Classic chairs with shield-shaped backs / FRI 4-10-20 / Certain autumn tourist slangily / Nickname for Eric Cartwright on Bonanza / Metaphorical source of next generation of coders researchers / Sends in huff

Friday, April 10, 2020

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: Challenging (felt way more like a Saturday)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: HEPPLEWHITES (8D: Classic chairs with shield-shaped backs) —
George Hepplewhite (1727? – 21 June 1786) was a cabinetmaker. He is regarded as having been one of the "big three" English furniture makers of the 18th century, along with Thomas Sheraton and Thomas Chippendale. There are no pieces of furniture made by Hepplewhite or his firm known to exist but he gave his name to a distinctive style of light, elegant furniture that was fashionable between about 1775 and 1800 and reproductions of his designs continued through the following centuries. One characteristic that is seen in many of his designs is a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design. (wikipedia) 
• • •

I feel like it's been years, decades, since I got the kind of Friday Puzzle I really love. This ... is a Saturday puzzle. It's a nice grid, but it's got that "watch me trick you!?" attitude, where it's intentionally misleading or inscrutable, over and over and over. Eight "?" clues. I typically get tired around four. And we get eight. And then clue after clue of "ooh did you think I meant the word this way, I actually meant it this way." I just wasn't in the mood this morning. Too much willful brutality, too little bounce. Also, frankly, just too much stuff I've never heard of, which is of course not really the puzzle's fault. It just makes solving more of a grind than a joy. Pozole pichelsteiner doblones ataxophobes and HEPPLEWHITES were unknown to me (though the chairs ... ring a bell ... maybe from watching "Antiques Roadshow" in the '00s?). The "freshest" answer was probably STEMPIPELINE, which is not a concept that gives me much joy (the STEM-ification of education has a sad, conformist, careerist, depressing side to it. Everybody Code Now! Code Or Die!!). I got TINYTOON easy enough, but I don't really know what one is. The whole puzzle just felt alien to me. I can see it was trying real hard to be entertaining in the clues, and I am quite sure it will have succeeded for many. This just felt like it was mis-slotted on a Friday, and was Trying Too Hard to be clever. Ostentatiously tricksy.

Never read "Tender is the Night," so CANNES was a surprise (59A: CIty in Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night"). Between that and the hard-to-parse BETON (52A: Back at the track) ("Back? ... oh *back*!") and the oddly clued BLOOMS (57A: Flourishes) ("Flourishes noun? ... oh flourishes *verb*! ... fun") and finally wanting BOLO (the tie) instead of BOLA (the weapon of the pampas), what should've been an Easy corner all of a sudden got hard. The NW, even harder. PAROLE, FLOW, COFFEE, FIRES OFF (?), ORO ... no idea, all around. I had to trust in COP SHOWS (?) before I could make anything work up there, and even there the singular-v-plural ambiguity of "series" was throwing me (1D: Series of crimes?). Plus I had EAGLE / EYE instead of SHARP / EYE, which didn't mess with my NW, though it did briefly make me question EYE when it became clear EAGLE wouldn't work (since 50D: Barre bend pretty much had to be PLIÉ, which doesn't start with an "E," as you can see). NE and SW corners were much easier. I just never got a happy flow going with this one. It was like tip-toeing around broken glass the whole time. The TSA are "Wanders?" Oof. That's a groaner (29A: Wanders around LAX or JFK?). I don't get why a WIFI PASSWORD would deter squatters (30A: Deterrent to squatting). People have been squatting since way before the internet. And smartphones exist. Does "squatting" here mean "staying at a COFFEE shop for hours on end?" To me, "squatting" means "occupying a domicile illegally." Or it means actually squatting on the ground, I guess, though I'm pretty sure that's not the sense intended here. So many of the phrasings felt ... well, accurate, I guess, just .. slippery. ONE FOR ME. PRY AWAY. FIRES OFF. TO FOLLOW. Phrasing in the cluing could be awkward too: [Played from the tipoff, say], [Sends in a huff] ... grammatical enough, but just off-feeling, somehow. Overall, I wanted the grid to be flashier and the whole experience to be more clever-joyful, not clever-hahaImadeyoutrip. You can't always get what you want. As they say.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 5:51 AM  

You can "squat" on somebody's Wifi signal unless there is a password to prevent you from doing that.

Loren Muse Smith 6:00 AM  

I agree with Rex on the level of difficulty; This could have easily been a Saturday for me. Sheesh. I lurched around forever looking for a toehold. ITS was my only entry at first. Guessed correctly for STEWS thanks to the familiar “pot-au-feu.”

I disagree about the clues. They just got SLYER and SLYER. I absolutely love the clue for TSA. And the one for COP SHOWS. And ONE FOR ME. THEOREMS. REUPS. I have the *exact* opposite reaction to what Rex said - "ooh did you think I meant the word this way, I actually meant it this way" - I’ll take those clues all day every day. I’m always in the mood for those.

Loved FIRES OFF. Boy howdy haven’t we all been there? I usually write an angry screed and then sit on it and eventually throw it away.

A confirmed ataxophobe, I was cleaning house yesterday and cursing my dining room chairs and how hard they are to dust. Turns out they’re HEPPLEWHITES. Antique ones. Beautiful. Hard as crap to dust properly.

