Cigar milder than maduro / WED 4-15-20 / Old Spice alternative / Distinctively colored freshwater fish / Gives deep massage therapy / Canadian interjections / 1896 Olympics locale

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Constructor: John-Clark Levin and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Challenging (5:46, which is around my average Friday time) (def played like a Thursday for me) (though it is oversized, at 15x16, so that will account at least a teeny bit of slowness) (maybe it's Medium-Challenging, I don't know)

THEME: HEAD TO TOE (34A: Complete ... as literally suggested by the four symmetrical pairs of answers to the starred clues) — for each symmetrical pair, you take the first letter of the word on the western side of the grid and move it to the bottom of the word to get the word that appears on the eastern side of the grid; thus, you move the top letter (HEAD) to the bottom position (TOE) to get the second answer in the pair:

Theme answers:
  • GRIFFIN (2D: *Mythical beast that's half lion and half eagle) —> RIFFING (12D: *Making up variations on a theme)
  • EMANATE (21D: *Send off, as rays) —> MANATEE (22D: *Sea cow)
  • HOLDS OUT (39D: *Waits for a better offer, say) —> OLD SOUTH (44D: *Antebellum Dixie) (... mmm, who doesn't love the OLD SOUTH!?) :(
  • ATHENS (50D: *1896 Olympics locale) —> THE NSA (52D: *Hush-hush org.)
Word of the Day: EFREM Zimbalist (21A: Violinist Zimbalist) —
Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (April 21, 1889 – February 22, 1985) was a concert violinistcomposer, teacher, conductor and director of the Curtis Institute of Music. [...] Zimbalist married the famous American soprano Alma Gluck and they toured together for a time. Alma Gluck died in 1938. In 1943, having been a widower for five years, he married the Curtis Institute of Music's founder, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, daughter of publisher Cyrus Curtis, and 14 years his senior.
He died in 1985, at the age of 95. His and Alma's son, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and their granddaughter, Stephanie Zimbalist, both became popular actors. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt misplaced on a Wednesday. The oversizedness probably contributed to the overall feeling of slowness, but I was stuck far more than usual on a Wednesday, which would've been fine, except too often my experience on getting released from stuckness was not "oh" or "aha" but "really?" and "sure, I guess, whatever." Most of this shruggish feeling came from a very small plot of land at the top of the grid. No idea on GO SEEK for the longest time (a horrid stand-alone answer); thought maybe ACRID for ACERB (7D: Bitter); forgot if it was EFREM or EFRON (the latter is Zac, sigh) (21A: Violinist Zimbalist); baffled by question-like phrasing on "AM I BEAT" (25A: "Whew! What a tiring day!"); never heard of a RED FIN (6D: Distinctively colored freshwater fish); impossible to see that the clue on AMIE wanted a French answer (25D: One who might become a fiancée); couldn't see EMANATE (wanted EMIT ... something something); and had TAPE instead of TIVO for a bit (26D: Record for later, in a way). Just a slog and a grind, that whole part. Grindslog! The rest of the puzzle seemed somewhat more in keeping with standard Wednesday difficulty levels, though ... I misspelled GRIFFON thusly (ugh), and thus could Not see LINEMAN (28A: Tackle, for one). I wasn't sure about the last two letters of ROSTAND's name (considered ROSTARD). I've probably seen END PIN before but it's not a term that comes readily to mind, and I needed many letters to get it. By the time it was all done, I was well over a minute over my usual Wednesday time and I still had no idea what the theme was all about. Took me forever (so, maybe a minute?) after I finished to "get" the theme, and there just wasn't enough wow there. It's a variation on anagrams. OK. The OLD SOUTH is such a vibe-wrecker of an answer ("antebellum" is just a pretty way of saying "slave-holding" as far as I'm concerned) that there was really no coming back from it. The one-letter wordplay just wasn't enough to make the experience feel good or pleasant.

OTTER is an anagram of TORTE. This has nothing to do with the puzzle theme, but I just noticed it, so I thought I'd point it out. I'm pretty sure (i.e. certain) that the [Top of an espresso] is the CREMA, not FROTH, which ... I guess you could use that word to describe the top of a cappuccino, though I'd go with "foam." FROTH is something you do at the mouth if you're angry and maybe want to AVENGE something. So the coffee clue missed. The grape leaves clue, though, that's nice. Tasty. I like DOLMA. I had some today (35D: Stuffed grape leaves). There's a great Greek restaurant that sells food at the local farmer's market here in Binghamton. You don't need to know this, but I'm just trying to think of nice things right now, to pass the time.

For all y'all who hate how much I talk about the lack of gender equality among NYTXW constructors, good news, I'm gonna talk about it again right now. Since Women's Week (the little 7-day early-March concession to the fact that women make puzzles too), the NYTXW has regressed to the mean, hard. Solo constructions by men: 26. Solo constructions by woman: 4. That's F-O-U-R. Since March 8. Four. We've had four solo man constructors since [checks calendar] this past Friday! But no solo women since March 25—we're halfway through April. Inequality this severe, at this late date, after years of open criticism from many quarters, is due solely to the culture created by the guy at the top. Liz Gorski was right. Please read her again (or for the first time, if you somehow missed her blog post on this topic last week). It's time for new leadership. The current leader seems to be tacking from negligence to outright hostility. The numbers don't lie. They are Abysmal. Even the most stalwart of status quo defenders have gotta admit, it's just embarrassing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:05 AM  

I’m not a fan of most current music, having grown up on the sounds of the 50s and 60s. And I usually don’t care for covers. ETTA James’ song “At Last” has been covered by everybody, but none so beautifully as the one by Beyoncé. This link will not only take you to her, but it will also take you to a time and place not too long ago that seems like several lifetimes ago.

jae 12:07 AM  

Medium, but @Rex, it is an oversized grid. I got bogged down in the same area Rex did...ACERB/DES/GO SEEK. I also tried ACrid first and fumbled around from there.

I did try to figure out what was going on from the HEAD TO TOE reveal without looking at which clues were starred...couldn’t do it. So, clever and fun, liked it. A nifty debut for John-Clark Levin.

...and just because I now can


Tom R 12:14 AM  

Two things: I totally support having more women constructors. I have no idea how to change things - maybe a threatened boycott of the NYTXW if they don't shape up. Does any other reader have a solution?

Second, I would rate this puzzle easier than usual for a Wed. Rex is sooo much better than me (his worst in a lifetime is probably faster than my best) that it shocks me to have an easy puzzle seem challenging to him. My biggest problem is spelling Efrem. I just can't convince my head its not Efram EVERY DANG TIME it shows up in a puzzle. Must be a calcified synapse up there.

GHarris 12:28 AM  

Whoa! Found this one easy and most enjoyable yet Rex deems it challenging. One of those times when I figured out the theme early on and it helped to fill in lots of squares. Clear sailing straight through. I suppose this one just fell right in my wheelhouse. Stay well all.

Enemy of Food 12:51 AM  

Boy, that cross of ROSTAND, AFTA, AND ENDPIN was brutal. I got everything up to that point and just started inserting letters till I heard the happy music.

Ryan 1:45 AM  

I have never heard of AFTA.

Zimbalist is a vaguely familiar last name. Not so much EFREM.

Considered ACERB but spent much more time trying to make the far more common "acrid" work.

No one would say AMIBEAT. Theyv we ould say "I'm beat".

All of this whining is to say I envy those who found this one easy and fun.

I found it painful and annoying.

webwinger 1:54 AM  

Symmetry (mirror style) returns, with A VENGEance! This grid is literally so symmetrical, with gray vertical stripes highlighting the themers in the NYT app, it almost hurts my eyes. But very pleasing nonetheless. The theme conceit worked well IMO. I finished in well under average Wednesday time.

Seems like EFREM appears in the NYTXW with some regularity, always clued with Zimbalist, sometimes alone, sometimes with Sr. (today’s namesake), sometimes Jr., a major TV star in the 1950s. His first big success, 77 Sunset Strip, also featured a young actor named Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, who became briefly wildly famous before that was really a hot thing to do. Which leads me to another recommendation of a light-hearted movie for our dark time: Back to the Beach, with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in 1987 reprising their iconic personae from the beach party films of the ‘60s, this time appearing, under their own names, as 40-something parents of a beach bunny and a ridiculously goth pre-teen. Lots of fun cameos by erstwhile popular mostly TV actors in character as their former roles, including Byrnes.

Loren Muse Smith 2:49 AM  

I have to disagree with Rex - my experience on getting released from stuckness was absolutely aha! I already like being shown this kind of looping anagram, but toss in the reveal literally describing the vertical themers . . . terrific. It did take a minute to see the trick, but when I did, I was thrilled.

Had to try to come up with others, but mine are all short: route/outer, eat/ate, height/eighth, evil/vile, heart/earth, flea/leaf. How ‘bout your father’s pampering herpetarium: Pa’s Asp Spa. Ba dum tss.

I found other entries in the grid that could loop – TSA/sat, TRIO/riot, and SKIT/kits. And my avatar.

“Weeds” before TENDS.

“Dug in” feels like you started eating. DUG INTO feels like you started snooping around someone’s troubled past.

@Enemy of Food – I had trouble with the AFTA/ROSTAND cross, too.

@Tom R – me, too, on “Efram” first.

