of audible happiness as I threw that one down. And I've been *waiting* for PLUOT to come into my grid and fill it with deliciousness, just as it fills my recent summers with deliciousness (62A: Hybrid fruit). The plum / apricot hybrid world is fascinating to me. There are PLUOTs, plumcots, apriums, apriplums ... pretty sure you can't go wrong with any of them. Anyway, the odd letter combo in PLUOT has had me thinking for a while that it would make a nice 5-letter crossword answer. And here it is! Cool. I am going to grudgingly admire CARAD as well, even though I'm half-mad that I could not parse it At All (33D: It might be shot on a winding seaside road). No way I was looking for a two-word answer in a five-letter space. Even though the exact image that came into my head when I read the clue was very CAR AD-ish, my brain insisted on trying to find a word, not a phrase. Had CARA- and instead of just moving on, I stubbornly ran the alphabet, completely missed that "D" might work, angrily stared at CARA-, and then suddenly got it. Way way Way more of an aha-moment than the theme ever provided.

Five things:
  • 43A: "That one's on me" ("MY FAULT") — ick to the stilted clue phrasing here, double ick because the stiltedness is so obviously the result of the clue writer wanting to mislead you (into thinking, perhaps, that someone is buying someone else a drink, maybe)
  • 8D: Berries, for breakfast cereal, e.g. (ADD-INS) — This is not a cereal term. This is a froyo term. You can put berries on your cereal, and thus "add" them "in" to your cereal, I guess, but you would never call them ADD-INS. Like, ever. "Billy, do you want any ADD-INS for your oatmeal?" No.
  • 25D: Where to get a polysomnogram (SLEEP LAB) — easy enough, unless (like me) you read this as the clue for *26*-Down, where you have CO-A in place and think "Holy *&^% is this COMA!? Wow... dark."
  • 38D: Eschew dinner company (EAT ALONE) — two days in a row for "eschew" clues (yesterday, in reference to AMISH and military service). I like the word as much as the next person, but it wears out its welcome pretty quick. 
  • 51D: Big ___ (MAC) — I haven't been to McDonald's for like two decades ... no, wait, I did pop in for some fries once when I was on the road, and definitely tried to evoke some kind of nostalgic feeling a year or two ago by getting a Shamrock Shake (warning: don't do this—they are horribly synthetic tasting, the wrong kind of green ... just not the '80s-era green glop I was looking for). Annnnyway, my point is that, faced with [Big --C] I had nothing. Even when I got to [Big -AC] my first thought was "What's a Big SAC? That can't be a baseball thing, I'd know it ... is it a spider thing? Do spiders have big sacs? ..." But it was an iconic sandwich, after all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. ETS = Educational Testing Service, yuck, give me the extra-terrestrials any day (57D: H.S. exam org.)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Van Buren 6:26 AM  

I have no idea how the 5D clue leads to the 5D answer

pkelly 6:49 AM  

For Van Buren: It is what a grate (fireplace) might be full of.

Joaquin 6:50 AM  

The fill went in easily enough, but … I could have stared at the finished puzzle for a week and not figured out the *theme* (if you can call a trick like that a theme). I finally gave up and read the notes. Very clever, or at least more clever than me!

Joaquin 6:51 AM  

@ Van Buren (6:26) - A fireplace grate full of ash.

Loren Muse Smith 6:56 AM  

Oh. My. God. What a satisfying aha moment when I finally saw how this works. Unlike Rex, I finished with no idea what was going on. @Joaqin - I had just about given up when I took a closer look at the clues. So clever. I speak for the non-Morse-code-knowing solvers when I say that it’s gettable without the pre-knowledge that a T is a dash and an E is a dot.

Watching YouTube here with my crappy internet is beyond exasperating. But I tell ya, I’ll tolerate that little spinning circle for any LIFE HACK montage. Where do they think of this stuff? Can’t imagine the epic fails I would have if I actually tried to do that deal with the rubber band, odd sock, Saran wrap, and penny.

MY FAULT crossing TRUMP – Yeah. Right.

“My treat” before MY FAULT. Extremely clever clue. I have to disagree with Rex on that one.

“It might be shot on a winding seaside road” - my first thought was chase scene. I despise chase scenes in any movie and fast-forward. So formulaic. This said by a Hallmark movie watcher. Sheesh.

I can’t tell if nautilus is Latin or Greek. The etymology dictionary says both. Hmm. Well, if it’s Greek, we could argue that its plural is nautilodes (pronounced /nau TIL oh deez). Those of you who are new to this site – long story.

Loved the clue for ART. “Intriguing discovery in a cave.” Ok. Game on. What else would be intriguing? How ‘bout a copy of a Whirlpool dishwasher manual. A six-inch replica of the Statue of Liberty. A tuning fork. Waldo.

I’ve never said ROAD MARKER. We always say mile marker. This summer, I was driving into Raleigh while my son was on his way out of Raleigh. As we were talking on the phone, we realized that we’d be passing each other on I-40. This was, mystifyingly, so exciting. So we started checking in with each other, reporting our mile markers. For some reason, to wave at each other was gonna be huge. Huge. I was mentally practicing how I was going to wave – roll the window down, arm all the way out, maybe honk a little, just a little, mouth-open smile, maybe the thumbs-up or peace sign I hadn’t decided yet. So about 5 minutes to go-time, he called and was like, Mom. I totally messed up. I thought I could pull off and get gas and still make it, but you’re gonna pass while I’m still at the gas station. Want me to pull back on so we can wave? That he offered, that I considered saying yes, how stupid can you get? I told him not to worry about it, but I was hugely disappointed.

Alex – I have a special place in my heart for MORSE CODE because of the scene in Independence Day where we all decide to fight back against the aliens and communicate this plan across the world using Morse code because the aliens won’t be able to understand it. When I’m describing this scene to anyone – ok, I swear this is true – I have to be careful ‘cause I get choked up and understand that this would be pretty creepy since I’m grown woman, and it’s only a movie.

And Alex again – the clever way you chose clues whose dash or dot was so disguised and natural. Bravo.

Lewis 6:58 AM  

Crackling theme, and I say this as one who only knows S and O in Morse Code, from SOS. I uncovered the revealer MORSE CODE before completely filling in any of the theme answers, got the gimmick at [Op-Ed], and the decoding led me to the other theme answers, so the theme fully involved me, and that's the best kind of theme, IMO.

But what made it crackling? First, coming up with this idea for a theme, which is, use the Morse Code dot and dash to create clues that could be bonafide clues -- for words *other* than the answers they represent in this puzzle. Wow. That's a brilliant idea. And then successfully executing it! Especially with the dash-for-t, these theme clues are hard to come up with, IMO.

So props on this puzzle, Alex, on its concept, and how it drew me in for a most lovely solve. Thank you, sir!

kitshef 7:14 AM  

Hated it. And really, this puzzle was doomed in the first eight clues I read, which included:
_____ Kelley, Kansas Governor
Cartoonist Hollander
Actress/singer Kravitz.

When three of your first eight clues are unknown proper names, it takes a miracle for a puzzle to win you back, and today there was no miracle. Any chance to do so was lost when soon after I came to ____ Crawley.

On to Friday.

GILL I. 7:17 AM  

It's hard to follow our resident OPTIMISts but this was plain awful. OK, I thought the concept was pretty good but man, you start off with a million names and you're going to get the stink eye from me. LANA RALPH LARA NICOLE crossing ZOE. The only thing I like up there was ASSAD crossing ASHOLD.
Yeah, it was MY treat before MY FAULT. I also did what @Rex did. I went looking for the revealer because nothing was making sense. I had no problem getting MORSE CODE because Alex didn't fill that section with a ton of names. I don't know MORSE CODE but I got the gist of what was going on here. Went. on to fill in the blanks. Meh...No joy in Mudville.
I got to the end at 65A and wondered who the hell gives a SLED as a Christmas gift?
An so it went. Maybe one smile at SCHNOZZOLA and thinking of Durante singing Inka Dinka Doo....and that was before I was born!

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

With MY and U, I had MYROUND for the longest time (oh for the days when one could say that), considerably slowing my time. Also had to come here to see how it worked out. Pretty sweet.

LeaveItToYourGoat 7:24 AM  

Ugh. Really didn't like this one.

My solve mirrored Rex's up top... Got PUT ON HOLD and -CHNOZZOLA thanks to the crosses, but had no idea what the gimmick was, so I went to the revealer, andddd still didn't get it. I mean, I picked up on the "dits" and "dahs" in the clues, but couldn't translate them until I got stuck on the last two themers and finally figured out that dah = T and dit = E.