I know PROSY has been in grids, and I’ve filled it in, but I never really paid attention to what it means. “Far from crisp, as text.” Hmm. So I looked it up.

lacking in qualities that seize the attention or strike the imagination: COMMONPLACE

tediously dull in speech or manner

Who knew? I don’t think I would have understood that the word is a criticism of writing style.

Back to the clue for TSA, the highlight of my solve. I sat there re-imagining things like summer school (math academy), flower of Egypt (Nile), dear John letter (purveyor of expensive port-a-potties), brown butter.

HOSS – The best man at my brother-in-law’s wedding was called Hossfly. You can imagine the figure he cut in his 62-regular rented tuxedo. If I remember correctly, I think he attempted and almost pulled off The Worm at the reception. Wait. Maybe that was Shuggy, the maid of honor. Good times in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Byron – beee yu ti ful grid. Stellar clues. Quick. How many letters in YOU ALWAYS DELIVER?

Jj 6:13 AM  

I’m not trying to get through this as fast as I can, so I enjoyed the head scratching. I thought there was enough, straightforward, clueing to give us a toehold with EELS, HELLENIC, OLDS, HOUSTON, LEAFER etc and made the solve a fun challenge.
The answers that I had no clue about, like HEPPLEWHITE, were fairly crossed, but I can see how speed solvers would have been thrown for a loop.
Great puzzle IMO

MexGirl 6:27 AM  

It is a weird (in a magical way) day when I finish a Friday puzzle in half my average time, at first having lots of trouble but suddenly flying through it —ooh! I got that— and —oh, of course!—, only to come here and find that Rex rated it ‘challenging’ . Honestly, I’m puzzled. Delighted, but puzzled. Must be the consistency in which this lock-down is making me solve every day.

DeeJay 6:34 AM  

Delicious solve, clever clues.

I do wish Rex would approach each puzzle with, "What's right about this pizzle?" vs. "How can I rip this to shreds?"

Perhaps Rex is taking his cues from the White House briefing room

Court 6:36 AM  

Loved this puzzle...lots of good stuff here. Just the right level of challenge. C’mon Rex, you like a themeless puzzle...stop being so crabby!

Paul Emil 6:39 AM  

Challenging but doable.

GILL I. 6:42 AM  

When I see Byron's name I want to jump on a HOSS and gallop away. Yikes....he's devilish - just like his cluing. I took a deep breath and plunged away.
Actually, the NW was the easiest for me. I kinda zipped through, then got my smack down heading for the east where everything became HELLENIC to me. By taking my time and knowing that every single ? would not mean what I thought it would, I was able to decipher his sly little clues - my favorite being the wanders around LAX or JFK. AHA they carry wands, no? Your hot rods? didn't fool me. I know SPITS from curlers.
So I got to 37D and did I smile? Yep. I have a favorite best friend who introduced me to that word. She proudly told me that she was an ataxaphobe and dared me to tell her what it meant. I wanted something to do with beheadings, but she's too nice. You should see her refrigerator. She lines up her fruits according to color. Her freezer is perfectly stacked according to expiration date and the hamburger meat is always triple wrapped in cellophane and placed at the top of the sirloin. It looks like a Matisse painting.
I had no idea that there was Pac-Man cereal. I don't eat cereal. I managed to have MARS and the MALLOWS followed. My problem is spelling. I want them to be MeLLOWS. I also didn't know if HEPPLE was LE or EL. I get them confused.
I really enjoyed this one especially since for the first time ever, I didn't need Google to finish a Byron Walden. I took my time; picked away little by little, and got her done.

Diver 6:52 AM  

A bit of a struggle in the SE but the rest was pretty smooth sailing. Wanted AFL or CIO before NEA, and thought of Uber before Lyft. Nice Friday puzzle, and thanks for the tip on Crossword from your Couch.

Spatenau 6:53 AM  

A LEMON is not a "Clunker car," it is a defective new car.

Mark Nelson 6:56 AM  

Has anyone used the phrase NOSY PARKER IRL in the last 100 years?

Lewis 6:58 AM  

I lit up with joy when I saw Byron's name, and prepared for a battle peppered with effort, wows, and grins. What followed -- sizzling wordplay, deception, parries, and no-knows -- delivered the stellar solving journey I anticipated, complete with stabs, deletions, satisfying realizations, and unvoiced cheers.

Plus, with [Wanders around LAX or JFK], one of those world-class clues that shows up but a handful of times a year.

From the head to the mouth, this was glorious. Thank you greatly, Byron.

Joaquin 7:04 AM  

Got off to a horrible start by confidently dropping in “rapsheet” at 1D (Series of crimes?) where it should have been COPSHOWS. Because the “P” and the “H” both worked, my error hung me out to dry for quite some time. I finally got reSTARTED because, as a car buff, I am very familiar with the name Ransom ELI OLDS.

I found this puzzle to be a nice challenge - not VERYEASY, but an enjoyable solving experience that provided a feeling of accomplishment when I finished.

Now, can I please go outside and play with my friends?

kitshef 7:10 AM  

Like yesterday, this started poorly. The fourth clue I read wanted me to cross-reference to 49A, which I hate (note: I don’t mind cross-references that are near each other). On the heels of that came the classical music clue.