I dunno, Rex – espresso has no milk, so I have to disagree on the stuff on top being crema. I picture coffee bubbles – definitely FROTH.

I think it’d be great fun for a proctologist to have on his sign, Dr. John Doe, ASSIST.

Here’s a suggestion to the female constructor problem – have the crew go back and review all of my puzzles they rejected. Hah! Honestly, I think many of them are good, especially that 21x that Gareth Bain and I submitted. Will – have your people contact my people, k?

John-Clark and Jeff, I really liked this idea. Way to go!

Robin 2:49 AM  

ENDPIN messed me up, as I wanted ENDPEG. Also slowed down a bit in the SW after entering RNS rather than MDS.

And despite my having studied a fair amount of physics and astronomy in my wasted youth, I had to go and Google what the hey GST was. The first hit is a Wikipedia page, on which GST is mentioned something like 8 paragraphs down. Hmm, okay.

EFREM was a gimme for me, but I may one of the three people around here who remember watching The FBI on YV 4- years ago, on which EFREM Jr. was the star.

chefwen 3:03 AM  

I tried, so hard to figure our the the theme. I finally wrote the starred clues next to each other and it was like getting hit by a two by four upside the head, when I finally yelled out to nobody in particular I get it! PHEW, IM BEAT.

That was tricky and fun.

Jeremy Mercer 3:35 AM  

I appreciate Rex's commentary about the gender disparity in the Times puzzle and applaud efforts to make puzzles more diverse. However, I am curious about one thing. It is thanks to Rex that I discovered and subscribe to alternative puzzles like Fireball by Peter Gordon. However, why no mention of the outrageous gender disparity in this puzzle? According to the Crossword Fiend write-up of January 2, 2020, "it’s been 3.5 years since Peter has published a crossword solely by a woman. Since there are about 45 Fireball puzzles a year, that’s nearly 160 puzzles. I’m horrified by that number, and horrified that I didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me."

Georgia 5:20 AM  

I'm old enough for "77 Sunset Strip!" He was PI Stu Bailey with Kookie as his sidekick.

Preferred Customer 5:22 AM  


The more you know about a subject in a crossword the more likely you are to be annoyed by the clue/answer pairing.

Exhibit A: Crema is the golden goodness on top of a well pulled espresso. You might froth milk and add it to the drink but then you no longer have an espresso. This is not opinion, it is the actual, correct name for what is on top of an espresso.

Exhibit B: I-bar, something that has probably not been used regularly in building since wide flange beams were introduced by Bethlehem steel in 1908. Just kidding, I-beams were regularly used until some time in the 1930's. The name I-bar is NEVER used within living memory, people who do not design steel often say I-beam, but there is no shape currently rolled that is called I-beam. They are now S-beams.


Lewis 6:24 AM  

@lms -- ASSIST -- Hah!

Well, this was a construction feat, for one thing. I count 65 theme squares, which is a ton, even for a 16 x 15 grid. And two theme answers cross the revealer! On top of that, there were crackling clues for CAST and FISTS, and some lovely answers: SINUOUS, DOLMA, LONG LOST, AFFABLE, KNIFING (as clued). And a very junk-lite grid, which is pretty much guaranteed with a puzzle JC has anything to do with.

All this, IMO, is for naught if the solve suffers for it. But it doesn't. I found the pushback that is so sweet to overcome in several places, on top of those lovely answers and clues, and the anagram part of the theme helped with the solve. Plus, a little quirk that appeals to me and probably no one else: Those three double-Fs in the northern hemisphere.

So, all-in-all, this was a joy to experience, and thank you for it J&J!

Unknown 6:47 AM  

I dont care what Jeff Chen does to gender parity...the more of his puzzles the better. Loved this one.

If there is a female Jeff out there I'm sad to miss her puzzles.

QuasiMojo 7:13 AM  

I found this relatively easy. BEAT my usual time.

Rex is right. CREMA is what lies at the top of an espresso. It has nothing to do with cream, per se. Froth is something you instill into a latte or a cappuccino by steaming the milk. Many baristas ruin the crema by dumping the espresso from the glass they use to make it into a paper cup. I often bring my own espresso cup.

GRYPHON before Griffin. The latter makes me think of MERV. And Jeopardy!

I never noticed the theme but it feels a bit forced when it has to rely on THE NSA as a closer. Lazy fill. FEEBLE.

Funnily enough I was watching EFREM Zimbalist Jr last night in THE FBI. Lol -- Gotta say, he was one seriously dull actor. His dad was a great violinist. Okay. I'll go listen to him. Stefanie, on the other hand, had personality to spare.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

DOLMA was a complete unknown. It still looks wrong. My only other trouble spot was CLEF, because me and music ...

Rex is on quite the Dire Straits kick. Yay for that.


Joseph Jakuta 7:22 AM  

Former barista here: FROTH is definitely appropriate for describing the foam on the top of a latte (less) or cappuccino (more). You are right on though, for espresso it’s CREMA (which is very much what I filled in and then thought WTF).

OffTheGrid 7:24 AM  

A big thank you to Joaquin for the Obama Beyonce link. Nothing better will happen to me today. Talk about sublime!

Ernonymous 7:26 AM  

I kept thinking FROTH is on cappuccino and not Espresso so I'm going with @preferred customer's explanation.
My main enjoyment in this puzzle came from looking forward to Rex ripping it to shreds. That disappointed me too, I was hoping he would have been meaner.
Another big problem is that the font on the NYTimes app for the revealer clue was too tiny to read. This has never happened before. I could even see those emojis on that emoji puzzle. It was ridiculous, I went to xwordinfo to read the clue. I forgot next to the clue is the answer! So I cheated by mistake.
Should I take time out of my busy quarantine and complain to the NYT about it? Totally unreadable.

bulgie 7:36 AM  

Loved it. I swooned over how cool the pairing of EMANATE and MANATEE, and swooned again over HOLDSOUT and OLDSOUTH. They made me say "howdy doodat". Maybe I'm easily amused/amazed, but I'm OK with that.

Less thrilled with the cross of AFTA/ROSTAND,two unknowns to me, but I guessed right (phew!). That and the ACERB region made this a hard puzzle for me, but still, a very good joy to slog ratio.

Hungry Mother 7:37 AM  

Semi-slog. No idea of theme or shaded squares or anything else other than just working through it. No joy, but got it done.

Joe R. 7:47 AM  

The NE corner was almost a DNF for me, with cigar types and obscure massage techniques. I had -P- for 9D and had to stare at it for a minute or two, trying to cycle through possible abbreviations before I came up with CPR (which is very much not a thing I would imagine learning at the Y).

And I had GRyphon before GRIFFIN, ACrid before ACERB, saVe before TIVO... Was not a good day for me.

pabloinnh 7:52 AM  

Any puzzled that starts out wanting to know what a subject and a verb should do is OK with this former language teacher. In fact, having caught on to what the verticals were doing fairly early, I thought the whole thing was wonderfully constructed and would put it in the "elegant stunt puzzle " category. Helps to be of an age where ROSTAND and EFREM are gimmes. And did Kookie ever lend her his comb?

Also now have a superabundance of TMI on the merits of crema vs. FROTH vs. foam. My interest in fancy coffee has not increased since our last discussion of this theme.

Any puzzle with an otter, even in anagram form, is aces with me.

Did I like this one? CLARO que si! Thanks,guys, for a Wednesday that brought a smile.

Spatenau 8:05 AM  

loren muse smith,"crema" is what they call the white frothy stuff on top of espresso. The best crema, though, is more dense than frothy.

Joe Dipinto 8:08 AM  

Joaquin inspired me to post a clip of the debut performance of the song "At Last", in the 1942 Glenn Miller movie "Orchestra Wives". The stars are negligible, but watch out for uncredited bass player Jackie Gleason –the camera pans past him after the trumpet solo; Cesar Romero (later the Joker on "Batman") as the piano player; and Harry Morgan (later Col. Potter on "M*A*S*H"), who makes his way to the stage with his date at the beginning.


PHRONE – Toilet with built-in phone and internet capabilities. "Honey, I'll take that call on the phrone."

GERANGEA – Geranium-hydrangea hybrid flowering plant.

HATTHEW – Gospel writer whose first initial was mistaken for an "M" for centuries.

Sorry about those. I think I need a small vacation.

Travis 8:09 AM  

From someone spending quarantine practicing crosswords and espresso making....Rex is right...a FROTHy espresso has some major problems. Crema is the absolute right answer for the clue.

GILL I. 8:18 AM  

Well I just heat up some good old fashion real milk in the microwave and then use my little spinning thing to FROTH it up and pour it in my Peet's Italian roast and call it a day.
Every problem dear @Rex had, I did too! day is complete. here's my take on this here puzzle. I had no idea what I was doing. About the only dang I got was looking at SON at that sign of the cross clue and seeing a cross. But you also have a MONKEY in that section so that wasn't so good.
I finished this with a hefty work-out and thought HEAD TO TOE? All I saw were anagrams. And when I saw them, I thought cool beans. That's all. I didn't get all Mensa and think to take the first letter of the word and move it to the siree, Bob....just anagrams and I was fine with that.
So I finished and went fishing for things I liked. Ah, yes GRIFFIN. I used to do a lot of ink drawings. I was into mythical creatures and I did a pretty good one that I gave to my brother. The wings and the talons were the most fun to painstakingly draw. I did a Chimera once but nobody wanted that one.
Speaking of women, I sorta wished ELENA had been clued as that smart cookie, Kagan. OK, so we get Disney.
@Anoa Bob from last night...Your post cracked me. "She was a he." Can I say "Well, I'll be a MONKEYS uncle?" Same happened to me in San Francisco only he was a she.....