Rex took the words right out of my mouth RE: LIFE HACK. I dislike a whole lot of modern internet lingo, but I have a special hatred for LIFE HACK in particular. Nevertheless, it was briefly satisfying to drop it into the grid without any crossings.

How does "Grateful?" = ASH?

N AS in Nancy. Hate it.

The clues for EST and ETS were needlessly difficult.

The clue for PODIUM really should've had a "?" at the end.

My only mistake was at HITE / TAR. I really should know TAR by now, but that's just one that never seems to stick for me.

Diver 7:24 AM  

Morse is a pretty much a dead language these days; might as well have a Sanskrit or Coptic theme. Puzzle was an OK solve though.

Frantic Sloth 7:34 AM  

The theme.

My head.

Hungry Mother 7:34 AM  

Funny, I was classified as an Intermediate Speed Radio Operator when I was in the Army. This meant that I could send and receive MORSECODE at above some inconsequential rate. Inconsequential because I never learned MORSECODE. Funnier, because I passed a proficiency test which gave me an increment in my monthly pay. So I wasn’t helped in this theme. Anyway, I figured it out.

kaoconno 7:39 AM  

Because a fireplace grate is full of ashes.

J. DeLorean 7:39 AM  

Ever notice that CAR ADs more often than not feature vehicles doing illegal stuff?

amyyanni 7:44 AM  

Hats off Alex. You got me, in a good way. Thanks for the Irene Cara clip; "Fame" is one of my favorite musicals. The song "Hot Lunch" is such fun!

pabloinnh 7:49 AM  

My solving journey, like that of @Lewis, took me down to the bottom where MORSECODE had to be right, but then I stumbled around, eventually filling in whole long acrosses without seeing what was going on, until -able, which jogged my memory enough to see "table" for PUTONHOLD and the fog cleared and I had one of those ahas! that make Thursdays so much fun. I actually learned the whole Morse code when I was in the Boy Scouts, but besides SOS and . for E and -for T I couldn't tell you many more letters, so thankful for these.

Like @LMS, really wanted CARCHASE, which did not come close to fitting. Also if I'm channel surfing and run into Independence Day I will watch the whole thing and cheer at the end.

And no rant from OFL on TRUMPS? Que pasa?

Double birthday in our family, so we'll see how Zoom works for that. I think it will be just like not being together. Virtual unreality.

Thanks for the fun, AES. A very nice distraction indeed.

SouthsideJohnny 7:54 AM  

I couldn’t discern the theme and today’s trivia was definitely not in my wheelhouse, so I never really got any rhythm going and finally gave up. It’s probably a good Thursday puzzle for experienced solvers, but at my level it was pretty much unsolvable as the theme entries and answers contributed nothing. Hopefully Sunday will be a little more “noob-friendly”.

Preferred Customer 7:54 AM  

Hi, I have to put in a vote for chase scenes. The Mini Cooper chase scene from the Italian job, the door chase scene from Monsters Inc, the running chase scene fron Memento. They're some of the best and most original parts of movies.


Joe Bohanon 7:58 AM  

How does "Prime Factor" lead to "one"?

Joaquin 7:59 AM  

Note to those who are complaining that the name of the Kansas Governor, LAURA Kelly is obscure: It may be less obscure after today.

A while back this Democrat governor declared a "shelter in place" order but yesterday the Republican legislature overturned the part of the order relating to churches. So Easter services will be allowed, with no restrictions on crowds and no requirement for social distancing.

So ... I'm guessing she'll be in the next news cycle, and perhaps linger there for a few days.

Frantic Sloth 8:17 AM  

Dot. Dash. E. T., Morse code home!

Annoyed with myself that my impatience ruined what would have been a good "aha!" moment. On the other hand, my Morse code pants have been in mothballs for ages, so the likelihood of experiencing said moment would have been ZILCH.

@LMS Your avatar. Waldo!!
Killin' me here!

QuasiMojo 8:25 AM  

I've never learned Morse Code so I was at a disadvantage today but I managed to fill it all in. The NE corner was tough because I put in AX HAND, thinking it was a person. And for a moment I thought of Schnozzolion or something as a very large number. Lol. I put in SLEEP SPA before LAB thinking it was one of these phony new treatments for trendy neurasthenics. My only other hiccup was putting in CANON for the thing taking a SHOT on a seaside road. Oh and I had DORA before NORA and then finally CORA. Is that the Dame Maggie Smith part? That show started off really well, with great characters and period detail, but the more popular it got the ZANIER it became and by the end it was just hours of CORA tossing out second-rate zingers like Joan Rivers on the red carpet.

Glad to see some OPTIMISM in a puzzle that includes ASSAD, PUTIN and TRUMP. We need it.

Frantic Sloth 8:36 AM  

@Joe Bohanon 758am It's kind of a play on words. A prime number being only equally divisible by itself and the number one means 1 is a "prime factor" of every prime number.
e.g., 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, etc.

Frantic Sloth 8:43 AM  

@Quasi 825am Cora was the part played by Elizabeth McGovern.

I'm just little miss know-it-all today. How obnoxious. Guess I really, really needed to suss that theme myself...

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Glad he didn’t freak out about Assad. Maybe he’s maturing. If only they’d clued Trumps differently then I’d know for sure.

Travis 8:53 AM  

Can someone explain 47A Sailor = “TAR”? Olde Timey crosswordese? Crossing that proper name I didn’t know bogged me down.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

NIT. 1 is not a prime number but 2 is.

Birchbark 8:57 AM  

I live on a state highway across the street from a mil. post, that is to say a ROAD MARKER, which says "Mile 92."

Oh, for a good CICADA song on a summer afternoon. Ideal to doze by. I heard a few frogs down the hill a couple of evenings ago, when it was warm enough to leave the porch door open for a little while. And birdsongs in the meadow this morning.

LANA Del Rey -- Quality songwriter, great voice, redeems one's curiosity about what the kids call music these days. I learned of her on the long Saturday-morning drives into Minneapolis for my daughter's voice lesson (we take turns choosing the music).

TJS 8:58 AM  

Whatever, Rex, whatever.

Names,names,names. Atleast the puzzle was doable without knowing the conceit, as long as you suspended your curiosity. Sorry I missed the thrill of entering "Nicole" and "Pluot". There must be something wrong with me.

The articles on John Prine in the Chicago Sun Times and Tribune (the latter an old Ebert column) make for great reading on an important artist.

Suzie Q 9:00 AM  

I really wanted the countess to be Violet.
Bowling again as well as Old Town Road.
Too many names that I just didn't care about. I finished the grid but never even tried to figure out the trick so technically DNF.
@ GILL I. beat me to it. No joy in Mudville.

Nampa 9:00 AM  

-Hanks bu- no -hanks

Christopher 9:01 AM  

Thanks to people for explaining ASH at 5D. However, the clue should be 'gratefull'. That missing L makes it a bad clue, IMHO. TERRIBLE pun. I solved this puzzle with no idea what was going on. AND the puzzle kept going to a gray grid and winding back the clock, so my solve time was even faster than it should have been. Can someone explain to me why, when I click on articles, and the puzzle, I often see a gray background now? I'm using a Mac, if that isn't already obvious. Thanks.

OffTheGrid 9:06 AM  

@LMS You pointed out TRUMPS crossing MY FAULT. YOU LIE is nearby, too.

@GILL I. If you live in the northland where there is snow and you're a kid, a sled is a great Christmas gift.

@FranticSloth. Loved your 7:34 post.

This was not a great puzzle. I worked at it and completed about the lower 3/4. As others have mentioned, the north was PPP laden (not laten). I just couldn't get done without a couple of "reveals" to assist me. I thought the theme was without cleverness or joy.

QuasiMojo 9:08 AM  

@Frantic, thank you! You are a godsend. I couldn't believe it when I first saw Elizabeth McGovern in that show. The last time I'd seen her was in a big flop called Lovesick, I think, back in the 80s. I never "got" her appeal. Your ET post was very funny. More of same.

TJS 9:10 AM  

@Joaquin, 7:59. I would love to have surveillance on all those Republican pols who voted for opening the churches to see how many actually attend church with their families on Easter Sunday.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Hands up if you remember Jimmy Durante!? Kind of a stand up comic/singer/emcee from 50s and early 60s TeeVee. Only person I can recall who used SCHNOZZOLA. Self-referencially, at that.

Off to the wiki...

Everything you want, or don't, to know:

It appears that he coined the word.

Z 9:15 AM  

So a visual pun of sorts. I like that part fine. But it is sort of limited. I guess you could probably work an S in there (dot dot dot looking like an ellipsis), Put me somewhere between Rex and @LMS on this one. I sort of figured out at SCHNOZZOLA like Rex, but didn’t completely grasp the entire MORSE CODE aspect until the very end.