Not long after, got the !^%*&&% car clue at 13D.

Unlike yesterday, the puzzle won me back. Things I sort of barely knew, clever cluing (TSA being the standout), and mostly good fill left me happy and feeling accomplished by the end.

I must say, 12 ounces does not sound particularly tall to me.

Sam HOUSTON – only person to be governor of two US states.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

@Mark Nelson - possibly regional, but I hear "nosy Parker" with reasonable frequency. What I have never heard anyone say, ever, is SNOOPER.

Suzie Q 7:22 AM  

Wonderful wordplay. Just what I was hoping for.
Third day in a row for eye.
Hard to imagine calling Hoss Eric to his face.
Baba ORiley is a great song, had no idea CSI used it.
@ Mark Nelson 6:56, Mickey Rourke says it in 9 1/2 Weeks.
The Canary Islands are named after dogs not birds.
So much to love about this puzzle. Thanks Byron.

Frantic Sloth 7:37 AM  

This was a strange and interesting experience for me.

At the beginning I struggled mightily, but after a few "oh!"s and "aha!"s suddenly everything fell like dominoes and I was totally on BW's wavelength.
In blankety-blank years of solving, I honestly cannot ever remember that happening. Weird.

Except for not being able to see anything other than WAWA for that BABA clue. My eye kept wandering over there throughout my solve, waiting for it to, as if by magic, suddenly morph into what I wanted it to be.

I loved it.

Hungry Mother 7:38 AM  

A faster slog today, but a slog still. SoupS to STEWS was a major breakthrough.

Mike G 7:48 AM  

I enjoyed this one a lot, although I agree with those who say it felt more like a Saturday than a Friday. There were just enough "gimmies" in each section to get me started, and none of the crosses felt especially unfair.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

You teach a literature course on comic books but haven't read the entire, brilliant, and quite small, oeuvre of F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Fine, I guess. Like teaching a math course on Sudoku and admitting to never having studied trig.

But don't brag about it...

Mark Nelson 7:53 AM  

@kitshef re NOSY PARKER well now I'm intrigued.

I took a look at the Google Ngram viewer, and it shows that the use of NOSY PARKER has been steadily increasing since a nadir in 1960.

What;s interesting, if you compare NOSY PARKER to SNOOPER, it's no contest, the frequency of use of SNOOPER drives NOSY PARKER down into the noise.

I don't if Blogger is going to be happy about these messy URLs:

J. Pepin 7:57 AM  

@ Spatenau 6:53am

Agreed. A CLUNKER is that LEMON you cut in half a few weeks ago that made its way to the back of your fridge and is now all green and icky

Sgreennyc 8:04 AM  

Very good puzzle. Rex is just an impossible-to-please jerk. And what kind of humanities professor hasn’t read all of Fitzgerald; he was not prolific.

Brian 8:08 AM  

UGH, Rex is right: it's got that "watch me trick you!?" attitude, where it's intentionally misleading or inscrutable, over and over and over -- which got old really fast -- not clever, just annoying!

Preferred Customer 8:11 AM  

My mom about our German Shepherd, regularly.


mmorgan 8:21 AM  

Very challenging, very enjoyable, filled with things I didn’t know at all but was able to get. Interesting solving pattern for me — I got the SW first, then up to the NW, then over to the NE, and then down to the SE, leaving that big blank middle for last. This wasn’t intentional, it was just the order in which things came to me. I really liked the misdirects and the ? clues — I mean, it’s a damn puzzle!

DavidP 8:21 AM  

Is it a coincidence that there’s a Parker in the clues and a SHARP in the answers?

OffTheGrid 8:24 AM  

@Anonymous 7:48. Sudoku is not about math. I've done Sudokus with letters. It's logic. You could use any group of nine symbols.

Armchair Editor 8:28 AM  

The "?" just dumbs down the puzzle and lessens the challenge.

LDB 8:32 AM  

This same puzzle was used in the online crossword contest a few weeks ago. Though it seemed familiar soon after i started and then went back to compare. For that reason, it felt more like a Monday!

SouthsideJohnny 8:33 AM  

I’m definitely not in the target demographic for this one - which is fine, we’re not all going to be Friday-proficient solvers. I usually just enjoy trying to get a foothold and then see how much I can parse together. Today, however I felt like I was being intentionally clubbed over the head, lol. It’s got to be a very small subset of the population that recognizes a term like HEPPLEWHITES, or even knows what an ORATORIO is (which is also crossed with a foreign word, btw). Throw in an “ataxophobe” and a “zimride” here and there and it’s pretty obvious that this one is out to be “in-your-face” difficult.

Even the PPP is pretty brutal - I don’t know if the HMS reference for THE ALPS is a book or a tv show, and I’m sure we can all recite the lyrics to baba ORILEY by heart. Oh well, hopefully Sunday will bring something I can at least nosh on a bit.

Lance 8:41 AM  

Blows my mind that someone in that tournament solved this in less than 4 minutes.

pabloinnh 8:48 AM  

Well I thought this was just great. A hard Friday but not quite into Saturday territory. ? clues are fine with me, just more fun when you see what's going on. I'm guessing "ataxophobic" must be the adjective form, which gives me a new way to say "anal". Also found out about wifi squatting. I share OFL's concerns about our new educational STEM emphasis, probably because I have one of those liberal artist degrees.