Anne 8:22 AM  

It will always be Greenwich Mean Time to me, so I had OLD MOUTH for a while. Kinda funny.

albatross shell 8:26 AM  

I noticed right away the paired answers were anagrams which was all I needed to help get themers in. They were all in by the time I got the reveal. I did notice one of the pairs was a one letter rotation. Noticed the others were too, after I was done and 5+ minutes of thought. That made me feel more dumb than smart, but that is not a rare event.

Hung up just about all places mentioned so far.

Soon as I saw the grid I counted the downs. The long lines, I was expecting to get to 17. We are breaking with convention lately.

Speaking of SINUOUS being a nice looking and sounding word: I was doing the cryptoquip and letter by letter SERVILELY filled in. Ugly. Hard to spot. Autocorrect has a red line under it. Even had trouble saying it. Rarely used. Crossword fodder? Just saying. It is a word. I mean who says ACERB without the I C.

GST. My guess was Greenwich Standard Time. I'll Google some time if nobody explains it here. Not ready for 8 paragraphs yet.

Espresso. Froth an editing error.
If you add cream to espresso is it still espresso? Let me know.

Anyway after reading about hand turned not-spun coffee grinders I got distracted by a recipe for cold brew coffee being delicious and practical for hot coffee. The first batch for 17 hours. I am going to sample it now.

Keep yourself safe and your lover frothed.

TJS 8:36 AM  

I have a proposed solution to the male/female constructor problem. As soon as the number of male constructors reaches 15 in a month, the rest of the puzzles must be by women. Any considerations of quality will be suspended until the first of the following month. We must get this problem resolved before we can move on to issues of lesser importance.

Z 8:38 AM  

LOL at everyone getting tripped up by crema. Thankfully, nobody has yet gone down the “wrong” path. Just in case it isn’t obvious to everyone, “crema” is the FROTH you get in a well pulled espresso. Which has me wondering if “pulled” is use to describe the process of making an espresso because of the pulling motion used on the portafilter to lock it into place. Anyway, lots of fancy coffee jargon seems especially precious to me, but crema really is a distinct thing worthy of its own special word.

I think I’ve shared my opinion of anagrams before so I’ll spare everyone a tired rant. I will observe that one letter anagrams following a revealable pattern are mildly less off-putting than more Jumble-esque offerings we’ve seen.

I use Old Spice™️ anti-perspirant and soap, so it took me a minute to remember that it started life as an after shave. I also wanted darTS flying around the saloon and the film school to be a graduate school. Already had GRIFFIN, which helped with FISTS, but I wasted many precious nanoseconds in that corner, but hardly any on ROSTAND. I used but one to look at it and decide it was plausible enough as a name. My only other real pause was pondering which hush-hush org it might be. THE mob, THE cia, THE kgb, THE kfc? Obviously, this was before I had sussed out what all the gray in the puzzle was for. I think it was THE NSA/ATHENS that clued me in.

With every cable company offering DVR capabilities in their box and Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and and and... is TIVO already beyond passé and trite and now in the category of Ipana toothpaste?

@Jeremy Mercer - I think Rex has referenced issues with other publications as well as that CrossWorld in general has a problem, but much less often than talking about the NYTX. This is a NYTX blog, though, so that makes sense.

imsdave 8:45 AM  

Peter Gordon has noted that the ratio of male to female submissions that he receives is 17 to 1.

Kathy 8:46 AM  

Enjoyable solve for me! Sure, there were plenty of words I didn’t know, but the crosses and theme giveaways were sufficient to clear those hurdles. A construction masterpiece too! It was a steady chip, chip, chip away experience, just what I wanted on this raining morning in New England.

Z 8:52 AM  

@albatross shell - Greenwich Sidereal Time. Learned from some crossword discussion here and the general consensus was “Ugh with a capital U.”

Wow, more crema FROTH foam comments since I started writing my comment. I just double checked and they are all defined as “bubbles on a liquid.” Crema is specific to espresso, and “foam” seems specific to milk in coffee-speak, but all three are FROTH. Are there more than three words for this phenomenon? if it’s beer we call it “head.” Wine and soda don’t really have FROTH, for a body of water I’ve only ever heard FROTH or foam. Hmmmm.

Debra 9:12 AM  

Cite and clever puzzle. Perfect Wednesday for me. No complaints.

Frantic Sloth 9:23 AM  

Never gonna do the NYTXW on my stupid phone again. Not only could I not read the teensy-weensy revealer clue (like @Giovanni 726am), but the answer had me looking literally from the top to the bottom like so:

I'd like to think that had I removed my blinders I would have eventually grokked it all (is that the correct use of that word??), but impatience won out and I had to read Rex for my faux "aha" moment. Immediately followed by - hey, @chefwen 303am - can I borrow that 2 x 4?

I can be such a stooge sometimes.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the puzzle itself despite having the same few trip-ups many others here had.
I'll go away mostly pleased with barely audible grumbling.

Does anyone have an answer on the cappuccino/espresso/froth/foam/crema controversy?

Here's my only input quasi-relative to that:

@albatross shell 826am Cold-brewed coffee is the bomb!!
I hope you'll report back with your experience!

xyz 9:24 AM  

Actually this was extremely EASY except where it was obtuse and frankly just inane with clue/answer pairs.

The theme was transparent and write-it-in.

I failed on 14 A - the answer is technically CREMA on Espresso, on a Latte it is foam, they are NOT!!!! equivalents.

Disastrous puzzle for such inconsistency.

ArtO 9:24 AM  

I'm strictly a NYT puzzle guy as well as being of a certain age so I don't know the relative numbers of women vs. men on other sites. But, the relevant question on the percentage of puzzles by women published in the NYT would seem to be "what percentage of puzzles submitted to the NYT are by women?" If Shortz published seven in one week and three in the next 30 that would be ten out of 37 or 27%. What if women submit only 25% of all puzzles sent in to the NYT?

xyz 9:25 AM  

there's no CAPTCHA today, the internet is so over-used things are truly wonky

LeaveItToYourGoat 9:31 AM  

I think the hint that AMIE would be a French answer was that the clue specified fiancée with that extra "e" at the end, suggesting the answer would be a feminine noun. Since we tend to default to the masculine form in English, I thought the clue was fair enough to suggest a French answer.

Speaking of defaulting to the masculine, it wouldn't be RPDtNYTCP with a daily rant on gender inequality, so there's that.

Barbara S. 9:32 AM  

I liked this puzzle, thought it was very clever, and thought I wasn't bad either for solving it so smoothly.

Some fun symmetries:
And if you look at the downs in the two northern corners, you'll see an
Maybe @Gill I. could draw her/him.

I also liked the inclusion of both EFREM and EPHRON. Gotta agree with @Quasi (7:13) on EFREM's general presentation on "The FBI." Looking back, though, I think my mother had a serious crush on him. And I know my sister and all her friends were completely gone on Kookie Byrnes in the days of "77 Sunset Strip." I wasn't allowed to stay up that late (so unfair).

I misread/misprocessed 40D "Game box info" as "box score info." So for a while I was trying to force "average" into that space (which I suspect wouldn't have been a good answer even it had had to do with box scores.)

I had the brilliant thought that you could get around any discomfort with OLD SOUTH clued the way it is here (see Rex) by referring to the frozen orange juice brand! Except then I looked it up and discovered that Old South juice products "have been sold in Canada since 1939." So, darn, I guess unknown in the U.S.A. Here's another useless Canadian alternative: GST (58A) is our "goods and services tax," although I think everybody just thinks of it as the "government sales tax."

I've always loved the word STETSON. It connects for me with the word "strut." They make me think of a rhinestone cowboy in a jewelled STETSON strutting into the spotlight. Or a rodeo rider in a white hat strutting confidently toward the bull.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

I reread Gorski's letter. It isn't any more persuasive than the last time you shilled for it. Give it a rest.Liz Gorski doesn't need any help. And certainly not from she. She's been making her way in the world for a long time now. It's also true that The Timrs doesn't need Gorski. Thy're foing just fine to. You? I'm not so sure you're at all. I do know your crusade on behalf of women is wearuing to the point of exhausion.

Nancy 9:50 AM  

"Oh, look what we have here," I said to myself after solving and then checking the theme answers to see how they lined up with the revealer. "Very, very clever," I thought, "very very clever." Unfortunately, the entire puzzle could be filled in without noticing the moving of one letter to the bottom...and in my case it was. Like totally.

So, an "after the solve Aha", which is never as good as a "during the solve Aha" in my book. It always feels to me as though the cleverness has been wasted. I want my ability to solve a puzzle to be contingent on figuring out the trick. Then the cleverness is also about me as well as the constructor. Today it was only about JCL and Jeff.