Anyone else smile at the Old Town Road clue and video? Somebody asked the other day how that song managed to stay #1 for 19 weeks (or whatever the figure was). I just read that it was very popular because TikTok users found it very memeable. I can see it, which just makes me feel very old.

Speaking of memeable - @LMS’s nautilodes musings have me imagining nautili and octopodes snapping their, uh, fingers and dancing as they prepare to fight in 1950’s NYC. Tony would have to be with the Nautili and Bernardo would be the leader of the Octopodes. Officer Krupke would be a squid. Tony and Maria want to pluralize together, but it ends tragically. Somewhere there’s a place for us to pluralize in peace.

@anon8:56 - True, which is probably why it was clued as a prime factor.

@TJS - On a somber note, here’s a beautiful tribute to John Prine from Colbert and Brandi Carlile.

Petsounds 9:16 AM  

@VanBuren: I got it only with the crosses too and had to stare at ASH for probably 30 seconds before I saw "Grateful."

@Loren Muse Smith: "MY FAULT crossing TRUMP – Yeah. Right." Thank you for that! And yes, we say "mile marker" around here too.

This puzzle took longer than it should have for me, since my mother's nickname in college was Dash. Her roommate's actual name was Dot, she was in college from 1940 to 1944, and the rest is history. It was SCHNOZZOLA that broke it for me. Loved loved loved seeing NICOLE Hollander mentioned. I was lucky enough to meet her when I lived in Chicago, and she was as delightful as her "Sylvia" strip, required daily reading in the Sun-Times. She also wrote a Jefferson Award-winning play, "Sylvia's Real Good Advice." Enjoyed DISCOERA and UMPIRED and MRTOAD, but overall, it just lacked that Thursday sizzle. When I started solving, I was looking, and hoping, for rebuses.

And a big thank you to one of you--and I don't remember which of you it was--who, a while back, recommended the BBC series "Detectorists." One night this week, searching for something new and different, I decided to check it out. And it is just delightful! Has a personality all its own. The quiet humor comes from the really excellent writing. It's wonderful! So thank you, Whoever You Are!

Adam Lipkin 9:17 AM  

According to XWordInfo, this is the fifth time this creator has gone with "ETS" as an answer, and looks like the first four were some variation of "aliens," so I guess he wanted a change? It's not one of the clues he lists as having been rewritten.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Kitself @7:14
I agree...what is it about the later in the week we get, suddenly names fill the grid. Today 10 by my count. Names are interesting because you typically either get them, or you do not. There is no 'solve' possible (Using the Google machine doesn't count) so you are left to the crosses. In the North section today there are 7 clues FOUR of them are names! Did I log into my NYT X-word app and it somehow accessed the People Magazine puzzle?
And don't even get me started on the constant and increasing use of foreign words in an English language x-word! Why oh why is this allowed? On any given day we now have to understand Spanish, French, Latin and who knows what else? Most of these words are "easy" and straight forward clues.... basically saying "Spanish word for dog" or somesuch, which means if you speak Spanish, this is easier than the easiest of Monday clues. However, if you don't know Spanish it is like the hardest of Saturday clues with no help except to solve all the crosses. And you can't really even guess at the solve, BECAUSE IT'S A FORIGN LANGUAGE!

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

I don't buy the ASH clue. the wiki: " A grate (or fire grate) is a frame, usually of iron bars, to retain fuel for a fire." This conforms to my recollection. The grate can't HOLD ashes, simply because it's an open frame, which it has to be in order for air to drive the burn. The ashes end up in the back of the hearth, if that's how you want to measure, or the firebox if that's how you want to measure. If you build your wood pile directly on the hearth/firebox, then there's nothing to be grate full for, now is there? Anal enough?

Nancy 9:25 AM  

So I guess that a dot = an E and a dash = a T, right?

There's nothing like building a puzzle around a system of communication that almost no one has ever studied or ever used. Must read both the blog and the comments to see how universally true that is. Maybe there are people here who were Army signalmen back in the l940's? As for me, all I know about the Morse Code is SOS. I think that's dot dot dot/dash dash dash/dot dot dot?

My "Aha Moment" came after filling in the grid and going back to re-read the theme clues. And then...well, to tell the truth, I was rather delighted. I smiled, truly I did. But it was only after solving.

Also, Alex, many too many names -- even when you didn't have to. Take the NE corner: when you have NICOLE and ZOE crossing each other (not a good thing), there is no reason on earth to clue REMIX (16A) that way. Absolutely none.

CARAD was my DOOK of the day: I absolutely didn't see it until coming here. I had no idea what a CARAD was.

But despite my many nits, I found the puzzle entertaining.

Hungry Mother 9:31 AM  

A Prime is a positive integer that has only two multiplicative factors: 1 and itself.

Unknown 9:32 AM  

Even once Rex explained, I found it a huge stretch. I could get really picky and say the dash wasn't even a dash but a hyphen. And Morse Code isn't needed to understand those answers, it's needed to understand the clues that will yield those answers. Didn't love this one. Interesting idea, just clumsily executed. Teresa

Joe Dipinto 9:36 AM  

The Long And Winding Road.

Frantic Sloth 9:45 AM  

@Anonymous 856am I stand corrected. 1 is not a prime and 2 is. Thank you.

Little miss not-know-it-all-but-embarrassed-it-all

Wm. C. 9:47 AM  

TERRIBLE puzzle!

I had no idea how "Morse Code" (which I got after most of the crosses were in place) played to the fill until I came here.

Who the heck knows what the codes for . or - are? OK after filling Schnozzola in from crosses, I guessed that somehow "Big nos." had to relate to "Big nose." But still couldn't see the trick. Now, I think if I had written out the four fills on top of each other outside the puzzle, I could have figured it out, but I didn't.

Also, there were too many "I have no ideas" here, for medium-hard day (Thursday) of the week. Fatima? Mr. Toad? (even though my brother had a jeep that he towed behind his RV, with that as its license plate) Macy? Nautili? Lana? Ralph? Ad-ins? Asana? See? Nicole? Ax-head? Laura? I-Tina? Rime? Disco-Era? Life-hack? Pluot? Sleep-lab? Cora? Cicadas? Car-ad?

Sheesh! Thanks for nothing, Shortz!

Samuel Morse 9:49 AM  

@I Don't Know Morse Code whiners - First, it's not a language, it's an alphabet translation.
Further, I'm not an idiot you know. You look at the letters, know that putting something into code is manually is time consuming, so I made the two most common letters one character apiece. You know, for your convenience.

Oh, the whole telecommunications reality? You're welcome. Friggin ingrates.

PapaLeRoux 9:56 AM  

Morse code users talk about dits and dahs, not dots and dashes.

Richard 9:58 AM  

@LMS: Your list of "intriguing discovery" items in a cave had me tears-streaming-down-my-face laughing out loud. Hadn't happened in a while. Thx; made my day.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

the easiest way to figure out ONE is simple: by definition a prime number has just two factors, itself and 1. 2, as you can see, is the only even prime number; all others are odd. but, of course, not all odd numbers are prime. one of the neat things eggheads do with supercomputers is find the next few prime numbers. IIRC, there's no algorithm for finding them, just brute force, so to get more, they need bigger supercomputers. your tax dollars at work.

bauskern 10:01 AM  

Wow, Rex really knows how to suck all the joy out of a clever, tricky crossword puzzle. I went into the archives & did the April 1, 2010 puzzle, and saw that Rex was ranting away back then (although he did chime in in the comments section). And I thought, Wow, these puzzles have been making him miserable for over ten years now. What a masochist he must be. But why inflict his misery on us?

Nancy 10:02 AM  

So as you know, I can't provide any info on Star Wars, Harry Potter, or GOT. But I'm second to none on Downton Abbey. Repeat after me:

Robert Crawley is the Earl of Grantham. As such, he's known as Lord Grantham, not Lord Crawley.

His wife is CORA Crawley and she's known as the Countess of Grantham. Or "Milady". If you thought she was Maggie Smith, no, Maggie Smith is the mother of Lord Grantham.

Ma's name is VIOLET Crawley. But she is also known as a Grantham. In her case, she is the Dowager Countess of Grantham. To distinguish her from CORA. She is called Lady Grantham. But, like CORA, she can also be called "Milady.

It's all very confusing. Though, I assume, not to the Brits.

You're welcome, everyone.

Frantic Sloth 10:05 AM  

@Quasi 908am You're welcome, my dear. Re: Elizabeth McGovern I think she's more attractive now than in her "starlet" days and have to say I'm lucky never to have seen Lovesick.
Frankly, the only other thing I remember her for was Ragtime (1981) where she played Evelyn Nesbit.