Now then, LEAFER. We live in the epicenter of autumn tourism with busloads of folks on the road to enjoy the foliage and stay in our hotels and fill up our restaurants (at least they used to), and they are never ever referred to as "LEAFERS" , The proper term is "leafpeepers". I mean, really.

Thanks for all the fun, BW. Fridazo!

KM 8:51 AM  

Fantastic puzzle. Rex, isn’t half the fun in crosswords figuring out things you didn’t know?

gregg 8:55 AM  

As an engineer I resent that remark about STEM. I understand you are a LA (liberal arts) prof and need students. But my son and daughter-in-law are STEM professors at UB and need students too. Seriously as a country we are falling behind the world in innovation and technology. But truly our college curriculum needs to be balanced between STEM & LA.

QuasiMojo 8:56 AM  

Piece of CAKE. VERY EASY. NO MORE than a slight hiccup filling in NBC. I was a TINY TOON when the MONKEES first appeared. I loved the puzzle. Thanks BYRON. I felt very AT HOME in your wheelhouse. I did a CANNES CANNES when I was done.

Dan M MacDonald 9:01 AM  

Agree with whoever said Rex is an impossible-to-please jerk. Every day seems like a new way to say, how does today's puzzle not meet my standards? Please...

I was thrown off early by a few big ones. I had CHIPPENDALES instead of HEPPLEWHITES. Both work with SERPENT, MAP, and SLYER, so that one had me flummoxed. But how many Sams could have won at San Jacinto?

I had RAPSHEET for what become COPSHOWS. (PAROLE and STEWS work for both.)

Company originally called Zimride (LYFT) was a great, "huh, who knew?" clue.

And "Deterrent to squatting" is a perfectly clever clue for WIFIPASSWORD.

I enjoyed this one thoroughly.

Rex needs to get over himself.

Teedmn 9:02 AM  

This isn't the first time I've realized the ephemerality of crosswords in my brain. Back when I first visited NYC, I bought the paper and did the puzzle. Five weeks later, doing the syndicated version in my local paper, the puzzle felt only vaguely familiar. Well, I'm a lot older now, and I just did this puzzle less than 3 weeks ago and it wasn't until I got to HEPPLEWHITES that I recognized it. Thank goodness I didn't read the note before solving.

That said, I enjoyed the challenge a lot. I forgot to check my watch before solving so I don't know how long it took, but a lot longer than you would think for a puzzle I already had done. It takes me back to the Fridays of yore, when they were almost as hard as a Saturday puzzle. I love a tough themeless.

Thanks, Byron Walden, both for the puzzle and for the interesting discussion you were part of during the live stream back on March 22nd.

Kathy 9:04 AM  

I loved this puzzle and was doubly thrilled when Rex deemed it challenging...and Saturday-worthy! Although transportation from one sector to the other was limited, there were enough crosses and letter patterns that helped me suss out even unfamiliar words like TINYTOON. Or, as @ Mexgirl commented, is it the lockdown?

Thank you, bloggers, for your contributions to my anti-phonetic alphabet! I will tell my airline pilot son in law that not only did our little project made an NYT crossword blog but also the circular slide rule also made an appearance! He’s too young to have used one himself, but I showed him mine from when I was a student pilot in the late Sixties. I still have it!

Thanks to @egsforbreakfast with Djibouti for the D, @Joaquin with Django for the D and Voila for the V, @Smith with Llama for the L, @whatshername with Urn for the U and @Roomonster with Fohn for the F. Voila and Llama depend on the native pronounciation, of course, and with Fohn the humor is in the ambiguity. @TJS glad you enjoyed the ride! We still need a few more!

TJS 9:05 AM  

I knocked out the NW and wondered how this could be a final puzzle in a nationwide contest.And I can't say it got harder as much as trickier. I can say that I loved the experience and it definitely has my vote for puzz of the week, for what that's worth.

@Southside, don't take this the wrong way, but if you hang in there, many of the clues/fill that you find unfair will start to be no-brainers because they appear so often. I don't know from oratorio, for example, but after more than 60 years of doing these things, you see the "O" and just throw it in there. And the "wavelength" thing is a true phenomenon that can turn what appears at the start to be an impossible task into something that just starts to flow. I hope you and any other solvers stick with it and get as much enjoyment as we old timers.
Funny seeing comments about OFL not reading FitzGerald. It caused me to write my first comment, I think, about three years ago when Rex informed us that he had not read Gatsby until 2 years earlier. Took me awhile but I finally got over it...I think.

Leslie 9:06 AM  

I just plain enjoyed it! No analysis necessary.

bauskern 9:07 AM  

Does Rex remotely realize what a tiresome bore he has become? (Or maybe always was, I'm still new to this forum.) I agree that this had a Saturday feel to it, but so what? Aren't we all here for a challenge? Since I don't time my puzzles, I don't get in a hissy fit when the clues don't fall quickly. Loved TSA. My only quibble was: Do theorems have something to prove, but the more I think about it, the more it works. This puzzle was a gem, and Rex is just like Trump: Everything is always someone else's fault. Ah, the irony.

albatross shell 9:09 AM  

REUPS, not holds, army not tennis.