Z 9:52 AM  

@imsdave’s post reminded me again that we tend to take the wrong lesson from that answer. A low rate of submission is evidence of systemic barriers, not justification for low publishing rates. An appropriate response from all these men editing puzzles would be “what am I doing that is leading to so few submissions from women and what can we do to increase submissions?” Here’s my hypothesis, increase the number of submissions and the number of women getting published will naturally increase.
All of which reminds me of my most frequent speech I used on my middle and high schoolers when they ended up in front of me: I don’t care whose fault it is. I am not here to blame anybody. What I want to know is who is going to be responsible? Think about that word, “responsible.” The ability to respond. You have the ability to respond. My question is are you going to make excuses or are you going to respond by making it right? That’s still my question. More than a little depressing to me that 12-18 year olds understood this better than too many adults in important positions.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Triggered by Old South ? You really are woke and virtuous. LOL.

JC66 9:59 AM  


The reason heart doctors are called cardiologists and tooth doctors are called dentists, etc. is that proctologists insist on it

Ernonymous 10:00 AM  

I always love a LOLA answer cause that is my little dogs name.
There are 2 reasons that I need to do these crosswords in my phone. I tried that online tournament on my laptop using their puzzle software. I was hunched over and really strained my neck and back. I've got the good ol' ankylosing spondalitis so I was miserable.
The other is I realized the angle I was solving from and viewing the answers was off. When I had a long phrase, maybe half filled in, I couldn't see what it was. I think the angle I solve on the phone, I can envision the answer. It's a subtle thing but it's important for solving that you can see a few letters and get the phrase. I couldn't do it on the laotop. Not sure if any of you know what I mean but on paper, the puzzle is flat, on the phine I hold it at a certain angle that works for me. On the laptop, my viewing angle is different. Needless to say, I blew giant donkey chunks in that tournament.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Scrim is my mistaken choice.

Bill Nye 10:02 AM  

@Z .... "A low rate of submission is evidence of systemic barriers, not justification for low publishing rates. An appropriate response from all these men editing puzzles would be “what am I doing that is leading to so few submissions from women and what can we do to increase submissions?” "

No. No. No.

Associated findings cannot be retrofit to a preconceived theory, unless it relates to C_ _ _ _ _ _.

This assumes that Men & Women have equal interest in publishing puzzles (Among many other factors, yes).

You can lead a woman to puzzles to solve, but you cannot make her create.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Originally just a car Parker.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

The puzzle was a decent puzzle but solvable completely without the “theme”. Too bad the theme answers were shaded. If one was able to figure a theme without “prompting”, good. Otherwise unnecessary.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Gorsky, from Perth Amboy.

Kathy 10:09 AM  

On the female constructor issue:
Could the editors conduct a trial for a specified period where the constructors’ names are removed from the puzzle entries and the selections are made free from intentional or unintentional bias? It might temporarily slow down the vetting process but the results would be informative. I would rather be presented with the editors’ genuine top picks than a percentage quota. We deserve the cream of the crop. They can let us know the names and genders of the authors at the end of the trial period, as well as total submissions, acceptances and rejections data. The trial would also partially, but not completely, tease out what is likely a natural bias toward marquee or tried and true constructors. Perhaps this has already been discussed; I have only been reading this blog for a little over a year.

Woke Millenial 10:10 AM  

I think there should be more transgender constructors of color.

Diver 10:14 AM  

Not a bad Wednesday, but the theme felt too much like anagrams, which don't belong in a crossword puzzle ever. EVER. And yes folks, the top of an espresso is CREMA.

What? 10:18 AM  

Clever but way too easy for a Chen

MR. Cheese 10:20 AM  

How many of you had “crema” before “froth”? You all eventually got to froth so relax. This is not a discussion worth having during these times.

Glenn Patton 10:20 AM  

Go to for Ross Trudeau's commitment to collaboration with groups that have been "historically underrepresented in the NYT puzzles.

Havana Man 10:20 AM  

Nobody called out ROLFS? I guess "kitschy east-side German restaurant" might be too obscure a clue for non-Manhattanites, but can't say I've ever seen "rolfs" used that way? "Rolfing," yes..

Teedmn 10:25 AM  


I found this pleasantly challenging, what with KNIFING and AFFABLE and FEEBLE, the clue for GO SEEK. MONKEYS, SINUOUS, and enough Fs to make @Roo Monster rapturous, oh my.

Congratulations, John-Clark Levin, on the NYT debut and thanks to you and Jeff Chen for an interesting theme.

Mary Barber 10:30 AM  

My daughter is perfectly capable of competing with my son on an even playing field. She doesn’t need or want a leg up.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

@Rex - You didn't think that Will S actively sought more women constructors for March, did you? Not that he just pilfered all the 2Q 2020 puzzles made by women, explaining the subsequent 10% figure? Here' a transcript of the Women's Month all women meeting

Feb 1:

Sam - Hey boss, you know March is Women's Month, right? Maybe we could have a bunch of puzzles by women do commemorate their contribution.
Will: Good idea, I'll get right on it.

Feb 16:
Sam - Hey boss, did you get any puzzles for Women's Month?
Will: Um, ..., Hey, it seems no-one ... got back to me. Yeah, that's the trick, no one got back to me.

Feb 28:
Sam - Any progress on the Women's Month?
Will - Yeah, got it right here: [shuffle shuffle] I got one from Andrea, [shuffle shuffle], yeah, one from Lynn L, ..

And scene.

Whatsername 10:37 AM  

Well this was interesting. Shaded squares, beautiful symmetry, multiple anagrams, and a revealer smack dab in the middle. A little bit of a challenge but fun. The only thing I can say is, good job J and J!

@Joaquin (12:05 a.m.) Love the Beyonce rendition. I remember watching the Obamas and when that music started, thinking oh, how perfect.

@Everyone and ALL of You: Yesterday we had a puzzle based on hands. This is just a reminder to KEEP washing them. I recently read an article about a woman in Charlotte, NC who tested positive for Coronavirus. Because she has a compromised immune system, she HAD NOT LEFT HER HOME in over three weeks. Her husband, who is doing the shopping and cooking but living in a separate part of the house, tested negative. However, a neighbor had recently delivered groceries to them, and the neighbor subsequently got sick and tested positive. At the time she had left the groceries the husband wasn’t home, so the compromised woman brought the things in the house and put them away. She admitted she did NOT wear gloves or sanitize the items or even wash her hands after. So from that it was concluded she contracted the virus from contamination on the groceries. This is kind of a long story and I apologize for the shouting, but I thought it was significant enough to share. Please continue to take all precautions against this pestilence, and do not to let down your guard for a second.

Sir Hillary 10:43 AM  

At first, I thought we were going to be presented with garden-variety anagrams, but the HEADTOTOE twist is actually quite clever. I sussed that twist early, which made for an easy go.

@Joe Dipinto -- I enjoyed your additions. Only after trying to find my own did I notice that TRIO shares the puzzle with a RIOTer's spoils clue.

The fill was good enough that the real crap -- GOSEEK and AMIBEAT -- stood out as glaring clangers.

As for ROLFS, never heard of that term. As I solved, I wondered why they didn't clue it with two last names of guys named ROLF. But later, I Googled "ROLF" plus a space and then every letter, and I was amazed how few people with that name I have heard of. I kid you not, from all 26 drop-down suggestions (so 260 in all), I recognized exactly two: ROLF Benirschke (San Diego Charger placekicker from 40 years ago) and ROLF Lovland (half of a Celtic-Nordic musical duo called Secret Garden, whom I listened to a lot about 20 years ago). Not exactly A-listers.

No clues really struck me today, although I imagine that to a Venezuelan, anything would be milder than a, ahem, maduro.

With two of my daughters sequestered with us, I've been leaving the Monday and Tuesday puzzles for them, as they are trying to build their skills. So, I've been more of a lurker here. I really enjoyed the discussion yesterday around my all-time favorite musician, Mark Knopfler. I thought about writing a lengthy album-by-album account of his work (Dire Straits and beyond), in case @Z was looking for tips on how to expand his collection (although with the Emmylou Harris collaboration he already has a stunner). It would have come with a list of my top songs (by album) as well as numerous hosannas for Knopfler's picking technique and songwriting sensibility. Be thankful I thought better of the idea and spared you all. :)

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

I'm still mad about CREMA/FROTH. As you point out, it's just plain wrong.

RooMonster 10:46 AM  

Hey All !
@LMS, Har on your puz submission appeal. I'm right there with ya, although I'm a Guy, not a (very well educated) woman. FWIW. ☺️

Since you are "blue", i.e., you have a Google/Blog account, once you compose your post, all you have to do is hit Publish. No neef or reason to hit the "I'm not a robot" button. Bypass it completely. It'll save you 862 hours of your life!

I like Stephanie Zimbalist, EFREM's daughter. She was very pretty. She starred opposite Pierce Brosnan on "Remington Steel" of 80's TV.

Fell into the trap that @Frantic Sloth 9:23 did, wording of the Revealer clue led to see that symmetric answer, not the one across the puz from the first one, if that makes sense.

Did like puz, actually did see if was 16 long. Did notice the left/right symmetry, as that's easy to see. Jeff lives his left/right symmetry, it seems.

Wonderful use of the oft non-used F, John and Jeff! See, people, it can be done! There are 8 just in the top part. Plus one more in the bottom section. 9 total (nice!), with only 4 in the themers.