The Wiki on E.N.

Wick 10:05 AM  

How do you clue REMIX, and then not cross it with the actual artist of the song for NAS. 'X as in Y' clues are garbage.

Sir Hillary 10:07 AM  

Didn't care for this one. Found it a bit of a snooZOLA.

Being a Southern California boy in the early 80s, I was well-versed in surfer-dude-meets-Valley-girl speak, and often added "ola" to any noun or adjective. So, something tacky became something "tack-ola". When I went to college in upstate NY, my first best buddy there was from Albany, and I think he thought I was insane for speaking like this. About a week after we met, he bought me a dry-erase message board for my door which had "Memola" as its heading and looked like a Crayola crayon box. Great guy.

No clue what LIFEHACK means, and no desire to learn. A term I dislike these days is "pro tip".

Great to see Irene Cara. My wife was a student at the NY High School for the Performing Arts during the filming of "Fame", and she actually has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene as an extra. One of her fellow attendees was crossword stalwart Esai Morales.

Rob 10:12 AM  

Didn't like this at all. I was never *stuck* and I finished in a reasonable timeframe, but as I entered the last letter and got the "Congratulations!" message, I had no idea why several of my answers were right.

The theme is... I'm sorry, no one has Morse code letters committed to memory other than "SOS." I have problems with several of the answers as well.

I'll grant that never having heard of a sailor being called a TAR is probably me, but really, that's the best clue you could come up with? A SALT, sure, but TAR isn't common.

I never like AX vs. AXE, but an AXHEAD doesn't split a log without the rest of the tool. Technically true? Maybe, but it's a stretch.

I had to have someone explain N AS in Nancy. I'm mainly familiar with the NATO one, but is there a standard phonetic alphabet that uses Nancy for N? Because if not you're just subbing in whatever random N word or name you felt like.

Frantic Sloth 10:12 AM  

@Joe Dipinto That scene creeps me TF out. I find it eerily portentous.

Z 10:14 AM  

Is 1 prime? Allegedly written for a sixth grade audience.

Lots of complaints about names, so I counted the PPP. 22 of 74, 30%. That’s highish, but not usually enough to get this much complaining. Looking at my circled clues, the reason becomes pretty obvious, 13 of the 22 are in the top half of the puzzle where we all start. So that’s roughly a PPP density of 13/37, or 35%, which is over that 33% line. I’m going to guess that the south (a modest ~24%) was easier for people than the north.

RooMonster 10:14 AM  

Hey All !
Add me to the group (six feet apart, natch) who didn't grok the theme. Still managed to finish puz, albeit a DNF. It was in that rascally SW corner. YesterPuz's ugh was NW, todays is SW. ETS as clued, ugh. MRTOAD, FATIMA, DEANS, ughs.

Speaking of ughs, holy name dropping, Batman! That N Center area! Dang. LAURA, ASSAD, LANA, RALPH, even ITINA sneaking in. Seemed lots o' PPP today in general.

Would've enjoyed puz more had I figured out the concept (thank you Captain Obvious!). But still liked it.

Chase Scenes - I think the best one I've seen is in a movie called Ronin. Starring Robert DENIRO and Jean Reno. Much better(to me, don't hurl anything!) than the Bullitt chase. The Ronin one is about 15 minutes or so.

@CT2Napa from YesterPuz - who provided a link to animal sounds -
I perused it, and came across the absolute best one ever for this group
A Ferret is a DOOK!!

Two F's

TJS 10:16 AM  

@Z, Thank you. That one gets me every time. Tears in my eyes right now, and I'm one of the lucky ones with five that won't leave me alone.

Frantic Sloth 10:19 AM  

@Samuel Morse 949am Apologies and guffaws!

Frantic Sloth 10:34 AM  

@Z 915am I'm waaaaay over my allotment, but I just had to thank you for that clip. Sobbing now. Like @TJS 1016 that song just always breaks my heart.

pmdm 10:42 AM  

The PPP bothered me and I never understood the theme until explained to me. I guess what is why my solving experience was not so good.

I seem to remember from a numbers theory class I took in grad school that you can devise an equation for generating prime numbers. The only problem, you can only devise it if you know the prime numbers you are looking for. Not much of a help.

Ethan Taliesin 10:46 AM  

I like the "This one's on me" clue. It doesn't sound stilted to me.

Grid was Tue/Wed level despite the morse code thing, which I didn't understand while completing. That's the thing with timing yourself--are you going to waste precious time thinking about what's going on with the theme or do you just keep filling in the boxes? We all know the answer to this question

Ernonymous 10:47 AM  

I could not get much done before bed, but I had MORSE CODE. I couldn't sleep and woke up at 3am and started working on the puzzle. I got 3 theme answers and I could not figure out what this had to do with MORSE Code, which I learned as a kid because my father was a sailor and obsessed with it and insisted we learn it. I had a Morse Code poster hanging on back of my bedroom door.
I laid back down, shut my eyes and tried to think. I just got pissed off and I didn't want to go look up the meaning of the theme. I knew T was a dash too. Finally figured it out and then slept until 9:30am. Nothing liked getting aggravated in your sleep! I was looking at the answers where the trick was in the clues! DAH DAH dit dit and all that sort of rot!

Whatsername 10:50 AM  

Was expecting a tough one today but really had no trouble. Clever theme and so subtly embedded that it didn’t reveal itself until I was finished. Liked 5D, Grateful = ASH. A few tough proper names but redeemed by some exceptional fill like CICADAS, DISCOERA, CARAD and LIFEHACK. Good one Alex!

@Loren (6:56) You should receive some kind of an award for that avatar today. ASS AD! I’m still laughing.

@Joaquin (7:59) I had not heard that news about the state of Kansas. A shocking decision which I sincerely hope will not turn out to be a tragic one. I lived in Salina long ago and found it a place of good, decent people but a bit provincial. Even as a native midwesterner, I often felt outcast and isolated because I wasn’t a 6th generation Kansan.

xyz 10:56 AM  

I didn't read all to see if anyone corrected the anonymous poster, but ONE is not a prime but it is a factor of a prime

Prime (X = factor) 1 has only one solution

Too many proper names really detracted from this puzzle.

Perry 10:58 AM  

I thought PLUOT was a weird word choice. If you happen to know the fruit, chances are that you love it and know it well. If you don't know it, chances are you really don't know it. I have a pluot tree and a plumcot tree in my yard, so I knew it immediately. But I could see that being a hard fill for a lot of people.

Carola 11:00 AM  

Ingenious, loved it. On the puzzle side, a great theme idea with such cleverly misleading clues; on the solving side, the gratifying experience of teetering on the verge of "I'm too dumb to understand this!" and then the burst of enlightenment.

SCHNOZZOLA x SLEEP LAB caught my eye. Some apnea questions in our household; scheduled SLEEP study now on hold.

Thanks to @loren and @OffTheGrid for pointing out MY FAULT x TRUMP and YOU LIE. Continuing to mine that rich vein, we can also add PODIUM (the daily covid-19 briefings).

Help from previous puzzles: I TINA, LANA, LA LAW.

DevoutAtheist 11:00 AM  

Hopefully the people of Kansas will have more sense than their "leaders" and stay home. Personally it sickens me that religion gets a pass on so many things.

Susan 11:04 AM  

The " -" and ". " stand for "t" and "e"
table; opted
nose, mile post

Barbara S. 11:08 AM  

I've just watched the Brandi Carlile clip. And, maybe because it's dark and rainy here today, I was already feeling blue after seeing these in the puzzle:
Well, RIP John Prine. You captured much truth in your songs. We won't forget you.

OK, trying to shake that off,
1A UNO Possibly dumb question: Why is this a cry from a cardholder?

25A SCHNOZZOLA. Wonderful word. My parents were huge Jimmy Durante fans. What did he always say (I had to look it up): "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."

12D I'm with Rex: I've always adored the cartoons of NICOLE Hollander. I hadn't thought of her in a long time, but her first name came up instantly.

I thought the clues for SLEDS, EST and UMPIRED were all very good.

13D I was sure the answer to log splitter was AXemAn, as in lumberjack, but it didn't slow me down for long.

And I liked the Morse code theme. Thanks to @SamuelMorse for chiming in.

Stay safe, everybody.

egsforbreakfast 11:21 AM  

I seem to recall that most contributors to this blog prefer - . . h. . vs. - . h . .