Eagle before SHARP

Good clues FOR: WIFIPASSWORD, FLOWS, MARSHMALLOWS (No idea and I got it), TEASETS, SPITS, ONE FOR ME (had OlE FOR ME for a bit, 2nd letter small L),

Best new to me thing: HEPPLEWHITE chairs.
Best old thing to me thing: MIATAS

Yes ATHOME. Tell me about it.


Greek love?

Smoke store display?


Be fun, have well.

hankster65 9:09 AM  

I loved this one! Just the right amount of crunch.

Birchbark 9:11 AM  

The HEPPLEWHITES are coming for dinner -- Darren's chance to land a big ad account. It's all very last minute and the house is a mess. Samantha goes into spell-casting overdrive even as the guests make their way to the door. Perennial SNOOPER Gladys Kravitz sees the whole thing and faints dramatically, her face in trademark AGOG [this puzzle needs an AGOG].

By the time the doorbell rings, everything is a paragon of NEATNESS. The MARSHMALLOWS on the coffee table (the account's signature product) are a nice touch. Except one thing: a SERPENT is quietly coiling around Mrs. HEFFLEWHITE's sensible heels. We forgot that Agnes Moorhead was in the kitchen, and wackiness ensues.

Z 9:22 AM  

Har! Easy peasy here. Threw in HEPPLEWHITES without even reading the clue. Not a problem anywhere. It was almost as if I had done the puzzle before.

As the final puzzle of the From Your Couch Tournament, Rex’s bugs were a design feature. It was designed to slow down the speed solvers and find a winner. Other than HEPPLEWHITES, I thought the puzzle was fair and clever. I’m a little surprised at Rex’s wordplay plaint because I always prefer difficulty ramped up through wordplay over difficulty through obscurity.

Geezus can we password protect the blog from all the “The comic books prof hasn’t read ...” commenters. If you are trying to convey “I’m narrow minded and pretentious,” you’re doing a good job. Here’s a decent list from Forbes of recent stuff. Maybe put down the moldy oldie and read something relevant.

@LMS - My Hungarian video from the other day could have been titled more alliteratively, Brown Butter Bell. No problem here with PROSY. I have seen lots of prose complimented for its “poetic” qualities, PROSY is the opposite quality. And then “prosaic,” the definition of which the New Oxford American Dictionary concludes with “lacking poetic beauty.”

@gregg - I don’t know about Rex, but when I decry the stemification of education I am specifically referring to reducing education to a trade school, which is what most STEM supporters are effectively doing (often unwittingly). It is the valuing of a coding class in lieu of Art, Choir, Band, Wood Shop, or PE that I take issue with. There is far too much weight given to short term careerism, which should really be a tertiary goal of any education outside of a trade school.

Petsounds 9:27 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle and its many ? clues, because the answers were always great payoff. THEOREMS, PAROLE, EPIDURAL, FLOW, and the delightful TSA. I agree that many of the answers were somewhat obscure, but the crosses made them do-able for me. I still don't know what REO is/are or how OLDS and REUPS fit into it/them; REO Speedwagon is my only reference for that and all I know is that the REO in that name has to do with old cars. But the answers were obvious with the crosses, so no problem.

Also don't understand why Rex thinks that "Flourishes" as a clue for BLOOMS is "weird." Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Also don't understand how anyone could have finished this in four minutes. Guess s/he found it VERYEASY. I found it medium-easy and lots of fun.

puzzlehoarder 9:32 AM  

Great looking puzzle. Fun to solve too. Thanks to my 15A misspell of OREILY I was put off of starting in the NW. This turned what would have been an average Friday solve into one with a couple of extra minutes tacked on.

I started in the NE and was very happy that it didn't ask for the Ransom part of REO. I have no idea what a HEPPLEWHITE is but once you've heard the term you can't forget it.

In the SE I needed LEMON to switch UBER and NEARNESS to LYFT and NEATNESS. That's the trick to solving the options are always limited.

The SW was like shooting ducks in a barrel.

To backfill the NW I only had to smoke out WIFI and SOFT. Loved the cluing today.

OffTheGrid 9:33 AM  

I have a suggestion, actually a plea, for the Rex BOOBIRDS. Just skip his write up, go right to @Lewis and get that feel good moment. Personally I appreciate both of them. I don't recall Rex ever resorting to name calling or offering clinical diagnoses for constructors or the NYT editors. Rex's role is to critique the puzzle. Disagree with him but please make it about the puzzle. (I know this post will have no effect)

Nancy 9:33 AM  

Skipped the NW and went elsewhere, thinking that when I came back to it, I'd finish. That almost always works but not today. Worked like a slave on the other three sections, managed to do them, was having a wonderful time, thought the puzzle was great, and was very pleased with myself.

Then I hit the wall -- and after maybe 15 minutes of staring blankly at the NW (with only EYE and STEWS entered) I began to cheat. Looked up O'RILEY -- which I wouldn't have known if I fell over it. Looked up ORO, which I had surmised, but didn't write in. Then, being no closer than before to solving, I came here.

I knew SIRI PASSWORD wasn't working, but I couldn't think of anything to replace it with. If I'd had WIFI, would I have gotten COP SHOWS, FIRES OFF and SOFTISH -- all of them hidden from me by the incorrect SIRI? Possibly. It's hard to say.