KnittyContessa 10:47 AM  

I seldom know what day it is any more and this puzzle didn't help. Felt like Thursday or Friday at first. Eventually it all fell into place. Afta/Rostand was a guess. I don't think I've ever heard of Afta.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

The idea that anyone cares about the race or gender of a puzzle constructor is offensive to me.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Easiest Wednesday ever. The Reveal could have been omitted, with the shaded squares kept, and it would still be easy. The pop culture that I did not know was steamrollered by the crosses. Only slowed down by speed of entering letters. Very unusual.

Stay safe.

amyyanni 11:03 AM  

I am going to treat this puzzle as a lovely, and perhaps only present I will receive on what will be an unforgettable birthday. And I love Jeff Chen puzzles.

Bax'N'Nex 11:03 AM  

Merl Reagle would have loved this puzzle. Right in his wordplay wheelhouse...speaking of that, everyone here has watched the documentary "Wordplay" right? If not, it's PERFECT quarantine fare. You get to see Merl Reagle, the GOAT, at work. Priceless.

Wonder if we should strike the words Antebellum and/or Old South from history books, too. "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it". I want my kids to know about all the horrible things that have happened so that they realize jst that...they were (and are) horrible.

This puzzle definitely played like a favorite day. hopefully I get two Thursdays in a row!

Last...had DRS before MDS, which gave me Donkeys (around) for 63 across "plays (around). Didn't know that was a thing. (Um, it isn't)

Peace and love, peace and love,

Bax'N'Nex (not anonymous, just lazy)

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Anon 9:54
Dont interrupt Rex when he's virtue signaling.

Ernonymous 11:05 AM  

@Mr. Cheese of course it's a discussion worth having. That's exactly what we do here, we nitpick clues! Have you been reading this blog and comment section? What else are we gonna do? I cherish the knowledge I acquire here such as during The Great Zippo Controversy '20.

Z 11:05 AM  

@Sir Hillary - I’d have read it with interest. I’m guessing I wouldn’t have been alone.

Richard 11:09 AM  

This was just one of those wheelhouse days for me (grandson's a cellist so ENDPIN was a gimme), so I found it easy. At least for me. Still 3X Rexes. Moreover, once I picked up the conceit (early), I was able to fill in most of the down theme answers without reference to the clues. Once those anchors were in place, it was pretty much just a matter of filling in the blanks.

Like many here, I sometimes roll my eyes at Rex's rants, but he's right on point about the lack of female constructors. I know they're out there; I see them all the time on other puzzles I do on-line, so why can't the NYT get with the program? I've done the Times puzzle for over 50 years and it's really part of my daily life, but this is becoming cringe-worthy.

Newboy 11:12 AM  

The reveal didn’t. Mrs Newboy explained it after I finished on iPad; her paper solve made the stars POP IN & I SAW the anagram answers. AM I BEAT by crytic puzzlers—yes indeed. Guess I’ll continue to be one who HOLDS OUT for a Thursday I can love, so today’s grid is only an AMIE—sigh. Thanks anyway to John-Clark & Jeff for a HEAD TO TOE ELITE challenge, one that deserves a tip of the STETSON. Off to see if others agree.

Karl Grouch 11:18 AM  

Didn't notice the "first letter, last lettet gimmick", impressive constructioneering (hi @Roo), agree with @Nancy though.

•The only "challenging" part of the grid was the NW.
Boy, there were some brutal crosses there!
The rest was easy.

•I'm not offended by the term Old South, it's there and it means what it means and no one is obliged to like it.

•Two vertical themed puzzles in two days.. ¿any particular reason?

•Had "Radiate" for a long time and the obscure "manatee" didn't arrange things.
I would use emanate for a smell but not for a ray, be it in the air or underwater.

Despite the inconsistencies @redanman pointed out and the jeffchennish showoffness, I kinda sorta enjoyed this puzzle because of the anagramming involved.

@jc66, why is it that some dentists are called dontists (ortho)?

abalani500 11:26 AM  

From a coffee website: pressure from the espresso making process pushes out the little oils from the coffee beans into the liquid. The oils and the plant carbohydrates from the bean stabilize the bubbles and keep the long lasting foam, or "crema." Crema is, in fact, a type of cream, due to the oils that create fats.

egsforbreakfast 11:32 AM  

I expected to find Rex saying something like this:

A puzzle where knowing half of the themers plus the revealer gives you all of the other themers without even reading the clues is not a NYTXW-worthy puzzle, even in this era of diminished editorial insight. Sure, it takes some work to produce a gimmick like this, but it doesn’t result in any satisfaction for the solver. Please, constructors, put yourselves in the shoes of the solver, rather than fawn over your ability to manipulate letters in ways that scream “aren’t I a genius”.

I now realize that neither Rex nor any other commenter found themselves where I, just by happenstance did, which is having solved one of each pair, but with little or nothing in filled in in the corresponding themers when I got to the revealer. I don’t remember exactly where I was at that point, but I conceivably got to fill 27 squares without consulting the clues, so long as I grasped what the revealer was telling you. Somehow I did. This made for a lightening fast solve by my standards, but I now understand that it was almost dumb luck on my part.

Is the Christian cross at the bottom, with arms holding the phrase SON SAW a religious message? A belated Easter reference?

jberg 11:44 AM  

So I was working the crosses from 1A, had already got GRIFFIN, EMANATE, & MANATEE by the time I got to the clue for the revealer. I couldn't see the answer yet, but I did see that EMANATE and MANATEE were anagrams. Then a few more crosses gave me HEAD TO TOE, and I realized that you moved the first letter of one answer to the end of the next one, and immediately wrote in RIFFING. Too easy! I thought -- they should have just said four symmetrical pairs of downs, and left me to figure out which ones.

Then, still working the crosses, I ended up down in the SE, got OLD mOUTH, changed it to OLD SOUTH, and started to fill in the symmetrical answer with 'lds out ho.' Sounds like some kind of slur against the Mormons, but i was pretty sure it wasn't right. I finally figured out that now I had to move the last letter to be first, which let me complete the grid -- but I didn't see how it fit the revealer. Some kind of switch from the top to the bottom??

Only after I was here and Rex didn't say anything about this did I understand that I was simply starting with the second member of the pair! Was my face red!

The clue for EMANATE seemed off to me. Rays emanate from the sun, the sun emits them.

As for women constructors -- and I completely agree with Rex, Liz Gorsky, and Z's point above -- people should take a look at The Inkubator, which publishes puzzles by women, especially women new to constructing, on a twice-a-month schedule. It was free the first year, now $25 for a one-year subscription.

JC66 11:45 AM  


Happy Birthday!

Belle 11:47 AM  

My family is from the South and I am offended that Rex associates only one thing to the South. Widen your lens to see there is much more to the culture down there.

Aketi 11:55 AM  

Looks like there is a conjoined twin in the puzzle hanging off the MONKEY.

I got the HEAD TO TOE shortly after GRIFFIN so it was a letter shuffle and not an anagram unscramble for me. FYI, I find it easier to bring my TOE to my HEAD, than my HEAD to my TOE.

Aketi 12:03 PM  

@Roomonster from yesterday, you clearly haven’t tried them broiled and tossed with toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate syrup.

Joe Dipinto 12:06 PM  

@egsforbreakfast – and there were three crosses on Calvary: a TRIO! (36d, directly above)


Teedmn 12:09 PM  

Thanks to all who helped me with my hand visualization yesterday.

@Birchbark, just saw my first yellow-rumped warbler of the year - yay spring!

Anonymous 12:16 PM  


pabloinnh 12:19 PM  


Indeed, happy birthday! Mine was last week, and my granddaughter had the rare good sense to be born on exactly the same day, so we had a long distance celebration. I recommend this when you eventually have the option of grandchildren, although you will find that you will always and forever have The Other Birthday.


Carola 12:20 PM  

Nicely done! And nice to have a bit of a Monday challenge - at least to the halfway point. Once I had HEAD TO TOE and saw what was needed to change GRIFFIN to RIFFING and EMANATE to MANATEE, the rest went much faster, with some back-and-forth cooperation between the remaining pairs. I paused at ATHENS, thinking that THENSA isn't a word, then smiled when I went and looked at the clue; I liked that little trick at the end. Another pair I noticed: LONG LOST OLD SOUTH.

EFREM: I'm with @Barbara S's mother (9:32), EDD Byrnes having been too young for me. I was surprised to read comments about wooden acting - I thought that was part of the hard-boiled police persona. See also: Robert Stack.

Help from previous puzzles: CLARO, REDFIN. One do-over: Tape before TIVO.

Unknown 12:26 PM  

Dead wrong. This puzzle (wed) was great!

Newboy 12:28 PM  

@Anonymous (11:03) May have the best profile I’ve explored to date. Worth checking out if y’all wanna know how a profile can really help us understand our fellow commentariat.

Anonymoose 12:34 PM  

@Lewis (6:24) is sometimes more charitable than I but today he is certainly right on. What a pleasant Wednesday puzzle. RAH!

Whatsername 12:40 PM  

@amyyanni (11:03) Even though it’s not the happiest of times, I send you wishes for a pleasant birthday, good health and brighter days ahead. Find comfort in small blessings.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

I asked Rex, in an email, if we knew how many SUBMISSIONS are from women. For all we know, women are already getting preference. Gender neutral judging is only fair -- gender parity by numbers if women are not 50% of the submissions is, IMO, ridiculous.