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

2D NAUTILI. The problem with Latin words like *nautilus* is that they appear almost never in classical antiquity. My Lewis and Short Latin dictionary finds an instance in the "scientist" Pliny, a Latin author. Since the word *nautilus* is so rare, one I guess can assume that it has regular endings, nautilus in the nominative singular, nautili in the genitive singular and nominative plural (as in this puzzle). Lewis and Short gives nautilos as the Greek form, the plural being nautiloi (as in *hoi polloi*). Greek words brought over into English often do so through a Latin filter, hence Odysseus and not the Greek Odysseos. New or rare words in all languages, I think, are going to have normal or regular endings. Hence "I xeroxed an op-ed piece." If *xerox* was a very old word, one might find something weird like "I xerocted something."

Anon. i.e. Poggius

aeevans 11:32 AM  

Sylvia and Nicole Hollander - a giant diamond in the midst of a dreary puzzle - what a treasure. Buy her books!

jae 11:33 AM  

Easy. Another smooth puzzle. Clever, fun, but not really Thurs. tough.

gin UNO
sur MAC
treat FAULT
chase CAR AD @lms et. al.
axeman AXHEAD - Hi @Barbara S.

Seems like DISCO has been discussed recently?

@Petsounds - re: The Detectorists - That would be me. One of the best shows on TV.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Well we do say a "handful of dust" or at least Evelyn Waugh did, so "grateful" re ASH works for me. It's a puzzle, not a lexicon.

Swagomatic 11:39 AM  

I had no clue about the theme until I read the NYT column afterwards. It was a nice puzz, though.

GILL I. 11:44 AM  

@Birchbark 8:57....Your CICADA song brings me to our earth, as it is now, and being able to breath a bit.
In front of our abode, we have a view of this very open field. By law, the field must be cut down once it gets very dry and could become a fire hazard. For the last several years, the owner of that field has been mowing it down to mud and he does this in the Spring. I found out his address and wrote him a letter. I told him that in the Spring, many birds use his property as nesting areas; there was no need to destroy it until at least summer when nesting is over. He never answered back. This year, I guess he wasn't able to hire anyone to do it. It's filled with wild mustard and the tricolored blackbird is back to nesting. We get to see red-tailed hawks, falcons, lots of geese and even some wild turkeys. I hear frogs every night and I bet if I tried hard, I'd hear a CICADA or two. Silver lining during these trying times.

jberg 11:44 AM  

I had to learn Morse in the Boy Scouts, but I don't remember too many letters. The ones I do remember certainly include e and t, and that eventually helped me, but it took a long time -- like @Giovanni, I was looking for some way the answers were in Morse, and they just weren't. Finally, I noticed that nos. could be pronounced 'nose,' and there was SCHNOZZOLA. Then it dawned on me that clues don't usually end with a period, and there it was. I guess you could get away with a -- clue (which is N, if I recall correctly) used as an em dash in a clue.

Anyway, I enjoyed figureing them out; and I loved RIME, PLUOT, CALAD and CARAD in the same puzzle and the excuse to riff on the proper plural of Nautilus (you beat me to it, @Loren!) OTOH, I'm getting tired of ASANA clued as "yoga pose." Can't we come up with something more creative? Twisted position? Stretching a point?

@Nancy, congratulations on getting into the clues!

I think we should come up with a compromise on these religious issues -- you can go to church, but you have to stay there 14 days and then be tested if you have symptoms. That would treat everyone fairly.

Now I have to go look up the difference between PLUOTs, plucots, apriplums, etc.

Nancy 11:47 AM  

I loved the clue "NAS in Nancy" (instead of that stupid rapper) for reasons that should be obvious. I cordially invite all constructors to use it as often as you like.

@Z (9:15) -- Thanks for that enormously moving link. I then went to listen to John Prine sing his own version -- which I found even more moving. If I didn't comment on Prine's death the other day, it's because I didn't know who he was...and that's been my loss over these many years. I can see that he's a songwriter of enormous skill and sensitivity and I promise to catch up with all his major songs in the next few days or so.

Anoa Bob 11:51 AM  

I got up to 12 words per minute using Morse Code (very slow rate) in the Navy over half a century ago, and even then it was becoming antiquated. What's next, hieroglyphics?

When I was just a kid growing up in rural Tennessee in the 50's, almost everyone had fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. One of my chores was cutting firewood. I would only use an AXE on relatively small pieces of wood. To split larger pieces, "logs" as clued, wedges and a sledge hammer were the tools to use. (I still have a set!) I guess you could argue that AXHEAD (13D) is technically a word, but to split wood, you use the whole damn AXE!

Another SLEEP clue! Research psychologists used SLEEP LABs in the early days to record several physiological activities during a sleep episode. That's when a crossword staple, REM, was discovered. These days a "Polysomnogram" is most likely used to test for another xword regular, SLEEP APNEA.

Petsounds 11:54 AM  

@Jae: Thank you! The name of the series stuck in my mind because it's so unusual (as illustrated frequently in Season 1 as everyone calls them "Detectors"). I'm trying to stretch out the next two seasons because that's all there is. Wonderful program!

For everyone else looking for a lovely diversion: "Detectorists" on Acorn. (It was also on Netflix but it might have gone away by now.) It would make a great crossword clue too.

Barbara S. 12:00 PM  

P.S. It's now snowing. They don't call us The Great White North for nothing. But there are junkos scurrying around on the ground dodging snowflakes and eating last year's aster seeds. So that's a silver lining.

Petsounds 12:02 PM  

@Nancy 11:47. In your trip through John Prine's songbook, be sure to listen to Bonnie Raitt's version of his "Angel from Montgomery." Geez, that is on helluva song!

Ernonymous 12:11 PM  

I thought Elizabeth McGovern was an awful actress in Downton Abbey. If you want to see something hysterical, if you have seen Downtown Abbey, this link will crack you up, I guarantee:

Or go to Youtube and Search:

Uptown Downstairs Abbey Part One | Red Nose Day - BBC

There is also a part 2. I'd say one of the top ten funniest things I have ever seen in my life.

It stars many famous actors, including the ladies from Ab Fab and Kim Cattrall (Samantha of Sex in the City) as Lady Crawley. She really captures the terrible acting!

CaryinBoulder 12:16 PM  

I can remember when Thursday puzzles would leave me tied up in knots. While I am absolutely MORSE clueless, I blew through this one in less than half my average Thursday time. Like others, I got the reveal pretty quickly but couldn't figure out its relevance. Finally got that .=e, but filled the others from crosses. Of course, it was great to have @SamuelMorse give his perspective, straight from the MORSE's mouth, so to speak.

For those who are fans of dahs and dits, this song is perfect for you:
(Oh Dear) Miss Morse

@Z thank you for the lovely RIP John Prine clip. We always record Colbert so I guess we'll see this tonight.

Were I Will Dept.:
I would have clued 46D as "America's reigning crime family"

And if a baseball fan wrote the clues:
*DEANS: "Gashouse brothers who bagged 49 in 34"
**RALPH: "Victim of Bobby's Giant shot"
But at least UMPIRED was in there and clued properly.

*Pitchers Dizzy and Daffy DEAN led the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals — known as the Gashouse Gang for their supposedly foul-smelling uniforms and rough play — to a World Series victory, logging an astounding 49 wins between them.

*RALPH Branca was pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the ninth inning of the one-game playoff to decide the National League pennant in 1951. The Dodgers had blown a 13-game August lead over the Giants and when Bobby Thomson tagged Branca for a game-winning home run (the legendary "Shot Heard 'Round the World") New York advanced to the World Series. It wasn't until 2001 that it was revealed that the Giants (a la the 2018 Astros) were using an elaborate sign-stealing scheme involving a telescope in the center-field clubhouse. While many Dodger fans vilified Branca, it turns out that Thomson knew what pitch was coming.

Cary (pining for the baseball fjords)

Sam 12:18 PM  

@Barbara S. There is a card game called Uno; the object is to play all the cards in your hand. When you get down to one card left, by rule you have to say "Uno" as a kind of warning to the other players that you're about to win, giving them a chance to prevent it.

Suzie Q 12:18 PM  

@ Roo, Hand way up re: Ronin. That chase scene would make a good
car ad for that Audi (if I remember). The rest of the movie is very entertaining as well. Recommended.

John Hoffman 12:20 PM  

This was hard for me! I read Rex's review and the various comments but I still don't know what's going on with the Morse Code.

What? 12:23 PM  

.._ _ _. ....