The amount of joy I got from 3/4 of the puzzle was somewhat overwhelmed by the frustration I had with the last quarter. That was the most pop culture-heavy section by far, and it irked me. I do so want to love this puzzle -- it's full of great challenges and kept me ENRAPT -- but I'm left with more admiration than love.

QuasiMojo 9:43 AM  

@Spatenau, Good call on LEMON. Yesterday the LAT puzzle clued the EDSEL as a LEMON. It wasn't. It was a flop. But not a defective car.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Five puzzles in one!

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Everybody Code Now! Code Or Die!!

I've been predicting, for some years now, that Western Civilization, economy division, will devolve into writing browser adverts for companies that write browser adverts. No one will do anything measurably productive. "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit" rules.

@Mark Nelson:
Has anyone used the phrase NOSY PARKER IRL in the last 100 years?

My wife on occasion. She's not 100 years old. Yet.

Seriously as a country we are falling behind the world in innovation and technology.

Alas, see my initial comment. And, with a horde of Indian, Bulgarian, and Chinese (all publicly educated, btw) engineers, American Capitalists are just striving to drive down average cost, same as they have since slavery. Such a process does beg the question: what happens when no humans are needed for production? Who has the moolah to buy product? R2D2? What are its wants and needs? And, obtw, recent studies have shown that we're producing *more* STEM graduates than we can employ. Here's one:


I started at what was then called Clarkson College, and you had to declare your major Before you showed up for Freshmen Orientation. Over the 4 years, I think you had room in your schedule for 2 electives. It styled itself as a science school, but had no biology. If the major didn't involve major maths, it wasn't taught. The Humanities department consisted of one English instructor. That was around 1970, so tunnel vision in STEM is nothing new.

bertoray 9:52 AM  

@lms laughed out loud with your brown butter.

kitshef 9:56 AM  

@Kathy - if you want to avoid proper names, djinn also works for D.

For U, how about uakari? It's not silent, exactly, but is pronounced as a 'w' - wahkahree.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

Rex's role is to critique the puzzle.

That's exactly his role. The Puzzle isn't the Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave), and Rex isn't a cabinet member at the Orange Sh!tgibbon's first Cabinet Meeting (and many other meetings since, but that one was the most appalling). It's not his job to flatter the puzzle, the constructor, or Shortz. I think one who does that is called a toady. Yes?

Some may disagree with anyone having that role, but OFL has created this forum. It's his, and he conducts it in concert with that mission. If you don't like it, leave.

Reno retired 9:59 AM  

I think STEM is just a tad more important than comic books. So why trash a focus that moves humanity forward by solving hunger, disease and ecological issues better than either Superman or bat man. Just saying

Crimson Devil 10:00 AM  

Quite a challenge.
Much admired simple, elegant, grid.
WANDERS clue of the day.
That someone accomplished this in < 4 minutes is astonishing.

KnittyContessa 10:10 AM  

This definitely required more than one cup of coffee to solve. I don't think I had anything filled in on my first pass. Challenging and lots of fun. Had no idea what wifi password or tsa was about - thanks Rex!

Michael 10:19 AM  

This was an average time for us and went through a cycle of feeling it was immensely difficult to running through a ton of fill and then getting stalled for a long time in the NE (RETINA for SCLERA, PLAY for SPAR, etc.). For some reason 'THE ALPS' doesn't feel like standard cross word construction, to have definite articles appear like that. Similarly seeing the state part of the answer in AMES IOWA vs just the city name. Slightly awkward and made us feel suspicious while solving.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

@pabloinnh thank you. i live in prime leafpeeping territory as well and NEVER have i heard LEAFER.

Sir Hillary 10:24 AM  

I opened the paper, saw the constructor's name, noticed the vast white areas in the grid, and read the note. Then I strapped in, because those three things together = hard. Sure, probably more of a Saturday, but whatever.

In truth, it wasn't as hard as I was expecting. Things I didn't know (HEPPLEWHITE, that "squatting" can mean sponging off open WIFI, that "Tender is the Night" is more than a Jackson Browne song) were all fairly crossed. Plus, there was a lot in my wheelhouse, especially in the SW, where college sports meets composer first names meets entry-level sudoku. Songs by The Who are fastballs right down the middle. And both my nom de Rexblog and my avatar come from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", so yeah, that helped.

Regarding hard or "?" clues, I find that where I fall on the continuum from "ooh, that's really good" to "gee, you must feel sooooo tricky; eff you" is completely subjective and wildly inconsistent from puzzle to puzzle. Today, I loved the clues -- the one for REUPS is excellent, and the one for TSA is among the best I have seen this year (and would have been even harder/better with only one airport).

Only flaw IMO is the overly segmented grid, which necessitated solving five mini-puzzles. For those who care (and those who don't), my solve went NW, SW, center, SE, NE.

Mikey from El Prado 10:26 AM  

Wow, I’m with @MexGirl as this one was in my wheelhouse. Sometimes I don’t view the clues in the right way and am lost, but today my brain operated differently and it worked! My time was much faster than my average Friday and would have been faster except for a typo that I had to unearth.
All that said, this was an excellent and challenging puzzle with respect to looking at the clueing from different angles as well as an elegant grid. Fun solve!