Bax'N'Nex 12:51 PM  

@Newboy...if you have the time right on your "anonymous@11:03" that would be me. I'm not sure I get the sarcasm.

I don't post anonymously...I sign it "Bax'N'Nex at the bottom because
a) I don't exactly know how to give myself a handle(I AM over 50) and,
2) I don't seem to have the time others here have to devote to this.

If that WASN'T me you were referring to, my apologies. If it was, pretty insightful, cutting edge comment! Congrats.

Bax'N'Nex (not anonymous, just lazy)

p.s. Isn't EVERYONE here anonymous in reality? If I ran into "Roomonster" or "Kitshef" or "Z" or even "Masked and Anonymous" would I know. And I dare think there are regular posters here who come back as "anonymous" from time to time to deliver a zinger or two.

I will gladly give you any info about me you would like...nothing to hide. I'm glad you are so interested in me.

Doc John 12:54 PM  

Don't beat yourself up too much about Griffon, Rex. It is an actual word- the name of a great rollercoaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Ah, maybe the parks will reopen and I'll get to ride one again someday...

Lorraine Dusky 12:56 PM  

I was going to bitch a bit about the overall continuing maleness of clues that are geared to male solvers, that is, the drumbeat of sports-themed clues, or gaming clues, that leave an artsy person out in the cold. Okay, so I know who Magic Johnson is, but am I every going to get that the numbers refer to ASSISTS until I have most of the letters? NO> Once I got the clue, I guessed before I looked that the constructor was male. BINGO.

If the puzzles had as obscure clues about art or fashion, one couldn't complain but they are far and few between, and I don't mean something as easy as like YSL or Armani. But like, say, Where water lilies were painted. Where Seurat spent his Sundays. RED painter. Egg medium. These at least correspond to the Magic J. clue--or to me, are much, much easier.

Just sayin'.

So I loved to see you note at the bottom today directing me to a blog about just this issue.

OS I kept wanting to make it crema too, but I knew Rostand was I stayed stuck there for a while.

Masked and Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Hands yesterday, heads and toes today. Can't wait for tomorrow's extremities.

staff weeject pick: TSA which can flip its lid to become SAT.

M&A don't understand why there aren't more female constructioneers in the NYTPuzs. There have been years -- such as 1999, 2001, 2005, 2008, and 2012 -- where over 40% of the puzs for a certain day were done by women. (They were all Mondays and Tuesdays, btw.) F'rinstance: 51% of the MonPuzs in 2001 were by women.

But, but … in 2011, 2013, and 2015 0% of SatPuzs were by women. Nada.

Of the top ten all-time SunPuz constructioneers, 4 of 10 were women. Of the top ten SatPuz constructioneers, zero of 10 were women.

Overall %'s for women, by day:
Sun 23%, Mon 33%, Tue 29%, Wed 20%, Thu 17%, Fri 11%, Sat 8%.

Can't see a lot of clear explanation in the stats, but it's clear that them themeless puzs really drag the overall NYTPuz percentages down, for the womenfolks. And things really vary a snotload, by year, also.
Confuses the M&A.

It's a shame that several crossword greats, such as Liz Gorski, have quit the NYTPuz. Miss her. And that's one less major inspirational influence to encourage other women to give it a try.
Also … Definitely accept more @muse darlin NYTPuz contributions. She is one inspirational lady, IM&AO.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


p.s. If U have a better clue for 11-A in today's runtpuz, send it in a msg, over at the blog site. @r.alph is evidently offerin a prize for the best idea [he didn't like M&A's runtpuz's math-oriented clue ideas much at all.]

CaryinBoulder 1:08 PM  

[My original comment got swallowed when Blogger crashed before I posted it. Grrr.]

When I was young enough to want to wear Old Spice the competition came from a smelly AFTAshave called English Leather. I guess college girls dug it.

As many have pointed out, CREMA is the light golden yellow froth on top of a good espresso. I think of FROTH as what goes on a macchiato, while FOAM is a better fit for cappuccino and latte. I miss being able to sip on any of the above at a nice coffee shop after or in the middle of a bike ride.

I enjoyed the puzzle. I saw the theme trick early enough to fill in several of the downs, although at first I thought “anagrams” until I got the revealer. As @LMS pointed out, it’s not so easy come up with longer pairs like EMANATE-MANATEE.

Thanks to @Joe DiPinto for the 1942 big band version of “At Last,” which I had not seen nor heard before. I’m a bluesologist by trade and Etta James’ version was and forever will be the ne plus ultra performance. BTW, Beyoncé portrayed Etta in the 2008 film “Cadillac Records,” loosely based on the story of legendary Chicago blues label Chess Records. I’m not at all a fan of modern dance-pop schlock, so I only knew of Ms. Knowles as a name I’d heard. I thought she did a very good job and when she was scheduled for the Super Bowl halftime I tuned in with interest. Alas, although she is gorgeous and can shake that thang — and here’s where her gazillions of fans will want to clobber me from HEADTOTOE with FISTS, ENDPINs and, who knows, maybe even DOLMA — I thought the music was just appalling pop crap. (Then again I think Adele’s material is a waste of good talent.)

But I digress. I’d dare to say that most Americans today are only familiar with ETTA from this one song, but she produced a supremely rich and deep catalogue of music in a career that spanned six decades. Her birth name was Jamesetta (worthy of a NYTXW placement) Hawkins and she was discovered by the great rhythm and blues bandleader Johnny Otis when she was just 15. The first couple decades of her recorded career were for Chess subsidiaries like Argo and Cadet Records. From sometime in the ‘90s onward she made some excellent CDs for Island Records and Private Music. It’s pretty incredible that she had such an impressive and consistent output while battling heroin addiction for most of her life. One of my personal favorites is a wordless obscurity she recorded while on furlough from a rehab clinic in Los Angeles. Feeling Uneasy

Jason 1:13 PM  

Maybe we could just FORCE more women into becoming crossword constructors? While we're at it we could FORCE more men to become nurses. We could FORCE more white people to be NBA players, too. Perhaps we could FORCE more women into STEM careers. I have an idea.......we could start really young, like at the elementary level, and then we could have some government-run Department of Equality ASSIGN children a career path and ONLY allow them to do their government assigned job.......all in the name of "equality', of course. It's a humanitarian mission. THEN, we would have more female airline pilots!! We would have more male primary and secondary school teachers, and FEWER men in academia!! What a wonderful utopia that would be!!

Or, here's another idea, MICHAEL.......Why don't you let people do whatever the hell they want to do, and don't BITCH about how the demographics play out!!!

Joaquin 1:14 PM  

@Newboy (12:28) - Yep, I fell right in. Good one!

Will 1:24 PM  

"Even the most stalwart of status quo defenders have gotta admit, it's just embarrassing."
I guess. The problem is, I couldn't care less. I never look at the constructor's name on a puzzle. I have no interest in it. Is it a good, fun puzzle? Is it a bad, irritating one? That's the only part I really care about.

Similarly "Old South" wrecking the vibe of the puzzle because the slave-holding south was bad. Really? Are there not more urgent things to wreck your vibe? I sincerely doubt the word was put in there because they're misty-eyed Confederate romantics.

puzzlehoarder 1:32 PM  

A couple of minutes over my average Wednesday time. An assortment of mistakes in the northern tier had to be overcome but once I got down to the southern half things got back up to the usual Wednesday speed.

I figured out the theme after solving.

Pamela 1:53 PM  

Seems I do the puzzle much later in the day, so by the time I come here you’ve all said it all. I am among those of you who found it easy, in spite of starting with ACriD and EFRaM. ENDPIN and CLEF weren’t quite gimmes, but came quickly, thanks to my interest in music. I don’t understand AGERANGE or the first two letters in APLATIN, but crosses set me straight. Once finished, I came here without paying much attention to the gimmick as it didn’t contribute to the solve for me.

I love having sped through three in a row, but look forward to a little more meat as the week progresses. Also, I’m seriously considering doing the puzzle in the app the night before when it becomes available, just so I can show up here earlier. Still wavering...

I also appreciate the championing of female constructors. I wonder if it will ever have any effect... or will it take a new generation to make a difference? Seems like this battle has been going on for a long time, and not just in the world of crosswords.

jb129 1:55 PM  

What a pleasant surprise for a Wednesday :)

Smith 1:55 PM  

@Kathy 10:09
Great idea!

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

RE: constructor gender - has anyone got the gonads to assert that the male sourced puzzles are, on the whole, hits outta the park? and that, therefore, not bias but meritocracy? well?

Preferred Customer 2:18 PM  

Hi Spatenau,

Crema is not white and frothy. If your espresso has white, frothiness on it: THROW IT OUT!

Yes, I'm yelling at you. The situation has become desperate.

Best wishes for your future espressos,

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Preach on. In Scandanavia, the most gender aware place on Earth, women aren't pouring into the STEM fields---often lamented as trditionally male. It seems there is more than a little something to the long observed differences between the sexes.
Rex and his ilk are on misguided crusade. It won't succeed of course. But he and his feminist friends will keep trying. And causing much suffering as they do.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

especially women new to constructing

Which raises yet another question: what's the ratio of genders for 'new to constructing'? Is Shortz 'helping along' more guys than gals? Or tuther way round?

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

causing much suffering as they do

Who suffers?

MR. Cheese 2:49 PM  

@giovanni - you’re right, of course. That’s why I come here also.
Just feeling a little snippy this morning.... sorry.