Newboy 12:26 PM  

@Joaquin as the third (a prime #) poster said it for me. Fairly easy fill, but no idea of why Mr . Happy ✏️ was elated. Only major problem was seeing Sadat for ASSAD initially & then unable to get from Egypt to Syria mentally. Will be looking for a Kansas update on The News Hour Monday evening; religion truly is the opiate of the overzealous. As an agnostic, one can’t pray that common sense TRUMPS ritual, but sending good thoughts to the heartland can’t hurt?

egsforbreakfast 12:38 PM  

@CaryinBoulder 12:16. I thought of that song as well, and I can’t believe that there is anyone besides me who remembers it, or the band Pearls Before Swine. Their leader, Tom Rapp, did a solo album called Journal of a Plague Year.

CDilly52 12:38 PM  

Hand up, count me in among those for whom this was a tough, rewarding and exceptionally exciting AHA!!!! moment. I am certain that I stared at the puzzle for twice as long as it took to solve trying to figure out the theme. No idea. None.

Then, just as I was about to close the app, I swear that my dear husband and the Universe sent me his energy and explained the conceit. We were road warriors, Larry and I. The “Sunday Drive” was, for over 45 years ( longer if you count the pre-marital “togetherness” that my parents never quite seemed to be able to get past) “a thing” for us. We loved exploring the back roads of anywhere, USA, and accordingly we found the most wonderful places and people.

I specifically remember the owner of the coffee shop/diner in Cordell, Oklahoma who welcomed us for at least 30 years whenever we would drop in for her divine home made cinnamon rolls with our breakfast. Earlene (one of those “first born in Oklahoma but not a boy so we named her after her dad anyway” rural names) never forgot Larry or his name, (and we would only hit her place maybe four or five times a year). One time, we had a flat on the way (100 miles on back roads from our Norman home) and didn’t get there until almost closing time at 2. Earlene looked completely crestfallen as she hastily wove her way through the tightly packed, mis-matched tables and chairs. She grabbed Larry in a bear hug as if he were family and said “Oh, honey, we just ran out of rolls!” The diner closed sometime in the early 2000s. We bet that Earlene passed away and none of her family cared to work as hard as she did to make a go of it. Such a loss to the community. We used to see all the locals, County Commissioners, City of Cordell officials and every farmer and rancher for miles.

So, as I stared at my puzzle, refreshed my coffee, stared, refreshed the coffee. . . rinse and repeat, nothing happened. Nada. Zip. Crickets in my brain. Then I got the message, “You should have opted for the left at the last ROAD MARKER.” And that did it.

Whenever possible, we travelled the “Blue Highways” of America; those lesser and often blue lines on the state maps. Decent but not main roads. Larry spent his time in the Air Force as a Navigator and Electronic Warfare Officer and he never lost his love for pre-planning our “missions” and hitting all our checkpoints. Early in our relationship, he taught me to use this very cool circular slide rule thingy to calculate distance, fuel usage, wind vectors-all kinds of things. Much later, he insisted that I get the smart phone because of the GPS. “Hey, you are the back seater, you need this for our trips and for all the driving you do in the rural parts of your counties.” He just wanted to justify spending that hideous amount of money on an iPhone 4 (but he was not crazy about learning how to use it- he had a flip phone on the day he passed).

I got the theme in the best way ever. Wonderful memories, bathed in the love of a lifetime. Great puzzle and a wonderful solve today.

Bonus round: any of you not familiar with the “Blue Highways” reference should check out that title written by Native American author William Least Heat-Moon. All of his work is excellent but his first, “Blue Highways” remains my favorite. Larry and I read it aloud the year it cane out in the evenings on our annual summer camping trip to Santa Fe.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!!

JC66 12:39 PM  

I think this is What @Cary meant to post.

jb129 12:52 PM  

Your "usual" AES puzzle :(

Adam 12:55 PM  

Big MAN before Big MAC - I don't go to McDonald's much. Five Guys is better all around.

I thought for sure I'd read about @Rex's displeasure in seeing ASSAD and the PLO in a puzzle, but maybe he took happy pills today or something,

I enjoyed the puzzle.

Chip Hilton 1:00 PM  

I want Thursday puzzles to challenge and entertain me. Mission accomplished. The difficult proper nouns all fell, eventually, and MORSECODE was filled in long before I figured out the dot and dash key. Lovely stuff! Thanks, AE-S.

Barbara S. 1:18 PM  

@CDilly52 12:38
You caused me to tear up for the umpteenth time today. Thank you so much for telling us about your road trip memories. Fun, funny and sad. Your story was like a movie running in my head. I feel like I can practically see Earlene.

Teedmn 1:18 PM  

MY FAULT that I struggled with this puzzle as much as I did. I didn't really even notice the preponderance of names while solving - I was busy trying to fix my missteps. 22D went in as "NOT as yet". Thank you Betty White for helping me out there.

I had SLEEP LAB in place so I never wrote in MY treaT but my brain wanted it there for a long time. And I had OPTIMISt in at 3D because I never read the last word of the clue - outlook - and this was the biggest cause of my solving delay.

How does Op-ed mean t_DEACHOICE? When I finally recovered my OPTIMISM, I noted that Op-ed was like "opted" and I finally got the theme, went back to the other theme answers and decided I liked it. Now to just understand CARAD...aha!

So unlike many run-ins I've had with AE-S puzzles, I really enjoyed this one. Thanks Alex EatontSalners!

Masked and Anonymous 1:28 PM  

@Muse darlin already covered the ASS/CAR AD thing -- which M&A also noticed -- quite nicely.
@Roo already covered the N-center region, where I also paused quite a while to meet new people.
Lotsa clever Comment Gallery folks already covered TRUMP'S crossins. [TRUMP'S/FAULT is my personal fave.]

Different theme mcguffin -- subbin symbols for letters in the clues. Liked. Didn't think about the symbols bein Morse code, until I got to the revealer, so had a good, stolid ahar moment. The Morse code shtick has been done before, but not quite like this. N.a-o

Did not know lotsa people names and LIFEHACK and PLUOT.

Also M&A is somehow eerily drawn to the mysterious PLUOT. That messed-up pup is not in the Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary. Sooo … it is thereby wide-open, how U can clue it. How'bout: {Dwarf plan-e ??}. Or: {Plo- with one of the superbest 8-Down??}.

staff weeject pick: ASH, on account of its cool {Grateful?} clue. Lost precious nano-seconds, trying to figure it out in the middle of meeting all those new people. [Remembered not to shake any hands, tho.]
Honrable mention to ONE, as it had a pretty feisty math clue.

And thanx to everyone yesterday, for yer kind weeject-related comments. Y'all sure are a good bunch.

Thanx for the fun Morse code lesson, Mr. E-S.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Z 1:30 PM  

@RooMonster - That the sound a ferret makes is a DOOK is the best find ever.

Barbara S. 1:31 PM  

@Sam 12:18
Thanks for your note about UNO. Palm slap to forehead. UNO, of course, appears in puzzles all the time clued as a card game. It's not a game I know from real life, but I should have been able to retrieve it more easily from my mental library/database of xword knowledge. I think the word "cardholder" threw me off as it immediately suggested credit card.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

never quite grokked the theme. morse code? I prefer inspector morse. and how about his car? nuff said.

@CDilly52: your guy had a E6B. I'm a pilot (instrument rated) and remember using one for flight training. I used a hand-held calculator, the ASA CX-2, to check my work. All carefully tucked away, for now, "just in case." Back in the day, students had to demonstrate their ability to use the E6B during the oral and practical license tests. Not easy, calculating "on the go."

here's a little about the E6B from our sponsors at wiki:

The E6B flight computer, nicknamed the "whiz wheel" or "prayer wheel", is a form of circular slide rule used in aviation and one of the very few analog calculating devices in widespread[citation needed] use in the 21st century.

They are mostly used in flight training, because these flight computers have been replaced with electronic planning tools or software and websites that make these calculations for the pilots. These flight computers are used during flight planning (on the ground before takeoff) to aid in calculating fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other items. In the air, the flight computer can be used to calculate ground speed, estimated fuel burn and updated estimated time of arrival. The back is designed for wind vector solutions, i.e., determining how much the wind is affecting one's speed and course.

RooMonster 1:37 PM  




chuck w 1:46 PM  

Gill I. There was a very famous sled as a Christmas gift in "Citizen Kane."

Whatsername 1:50 PM  

@jberg (11:44) and others - regarding church services. Back when the virus was first beginning to get a toehold, I read an article about a church choir in Washington. They were debating whether or not to have choir practice. Since (at that time) the nearest cases were an hour away from them in Seattle, they decided to go ahead with it. They spaced chairs about a foot apart and were careful not to have any physical contact. None of the 60 members who showed up felt sick, and no one sneezed or coughed during the entire practice. But a week later, 45 of the 60 fell ill and tested positive for COVID. Doctors speculated that the actions necessitated by singing – taking deep breaths and forcefully expelling air from the lungs - were likely what triggered the outbreak.