Great job Byron!

RooMonster 10:32 AM  

Hey All !
I did the tried-and-true crossword strategy of leaving puz for a spell, and coming back. It helped tremendously when I got stuck in the NW. (And SW, too.)

What was the problem in the NW? Well, since you asked, had ORILEY spelled as OREILY. Even though I had FLOWS floating in the ole brain for 4D, and correct EYE, but with four of the six letters wrong, had a tough time with that area. Left the puz, played a computer game (card games that are on the computer itself, they go fast), came back, saw that EELS might work, and then saw the proper spelling of ORILEY. Then bam, bam, bam, NW and puz done! And 10% correct! Wow!

The SW trouble was GUSTAV. I had mostEASY for the Sudoku clue, but decided to erase the most, and eventually saw ATHOME off just the OM (pats self on back), which got me SHARP, UTEP, GUSTAV and slew that corner. Almost cheated for GUSTAV, went so far as getting the phone off the charger to look it up, but sat back down, sipped some coffee, and saw that ATHOME.

So super proud of myself for actually solving a competition puz all by my lonesome! (Holds up "Applause" sign) Puz turned out to be easy, not sure how, with a finish time of 29 and a half minutes. That suoer-sonic speed for me for a themeless with stuff I really didn't know. Must be something in the water.

So a fun themeless, which is something you don't hear from me often. BET ON it. Har.

Six F's - Awesome!

Rug Crazy 10:33 AM  

I somehow found it easy for a Friday, once I figured out how to spell Hepplewhite.

Unknown 10:35 AM  

loved it- very satisfying but made you work for it

David 10:46 AM  

"The Alps"? Blofeld's lair was on the Schilthorn. Where do I live? In North America.

I also started this pretty slowly and then suddenly caught on and finished quickly. Probable breakthrough was having HEPP and knowing there were those chairs without knowing their distinguishing feature.

I went to a trade school we call a "conservatory" and had probably worn out my LP of that oratorio before I got there. Easiest answer in the puzzle for me. Oddly enough, lots of people think "liberal arts" schools are full of liberals (they're not, of course) but nobody believes "conservatories" are full of conservatives. I guess "liberal" is a trigger word for some.

STEM would also include microbiologists and epidemiologists among others we truly need.

I've gone into a Starbucks 3 or 4 times in the past decades and have never understood their sizes. I also never knew Hoss' real name, but 4 letters and the O in Oratorio.

I'm with the folks who like the mis-direction and cleverness. Color me happy with this Friday puzzle.

What? 10:54 AM  

Easy for me. Why I have no idea.
The grid is not very connected. I see 5 sort of separate puzzles, the four corners and one in the middle.
Anyway, 100 with no cheating so now I can forget about the 16 million unemployed. Not!

Alison 10:55 AM  

Loved it!

ghkozen 10:57 AM  

And while using the (much) harder set of clues to boot!

Newboy 11:03 AM  

Rex is right: “ intentionally misleading or inscrutable.” I came late to the alternative contest party, so I’d missed this one during the online event. Probably a great grid in that context and equally amusing today. As a lover of all things punny, a rebus or sneaky verb/noun confusion is a positive for me usually. Many of the sneaky things mentioned by OFL today (BOLo before BOLA) slowed me & needed a second/third look.

QuasiMojo 11:03 AM  

Oh geez. I just read Teedmn's comment above. No wonder I found this puzzle a piece of cake. I did it before! Duh! Guess I'm not the brilliant whiz I thought I was.

pmdm 11:05 AM  

Even when I know PPP answers (for example, HOSS or HOUSTON) I dislike a wealth of them in a puzzle. Today's puzzle had more PPP than I care for. By far.

Z: With the amount of debt a student can wind up with when going to college today, I can understand why the student would want to take only those courses which will help bail the student out. A course on classical music or Chaucer probably doesn't fit that bill. [As an side, I wonder how many people know the difference between an opera, a cantata, and an ORATORIO.] I fear that a true liberal arts education is vanishing from the halls of the higher learning institutions. Might it have been the lure of sports money that began this trend? Whatever the reason, it certainly is a trend to rue. I wonder if, since he teaches a college course, Mr. Sharp would agree.

For those for whom Passover or the Triduum still has meaning, keep the faith!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 11:05 AM  

Wow! I finished this in 18 minutes, no googling,my best ever Friday. Was sure Rex would say it was too easy for a Friday! I am in utter shock. Wave length .

pmdm 11:07 AM  

Even when I know PPP answers (for example, HOSS or HOUSTON) I dislike a wealth of them in a puzzle. Today's puzzle had more PPP than I care for. By far.

Z: With the amount of debt a student can wind up with when going to college today, I can understand why the student would want to take only those courses which will help bail the student out. A course on classical music or Chaucer probably doesn't fit that bill. [As an side, I wonder how many people know the difference between an opera, a cantata, and an ORATORIO.] I fear that a true liberal arts education is vanishing from the halls of the higher learning institutions. Might it have been the lure of sports money that began this trend? Whatever the reason, it certainly is a trend to rue. I wonder if, since he teaches a college course, Mr. Sharp would agree.

For those for whom Passover or the Triduum still has meaning, keep the faith!