Z 3:02 PM  

@Bax’N’Me - Besides meeting others here through arranged lunches (and a whole gaggle has been known to meet at ACPT), I’ve also had people walk up to me at Ultimate Tournaments to discuss crosswords. So I’d say I’m anonymous enough but not so anonymous as to be unrecognizable in the wild. And you can always email me (like @Newboy did not long ago).

As for changing your nom de blog, it’s actually easier than posting a link. Click on your blue “anonymous.” This should take you to your profile page. On the upper right should be an “Edit Profile” button. Click it and fill in as much or as little info as you want. Add an avatar if you have an appropriate one. Then hit save updates and voila. I just tested this so I’m now @Z_Zed_Zed for a bit. I’ll change it back later.

@Anon2:23 - True and sort of embarrassing for men and the sciences. FYI - The reading gap between boys and girls mentioned in the article is well established in the US, too.

Z 3:09 PM  

@Bax’N’Mex - Plus, if you update your nom de blog I can copy and paste rather than butchering your name.

Joe Dipinto 3:18 PM  

@Bax'n'Nex – @Newboy is stalking all the posters who have email addresses, so don't give him any information.

(just kidding – he's cool people)

CaryinBoulder 3:18 PM  

@Pamela: The AP in APLATIN stands for Advanced Placement. Not a thing that I can recall from when I was in school, but I've seen it often in Xwords.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Im not embarassed that girls in Scandanavia don't want to go into STEM fields. But you knew that.
As many have noted, it's an open question as to whether The Times is discriminating against female constructors.
My Scandanavian analogy suggests that it is possible, perhaps likely, that the disparate rates between the genders can be explained by something other than bias.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Advanced Placement

has been in HS since the 60s. back then, calculus class was such for a senior. these days it's taught as a matter of course. what qualifies as AP these days, I've no idea.

Masked and Anonymous 3:33 PM  

@Anon 2:44pm - Good question. About 50 new NYTPuz constructioneers since the start of 2019. 33 were men, 17 were women. There seems to be about a one-year lag, between a puz bein accepted and its bein published, tho.

And thanx to John-Clark L. and Jeff C., for gangin up on us, today. Good, clean work and fun. Liked the E-W puzgrid symmetry. (Also admired the raised-by-wolves symmetry, in yesterday's rodeo.)

SMITTEN --> MITTENS? There's quite a few of these themer thingies, I'd wager, if you make use of a plural-of-convenience (yo, @Anoa Bob).


Ernonymous 3:34 PM  

@Mr. Cheese no worries and I'm sorry you are feeling so snippy today. I totally get it. Things are really off. Saturday night some really loud fireworks started going off which sounded like they were on top of my house. I heard my neighbor scream: SHUT THE F UP! People are too edgy for fireworks! And what were they celebrating, Cancelled Easter? Strange times..

Anonymous 4:07 PM  

All his faux outrage and all his crocodile tears over the so-called *bias* against women at the NYT will never get Rex Shortz's job. Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never. So why can't he get off his tiresome daily soapbox and leave the rest of us in peace?

Bax'N'Nex 4:17 PM  

Thanks for the help. It's computer stuff, so maybe I'll have ny granddaughter explain it to me...

Bax'N'Nex (soon to be non-anonymous) (?)

Backs n' necks(I'm a chiropractor. See what I did there?)

TJS 4:48 PM  

See, this is where people get fed up with the anon. crowd who want to turn everything into a personal attack. "Faux outrage" and "crocodile tears" imply that you are familiar with Rex personally. What makes you say that? My take is that he is genuine in his concern regarding gender inequality. Some of us have different opinions but are able to express this without ad hominem attacks. Others have to resort to the level of third grade name calling, as we are all unfortunately too familiar with. And some, I suspect, have no real opinions but just like to lower the level of discourse and see what they can stir up. As has been said before, there are many Anon. commenters that have interesting things to say and are not trolls. It just becomes tempting to skip over all anon. entries to avoid the aggravation.

DigitalDan 4:54 PM  

No astronomer would EVER refer to GST, or Greenwich Standard Time. The old term for the world standard time was GMT, Greenwich Mean Time. These days, it has been fully metricized, which is to say France-cized, and is called UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time (Temps Universel Coordonné in French -- dont' ask.) For all practical purposes, all three refer to the same time.

It occurs to me that someone who can finish the average Friday in 6 minutes, about as fast as I can copy the letters from another grid, is hardly in a position to opine on the difficulty of a particular puzzle. It used to bother me that my assessment differed so much from Rex's, but no longer. :-)

Z 5:10 PM  

@TJS 4:48 - �������������������������������� (that’s applause for those who have devices that refuse to render the emojis)

@Bax’N’Nex - Hey - I think I got it right this time.

@DigitalDan - As I mentioned earlier, GST is for Greenwich Sidereal Time. I know, I know. Talk to Shortz about it, not me. I only know it because of all the disbelief its use elicited here before.

webwinger 5:51 PM  

@LMS 2:49, TJS 8:36: I assume both of your suggestions for improving gender balance were made with tongue in cheek, but I think both warrant serious consideration by the brass at NYTXW. We’re talking crossword puzzles here, not brain surgery or rocket science. What harm can result from releasing into the world some female-constructed x-words that did not make the cut initially and give solvers (especially @Rex) a chance to weigh in. To make it a more valid experiment, don’t publish the constructors’ names when they appear. (Or list them as Anonymous—yeah, that’s the ticket!)

Speaking of Anonymous: Thank you @BaxN’Nex for shedding your anonymous skin, and @Z_Zed_Zed for helping with that transition. And re your 12:51 comment B&N, if I might be so familiar: Yes, in a sense we are all anonymous. “Going blue” as you have done opens a small window for the rest of us to peer through. Providing a contact email address in the Blogger profile, as you have not done, increases exposure further. Anyone is welcome to take the process as far as they like.

The problem with posting as Anonymous unqualified, which I think you recognized in one of your posts today, is that others can’t tell whether comments come from a single or multiple sources. Regular contributors establish a voice that readers learn to recognize, and appreciate being introduced to by the blog handle, even when that is not truly necessary. (Was anyone confused when @Z donned his Zed_Zed mask? Could anyone who comes here even occasionally fail to recognize an M&A post?)

It’s true one can always take cover by behind the Anonymous screen to express a view that is expected to be unpopular (or maybe to conceal the fact that you are Michael Sharp, Will Shortz, or the day’s constructor), but mostly that does not happen, with good reason. The community functions better when all can judge comments in the most comprehensive context.

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

Can some please explain why “what ‘it’ is supposed to do?” is GO SEEK?

BobL 6:00 PM  

Hey Web - great comment.

Joe Dipinto 6:04 PM  

@CaryinBoulder – Beyoncé just doesn't have an interesting voice or style, imo. She's blandly adequate. She's more about stage spectacle than anything else. Her "At Last" was a xerox copy of the Etta James arrangement (since she was conveniently in that movie at the time), and nowhere near as good.

Eric Arthur Blair 6:09 PM  

I post anonymously because we live in a police state. I don’t question the intelligence of you guys in blue but I do question your awareness of what’s going on in he world.

Barbara S. 6:10 PM  

@Pamela 1:53
Did anyone address AGE RANGE? The clue is "Game box info" and I surmise this means the suggested AGE RANGE for players, which is printed on boxes of Monopoly, Clue and the like. (Didn't we recently have Professor Plum in the library, I don't know...a crossword dictionary?)

JC66 6:20 PM  

@Anon 6:00

In the game, Hide and GO SEEK, the kid who's "it" has to find the kids who're hiding.

KFC 6:42 PM  

@Eric - So you believe that the first amendment was written to identify people with beliefs antithetical to the police state so they could be rounded up and tossed in a gulag? Makes sense to me. You should probably double check on that stash of TP in your garage.

Eat more chicken, we now deliver if you trust us.

Monty Boy 6:50 PM  

I liked this one a lot. Easy-medium for me. I had a few places that were tough, NW and much of the PPP. I am old enough to remember AFTA, and OLDSPICE as well as English Leather.

No one has commented on the reappearance of the Wanders?? 55A??

About GST, GMT, etc. When I took the surveying class long ago, we used a solar ephemeris chart to get a sun shot to find true north. The reference was to GMT, but that was 1964, so a lot has changed.

FWIW, there's a great book about finding longitude by keeping accurate time at sea. Oddly, called "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. It's a small book but fascinating read. Finding latitude is fairly easy. Finding longitude relies on knowing the exact time at Greenwich and your local time (at least before GPS), so the challenge was to make a relatively small, accurate clock. The Brits even offered a substantial prize for the inventor who could make such a clock.

webwinger 6:58 PM  

@Eric Blair 6:09 pm: I have the impression many posts from @Anonymous reflect the concern you express. Adopting a “gray identity”, as you demonstrate, eliminates much of the problem for others (and increases your likelihood of being read). But I have to confess puzzlement over this attitude, which seems to mostly characterize participants with rightish political views. It is clearly not the case that we live in the equivalent of North Korea or Nazi Germany. It must be a truly rare vindictive employer or disgruntled co-worker or spurned suitor indeed who would snoop here for dirt on an intended target. And despite the prevalence and dominance of leftish views in academia and many professional circles, the real power of government in the US right now is pretty much in right-leaning HEADs and hands (and TOEs?)