@GILL (11:44) I have a similar situation at my house, an open field that only gets mowed once a year, but they do it in the fall. Last year, I stood and watched more than a dozen rabbits come scurrying out, terrified of the monstrous tractor and mower. I get annoyed because they eat my tomatoes but it still breaks my heart. The flowering plants/weeds also produce multitudes of flying insects, creating the perfect feeding ground for my Purple Martins who provide me with hours of entertainment. So yes, silver linings and small blessings.

Speaking of small blessings, I was doing some spring cleaning - or I should say quarantine cleaning - and reorganized bathroom cabinets. Unearthed a box of Kleenex and a six-roll package of toilet paper. Felt like I won the lottery.

Kathy 1:51 PM  

Naticked by too much PPP and flummoxed by the Morse Code theme until I read the blog.

@Cdilly55. Your beautiful write up brought a tear to my eye! I have a fondness for back roads and byways.
@Rob. My mother always used N as in Nancy, I wonder if there was another phonetic alphabet in use by secretaries back in the forties.

This reminds me of a silly game my airline pilot son-in-law and I drummed up a couple years ago. We tried to develop a self-defeating “anti-phonetic alphabet.” As in:

Customer: My first name is Kathy
Service Rep: Can you spell that for me, please?
Customer: Sure, K as in knight, A as in are, T as in tsunami, H as in hour, Y as in Yvonne.
Service rep: What city are you located in?
Customer: Waco
Service rep: Can you spell that for me, please?
Customer, Sure, W as in wrist, A as in are, C as in choir, O as in ouija.

We still have a few letters to go if this exercise intrigues anyone—we need ambiguities for D, F, L, R, U, V and Z.

DL Documentary 1:59 PM  

You haven't been to McDonald's for decades? Wait, you have? So, YOU LIE.

Nick D 2:06 PM  

The execution of the theme in this puzzle was just terrific: one clue each to figure out what - and . stood for, then two more clues to utilize the fruits of your labor. Loved everything about it.

What? 2:25 PM  


Anonymous 2:31 PM  

I had a very similar experience to Rex with CARAD. I got MYFAULT and ROADMARKER without checking the down crosses and finished without getting a happy pencil. So I went back to find my mistake. I had written in Tsk instead of TUT, and YOsLIE was obviously not right (FAkIMA was obviously wrong, too, but less visually jarring). But scanning the downs, I hit CARAD before YOsLIE and spent a good five seconds staring dumbly at it thinking, "that can't be right" before the penny dropped.

GHarris 2:31 PM  

I must be in a different universe than Rex and most other commentators here. Found this puzzle very challenging because of all the unknown names and very rewarding to finish despite not knowing how the Morse Code affected the theme answers. Only able to solve the NE by finally changing bat to art in caves. Also had driven home the fact that solving on computer rather than paper affords a distinct advantage. You are put on notice that somewhere you have a wrong letter. Is that fair? Hats off to LMS for highlighting the my fault Trump crossing. Don’t know what is more sickening; the virus or watching our peerless leader use his daily briefing to celebrate his greatness and blame the rest of the world “very strongly “.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

None of the 60 members who showed up felt sick, and no one sneezed or coughed during the entire practice. But a week later, 45 of the 60 fell ill and tested positive for COVID. Doctors speculated that the actions necessitated by singing – taking deep breaths and forcefully expelling air from the lungs - were likely what triggered the outbreak.

This demands loud, forceful, take-no-prisoners repeating. It was clear early on that the wee little critters couldn't possibly be spreading as fast as they did if they only rode on sneezes and coughs. Some folks accept that. Certain Red state governor morons keep insisting otherwise. A prominent case, starting a few weeks ago, is Albany, GA, a small city or large town. Mostly black, and mostly church going. Funerals conducted and shortly thereafter, the only hospital in the area was maxxed out. Many other rural areas, thought by rural people not to be vulnerable to that City Scourge, are experiencing the same.

C'mon folks, let's open up the country on Easter!!

egsforbreakfast 2:50 PM  

@kathy 1:51

D as in Djibouti

GILL I. 3:08 PM  

@Whatsername 1:50....Well I found $20.00 that had fallen into a shoe I was about to give to Goodwill.
Speaking of Church (sadly). Here in Sacramento more than 6 dozen have fallen ill with COVID at the Pentecostal Church in Sacramento. Easter is upon us and some people feel they MUST attend......even if it means catching this awful thing and spreading it unwillingly. I won't particularly miss our Easter leg of lamb but I will miss my family. I always took 2 dozen deviled eggs to our local church. They always had dinner ready for the homeless. Ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and my eggs. Not this year.....Sad.
@Kathy 1:51. My maiden name is Echols. When I lived in Spain everyone pronounced it as eh...sholes. I always had to spell it out. You used the Spanish provinces - ergo - I was Espana, Cadiz, Huelva, Oviedo, Lerida, Sevilla. My morse code.

Joaquin 3:10 PM  

@Kathy - "D" as in Django

Joaquin 3:18 PM  

@ Kathy - "V" as in "voilå".

Smith 4:04 PM  

What with Zoë Kravitz, 33D had to be the opening credits for Big Little Lies...

pabloinnh 4:17 PM  

Speaking of church and singing, our Maundy Thursday service will take place tonight on line via Zoom. No one will be speaking unless the moderator opens their microphone, and I'm supposed to sing something and accompany myself on guitar. No run-throughs. This should be interesting.

The good part is that it's a communion service, and since I'm home, I'll be able to drink real wine.

The Joker 4:29 PM  

Ya know? I thought the solve was pretty easy today. I guess 'cause it was a Maundy puzzle.

TJS 4:45 PM  

@Kathy, I love it ! I wish I had something to add, but someone beat me to "voila". And I was just reminded that the capital of Djibouti is Djibouti.
(I loved that commercial).

CaryinBoulder 4:52 PM  

I've been having all kinds of problems trying to post YouTube links here, most recently because Blogger wouldn't accept my post if it contained https. So even though @JC66 posted this before I need to try again to convince myself that I can do this.

(Oh Dear Miss Morse

LenFuego 5:24 PM  

I enjoyed the theme, and do not think anyone has truly appreciated the challenge of coming up with clues that look like normal clues both with and without the period or dash. Very often commenters pipe in with additional examples of the theme, but notably there is not a single one in this discussion thread (unless my scan was too quick).

Bravo, Alex.

My only other note is that I would have thought "Made some calls" for UMPIRED would have a question mark.

JC66 5:24 PM  


Mazel Tov!

Z 5:30 PM  

@CaryinBoulder - W00T W00T

Lewis 5:32 PM  

@len -- I actually did early on, but I don't think anyone picked up on it. I, like you, thought that that aspect of the theme answer clues was remarkable. Especially with the "dash" clues.

Kathy 5:32 PM  

@TJS, aka tsunami, junta, sea

Barbara S. 5:46 PM  

@Anon 1:37
mentioned Inspector Morse, that wonderful British detective series from long ago. The expressive theme music contained the word MORSE spelled out in morse code. It was by a composer with the formidable name of Barrington Pheloung. He also composed incidental music for individual episodes and he clearly had a lot of fun with it because he sometimes included the name of the murderer, again in m.c.

Morse drove a vintage red Jaguar -- very flash.

Smith 6:03 PM  

Did the very same! Our service was posted early.

Smith 6:04 PM  

L as in llama? At least as pronounced by my students.

albatross shell 6:19 PM  

SCHNOZZOLA. Soon as I got this I loved this puzzle. The schnoz, the Great SCHNOZZOLA, Jimmy Durante's own word creation. Italianized Yiddish. When The Man Who Comes to Dinner is on I always try to catch the Durante scenes. Didn't get the theme until much later even though I got MORSECODE first of all. My Morse code is limited to knowing E is dot and dash is some common letter that is not S. And SOS is some combination of alternating dots and dashes (I think, anyway). My God, it is a binary representation of the alphabet. Pretty modern, huh?
No pity for those complaining about Morse Code. It's in English!

Liked clues for UMPIRES ASH BUN SOD. Chainsaw CICADAS, almost as exciting as Durante. I think next year is a big year here. South PA, Virginia and West Virginia this year. Worse than the deer rut.

ASH, if the clue could be incorrect, but clearly get you too the right answer, and it has a ?, is it a bad clue? Even I have had grates fill with ash, although a few shakes would drop the ash down? OMG what deep philosophical questions we have here. I love it.

CARAD was a fun DOOK. What animal DOOKs? I forgot. Damn.

Car CHASES? The downhill-in-the- snow chase in Cobb. So many great ones in silent movies. Keystone Kops Lloyd Chaplin Keaton.
Two satires of Bullit: in Brewster McCloud and What's Up, Doc?