GILL I. 7:00 PM  

@webwinger. Good post on shedding the anonymous skin. I agree. I've nagged @pabloinnh and funny @Quasi. Lucky for us, their blue prints are all over the place so we know who they are. For some of our new posters like @Pamela, @Giovani, @Kathy and @Smith and others who come here often.....DO IT. It really is easy and it's free. You can keep any info you don't want to share, a secret... But having a little avatar does identify you so much easier. I can't remember how to do it because it's been so long, but I did go to Google and asked for help. Maybe @Z or JC66 can tell you how.
Just remember....If @Nancy could do can you.

bauskern 7:23 PM  

Ah,once again Rex rants about male to female ratio of constructors. He is missing the point. It's not about how many males versus females get published. What if ten men send in contributions to every one female? That would explain the discrepancy. We really would need to know what the acceptance ratios are for men versus women. That would possibly reveal if there is any bias, either deliberate or unconscious? But honestly his constant harping on this issue gets old.

E Blair (same guy) 8:13 PM  

Webwinger: well said

Nancy 8:53 PM  

Oh, @GILL (7:00), that's so mean :) But on the other hand, it warms my heart that you can't remember how you "went blue" any better than I can. Happiness is finding other people with memories as fuzzy as your own. Last week it was @Quasi and today it's you.

Ernonymous 8:59 PM  

@bauskern this is what Shortz
uses as his excuse- that he gets less submissions from women. However his rate is still below this percentage. And as Rex and Liz Gorski point out there is a reason women constructors don't send their puzzles in, or stop, like she did, because it's a shyt environment for female constructors.

RooMonster 9:33 PM  

@Karl Grouch 11:18
Thanks for the shout-out! But, unfortunately, it's not me that coined "constructioneering". That would be @M&A. Also, precious nanoseconds and cinnamon rolls. ☺️

@Aketi 12:03
Maybe. But the taste is firmly planted in the ole brain as icky. I'm not sure slathering them in your delicious sounding stuff would alter the taste (for me)(but, you never know!)

@Bax'N'Nex 12:51
I sign my first post as RooMonster, then underneath I sign DarrinV, which is my real first name and last initial. (Someone [@Z?] said it looks like Darrin the Fifth [V]. Har.) If I could ever get a puz published, then you would know who I am!

As for the gender disparage, I think it was brought up here once that more men than women submit puzs. Ergo, more men get accepted. It's just the sheer amount of numbers. Why, I couldn't tell you. Probably because Women have busier lives than Men, they're always doing stuff, whereas Men are lazy!

RooMonster Miscellaneous Stuff Guy

Rational SWF 9:37 PM  

So we need more women constructors and Liz Gorski’s solution is that women shouldn’t submit puzzles. Brilliant. Viva Will Shortz.

Anonymous 9:41 PM  

@KFC - notice you’re not blue, paranoia ?

Anonymous 10:19 PM  

… I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones,
Ain't got no records to play…

Mike 10:47 PM  

I'm a long time reader and admirer. You completely missed the boat on this one (or is that too old of an expression for you to stomach?).

This was a tour de force.

No one but you cares about your solve time. Stop it.

You're triggered by old south? Good grief man get a grip.

Mike 10:49 PM  

I see you moderate comments. Fair enough it's your blog.

Looking forward to see if you let mine through.

Mike 11:03 PM  

Don't usually read comments but did tonight after my post and see you routinely allow criticism. Good for you. I remain a fan and everyday reader.

JC66 11:24 PM  


Welcome. Don't be a stranger.

jae 1:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
DigitalDan 1:00 PM  

@Z -- partial justification for my GST misunderstanding. This astronomical time is more properly referred to as GMST -- Greenwich Mean Sid.... But thanks for the correction.

Another friend of LMS. 6:25 PM  

RooMonster 9:33pm. I agree re. men vs women constructors and submissions. I don’t know that I think men are lazy, but I do feel that they have more free time to pursue their interests than women. My recently deceased husband was equally involved in childcare, feeding, bathing, diapering, etc. He often cooked or grocery shopped. He was a gem, and I miss him mightily. Did he sweep floors, vacuum, do laundry, dust, clean the bathroom, change sheets, etc? Yes,.....if I asked for assistance. I felt that I shouldn’t have to ask. Does the floor need to be swept, sweep it. Do we need a birthday gift for a friend or relative, go shopping, (again) etc. He was quite woke, however he had more free time than me.

Bea 6:21 PM  

Yeah, it's 'crema' as far as the eye can see. Ain't no froth atop an espresso.

Anonymous 2:23 AM  

Not a fan of this puzzle. Griffon and griffon and gryphon are all acceptable spellings so maybe don't use it as an answer. No idea why the Muppets dog is giving anyone a massage. GOSEEK and AMIE make sense working backwards but are impossibly clued.

Overall just too many EHS for a Wednesday. On the plus side, the Seattle Times appears to have synced up with other syndication instead of lagging a week.

Unknown 11:27 AM  

Assist for a proctologist is even better than the old standard: Rear Admiral.

Unknown 11:37 AM  

“Assist” for Proctologist is much better than the old standard “Rear Admiral.”

spacecraft 12:05 PM  

Hand up for urging OFC to stop it with the gender rants. We get it already, and you're not going to change things no matter how much vitriol you spill on this page. It is what it is. Maybe there are just a lot more males out there who are making puzzles. As @Jason said, what're you gonna do, FORCE more women into it? Give it a rest.

The other thing that is--for me--wasting a lot of space is this ado over 14a. All I want is a coffee. Black. And I don't need a "barista" to serve it; any old store employee will do. Sheesh, what a complicated subculture!

My solving experience was a little different; naturally I assumed (you know what that does) that the pairs of downs were vertical--that column 2 was a pair. Had the west done to the first five columns and was sitting there scratching my HEAD, going WHAT THE?? Even after getting the revealer I was still puzzled. Fixated on the vertical pairings. Only after I meandered into the NE and found RIFFING did the light turn on. Oh, oh, nobody said the pairs had to be sitting on top of each other. Duh! And, aha!!

So there was that powerful moment. Dislikes: having to put the dreaded THE in front of NSA for theme purposes, the double letter-add of APLATIN--what IS AP anyway? It was never around when I went to H.S. Advanced Placement?? My Latin teacher was a fantastic lady named Miss Lippi, 90+ and sharp as a tack. They don't make 'em like that anymore.--and the RCD at the end.

Likes: everything else, plus many-time DOD ETTA. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 12:50 PM  

Just right for a Wednesday - not as simple as the last two days, but doable. Even when I felt like giving up I knew that, in the end, I'd shake my head at my own silliness.

Speaking of which, agree with @Spacey - enough silliness. But, again, that's perhaps why many people come here. From Mr. Rogers, you expect nice. From OFL, you wanna hear rant. I guess.

My Latin teacher was older, too, but a few kids took advantage of that. And I doubt that those same kids remember much from the content. Always glad I took that course. Even the examples of columns I carved out of Ivory Soap for a class project on Roman architecture.

Well...back to some rainy day fun. Praps the rain will wash away the C-19. Praps you know who will be drinking Clorox next. Stay tuned...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting
(Yes, I know Alec Baldwin did on SNL...)

Burma Shave 1:19 PM  


WHATTHE FEEBLE grin is about,
but it’s a LONG shot to POPIN now


rondo 3:00 PM  

Pretty much went right down the line getting GRIFFIN/RIFFING early on, so no aha for me. Wrote-over EFRaM, otherwise no issues. Who came AFTA TAFT? Kept looking at THE NSA as if it rhymed with Mensa. SASHA Fierce, yeah Bey Bey. Decent but not ELITE.

rainforest 3:06 PM  

I found this one easy-medium, and I noticed soon out of the gate that RIFFING was similar to GRIFFIN which I thought could be "gryphon", another spelling of the same mythological animal. Anyway, I had to get the revealer to see exactly how those two were related. After that the other three pairs were easy to unravel.

I really liked a number of answers and appreciated the general quality of the fill.
Coupla things:

Yes, CREMA is the correct name for the espresso FROTH, but it does "look" FROTHy.

As to the gender thing, there are constructors of both genders whose work I admire, but I really don't care if there is an imbalance. I just like to solve puzzles, as I did this one.

Diana, LIW 7:41 PM  

Thanks for the reminder @Rainey - almost forgot to mention. I spelled it GRYPHON at first because that was my high school mascot. Felt so proud that I knew all about that creature. Caused a bit of erasing. Thanks for that Pink Pearl, @Rondo!

Diana, YKW

PS Will President Tweety wear his mask tomorrow? Stay tuned...tee hee

Diana, LIW 8:22 PM  

Lost my PS - @Rainey reminded me that my high school mascot was the GRYPHON, which is how I wrote it in at first. Thanks to @Rondo for the Pink Pearl to erase such errors.

Lady Di

PPS - Will President Tweety wear a mask at Ford's tomorrow? Tune in...

rondo 9:55 PM  

@D,LIW - I'm sure that I still have the pencil, somewhere.

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

Old South a trigger? (It's been a major brand of frozen orange juice in Canada for years. Canucks are obviously racists).
What doesn't trigger Rex. How does he ever get through the day? The toll on his psyche must be crushing.
What a twit...

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