Fun and be safe.

LenFuego 6:29 PM  

@Lewis. You are right, I see that you expressed similar appreciation. I also agree that the dash clues are probably more difficult to come up with than the period clues, but I would have to think hard to come up with an example of either and I do not feel like thinking that hard ... that is why they pay crossword constructors the big bucks :-)

CaryinBoulder 6:33 PM  

@pabloinnh My Spanish class is now meeting via Zoom and most of us are drinking in class. Las bebidas favoritas son vino tinto, cerveza y mezcal (para mi).

Whatsername 6:56 PM  

@Kathy. U as in URN

pabloinnh 6:58 PM  

@Smith -What did you sing? I'm all ready to go with "Jesus Walked That Lonesome ValLey", right after a Bible reading titled "The Unshared Vigil". This is always a nice little service in our small town, and this is obviously a first. Given the times and the whole general mood, I wonder how this will be.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

Much harder than Rex thought. I guess he really is the super genius he imagines himself to be!

Frantic Sloth 8:16 PM  

@jae Just finished watching Season 1 of The Detectorists. The show's description (IMDb) really belies its brilliance - you've unearthed a true gem! Thank you for recommending it!

RooMonster 8:19 PM  

@Kathy 1:51
Well, so far, we have @egsforbreakfast 2:50 with Djibouti for the D, @Joaquin 3:10 with Django for the D, @Joaquin 3:18 with Voila for the V, @Smith 6:04 with Llama for the L, and @whatshername 6:56 with Urn for the U.

I found Fohn for the F, apparently pronounced the same as phone, so might screw up the listener.

For the above ones, Llama technically works, but technically doesn't, as it still starts with an L sound. Also, Voila is pronounced vwa-la, no? Or is it wall-ah?

Regardless, I might be overthinking this. But then, there is also a song by Barebacked Ladies called Crazy ABC's. (Which is where I found Fohn.) Have a look at the lyrics (if this works) Crazy ABC's

RooMonster Silent Guy

Birchbark 8:19 PM  

@Gill I. (11:44) -- Nice imagery.

Anonymous 8:26 PM  

Alright, I just had to post, even though I did not do the puzzle.

The history of telegraphy, including the Morse code, is incredibly interesting and one of the major advances in telecommunications. It was the Internet of its day:

The Straight Key Century Club is a large (22000+ strong) group of ham radio enthusiasts who live and breathe Morse code, using old-fashioned "straight keys" and "bugs":
(I am a member of this illustrious group.)

And there are actually many other ham radio groups who foster a love of telegraphy.


Barbara S. 8:52 PM  

Sorry, @Roo, I have to say it: Barenaked Ladies. Fun song.

pabloinnh 9:15 PM  

@Cary-OMG, or Dios mio, another Spanish teacher (in my case retired) who loves baseball. Your description of what you can do during class time makes me want to have a beer, so I think I will, because, also, baseball withdrawal.

PS-Pretty sure my rendition awed the other eight or so people who participated. Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble....

CDilly52 9:50 PM  

@Anonymous 1:37. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! Since I wrote, I have been wracking my brain for what he called the “navigating thingy” (my name for it). Yep, the Whiz Wheel. Sometimes he just said “get out the ‘whizzer’ and tell me if we have enough gas to get to wherever if we go this way instead of that way.” For the longest time, I thought he was calling it a ‘wizard,’ until I finally asked.

The other thing that I couldn’t remember while writing was the name of Earlene’s place because after the first couple times, we just called it Earlene’s. It was The Loftonian. No idea why.

albatross shell 1:25 AM  

Z as in Xenon might also be confusing.

P. Kennedy 11:06 AM  

Prime as in first...

P. Kennedy 11:08 AM  

Can anyone explain "alley sight?" No idea whatsoever why that's PIN. A crossword answer site says "PIN, as in personal identification number"

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

dash dot dash dot

T E. T. E

"tete" is the French word for head as in "I wanted to bang my tete against something when I finished this puzzle"

Am I grateful? You bet your ash I'm not.

Music Man 6:24 AM  

Did anyone else catch that NAS (63A) is also part of the name of the rapper LIL NAS X, who accompanies Billy Ray Cyrus on “Old Town Road”?

Claire 9:34 PM  

A prime number only has two factors, itself and one.

Burma Shave 10:44 AM  


I PUT ITINA vault.
TRUMP’S no help, NOTSOFAR, I’m told,
he says, “It’s NOT MYFAULT.”


thefogman 10:45 AM  

I liked this one very much. It would have been even better if there was a clue to bring it all together such as “A head in Paris, or what the theme’s hidden letters spell - TETE

rondo 12:00 PM  

Things to like about this puzzle:
• Appropriate use of TAR
• NAS not clued as one of the rappers
• KEYWEST clued as a ‘terminus’ – it is the beginning, not the end - ROADMARKER or mil. post 0
• TRUMPS not clued as Donald and Melania
• MACY Gray yeah baby
• LANA Del Rey yeah baby
• ZOE Kravitz yeah baby
• Not a rebus
Not to like, but not much to RIP:
• Comments like musty and bygone (with LIFEHACK?)
• Gimmick in clues, not answers (MYFAULT for not liking)
• NICOLE not clued as Kidman
• No inka dinka doo in OFL’s comments for SCHNOZZOLA
Enough of my ADDINS.

Don 12:44 PM  

Thank you!

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Ugh. The very opposite of a fun, challenging puzzle, this whole mess was depressing. Also, the reminder of the hideously drawn and incredibly bad "Sylvia" strip was a bad memory. Raspberries to this one.

leftcoaster 2:52 PM  

Filled it all in, but theme and revealer made little sense. Didn't know that "." and "-" in the clues were MORSE CODE for "e" and "t". Thus TABLE, NOSE, etc. Hmm....

LETS leave it at that.

rainforest 2:55 PM  

I thought this was a great puzzle, and maybe that is partially due to the fact that I knew a number of the names right off (ASSAD, MACY, ZOE, RALPH), but it is mainly because this was a head scratcher for half the time I spent on it.

I was like, "That has to be PUT ON HOLD, but why?", and "I think this is going for SCHNOZZOLA, but why?". Unlike others, I didn't immediately go to the revealer, but just worked my way down to the point where MORSE CODE made itself known, and only then did I look at the clues for 17A and 25A again. Huge AHA. Luckily, I used to be fluent in MORSE CODE from my days in the navy, and I remembered "e" and "t" and thus the last two themers became clear. Really nice.

There were lots of good things in the puzzle, and where they weren't immediately apparent, the crosses were fair.

@rondo - don't highways have two termini? Western/Eastern or Northern/Southern?

spacecraft 3:07 PM  

Plenty calisthenics for the old gray matter today. When clues were making no visible sense, I zeroed--ZILCHed?--in on the revealer clue, which I quickly determined was MORSECODE. Yeah, so...ROADMARKER?? Nothing. Clue was "mil. post." Why abbreviate...… oh. OH! And the cat was alive. Still, even after that, it was tough SLEDding because of PLUOT?? and LIFEHACK??

As many have said, the TRUMP connections were amusing, if tragic, and he was under the PODIUM instead of at it. If only.

My favorite SCHNOZZOLA quote: "88 keys defeated by ten dainty little fingers." Loved that guy. I will take @rondo's word for all the DOD's; let them share. Lively fill and a different, hard-to-unearth theme make this a solid birdie.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

rondo 3:27 PM  

@rainy - You are correct. Highways - and construction projects within them - always have two termini just as you mentioned. Beginning either south or west, ending either north or east. KEYWEST has been clued before as the 'end' of U.S. 1, when it is really the beginning. So I am glad to see the use of the word 'terminus' in the clue instead of 'end'. Common and correct usage in the highway biz. Thanks for asking.

rondo 3:29 PM  

@spacey - Thanks for the SCHNOZZOLA quip and quote!

Diana, LIW 5:15 PM  

Just a couple of really, really dumb errors in the NW. OMG. Foiled by the UMP! In the best of days, my first thought is NOT sports. Any game that needs an umpire does not want me.

That said, I enjoyed the rest. So worried about the MORSECODE answer, as I got the bottom first and don't know a dit from a dah. or dash dash it all

But hey - I have an actual dentist appointment next week. I get to go out of the house and see other people. w o w

Diana, Lady in Waiting for somethings else to do

wcutler 8:18 PM  

Kathy 1:51 PM
L as in llano. It's cheating a little, in that ll is one consonant in Spanish. But it's the name of a California town, so I think it works.
R as in R and R? Or the converse, as in Arby's.

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