Barbara S. 11:07 AM  

I keep thinking that Z in your alphabet needs a German or Italian word that has morphed into English, because Z in Italian is pronounced either "ds" or "ts" (think "pizza") and in German "ts" (think "Nazi" or better still, don't, ever). So I'm thinking something like "zeitgeist," a word that English-speakers do commonly-ish use. In German, "zeit" would sound like TSITE. But the problem with this idea is that English doesn't just steal words, it also anglicizes pronunciation, so very few English-speakers would actually pronounce "zeit" with that initial "ts" sound. Anyway, just a thought, possibly an overthought ;).

Oh, BTW, loved the puzzle but rue the fact that HEPPLEWHITE and Chippendale have exactly the same number of letters (hi @Dan M MacDonald). I, too, was brought back to reality by Sam HOUSTON.

Ernonymous 11:09 AM  

@anon and @ pabloinnh they call them Leafers on Family Guy, there's a whole episode about Leafers ruining Quahog. It's the first time I ever heard the term.

57Stratocaster 11:12 AM  

Loved it. Until this pandemic, I was getting the paper from my neighbor after he was done with it and doing the puzzle leisurely in ink. I went ahead and bought a subscription to the puzzle a couple weeks ago and am now doing it on the website. Totally different experience.

FPBear 11:14 AM  

Disagree with Rex. Barely Friday hard. No way Saturday. Cluing was wonderfully misleading. TSA was world class.

Bill T 11:16 AM  

Great puzzle from one of the best constructors out there!

egsforbreakfast 11:22 AM  

Which Big 12 school is in Amesio, WA anyway?

Question: What bothers people so much about a puzzle seeming to be one or even, God forbid, two days off of its natural placement in the Monday (very easy) to Saturday (very difficult) progression? Suppose that the successor to Will Shortz decided that difficulty and use of themes would henceforth be randomly distributed. What effect would that have? Would any of us stop doing the puzzles? I’m not asking this to make any point. It’s most likely just evidence of quarantine brain. However, I would like to know what people think.

egsforbreakfast 11:31 AM  

BTW, I left this blog and checked Instagram, where I follow, among others, The Onion. One of today’s headlines:

New York Times Pledges To Cover Biden Sexual Assault Allegations In Upcoming Crossword

xyz 11:33 AM  

3/4 NE to SW, fairly smooth including the entire middle and maybe 3/4 of NW and half the SE and then utter failure.

Agree with Rex on the (?) clues overdone and I was not on the constructor's channel.

Still I think it a good puzzle, change maybe 8 clues and it's an easy. As it was a DNF.

Still fun. Sometimes it's just wavelength and/or FOK.

Richard 11:47 AM  

This was brutal. Even for a Friday. Started with the NE and SW (which fell easily enough), but virtually nothing else: only HOSS in NW, LYFT in SE and ITS and HOUSTON in the middle. Thought about throwing in the towel maybe three times, but kept grinding away. Ended up being the most satisfying kind of solve -- going from hopeless to "oh, yeah!" Thank you, Byron.

RooMonster 11:49 AM  

Har. Correction to last post - 100% correct, not 10%!

REO is the initials of the founder of said car company. Ransom Eli Olds was his name. His cars were branded REOs. Also, where Oldsmobile came from, though I don't know how it morphed into that. As a car buff, you'd think I'd know.

The band REO SpeedWagon took their name from one of his cars. Actually, a truck/van. The SpeedWagon was a make of an REO, like a Ford Fusion, e.g.

Couldn't figure out WIFIPASSWORD at first, and initially had ___I_ASSWORD, which garnered a chuckle.
Writeovers included THEAter-THEALPS (why not?), uber-LYFT, allFORME-ONEFORME (greedy much?), previously mentioned OReilY-ORILEY and mostEASY-VERYEASY.

Had my TALLS COFFEE for today. I'm a one-cupper. Too much, and my nerves FIRE OFF TO FOLLOW. Or something.

RooMonster Knows Alot About Cars, But Always Seems Not To Know Enough Guy

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Sublime puzzle along with another review that screams, "Yes, I am a douche-bag"

albatross shell 11:56 AM  

I know it does not fit your general scheme, but Z as in Xenon at least add to the confusion. Or any of the X sounding like Z words you prefer.

albatross shell 12:01 PM  

I have previously stated I do not mind an off-proper-day puzzle on occasion, but I would not like to see the system abandoned.

Andrew Heinegg 12:04 PM  


jae 12:07 PM  

Easy-medium. I have no idea how I knew HEPPLEWHITE, but it helped.

Solid and fun with some sparkle, liked it. Jeff gave it POW.

Me too for eagle before SHARP

@pabloinhn - I had peeper before LEAFER

TJS 12:15 PM  

OffTheGrid, 933. Why ?It seems to me that if Rex chooses to wander away from the puzzle to object to words he finds non-pc, references to organizations he despises, historical Names that take him from his campus safe place, insisting that the ratio of men- to- women constructors is some kind of intentional plot by the editor, etc., then we should be free to respond in kind. Not with name-calling or intentional trolling, but certainly with questioning his logic or biases. Makes for interesting conversation, IMO.

jberg 12:24 PM  

Very hard for me (though I am unable to distinguish between Friday-hardness and Saturday-hardness), but very enjoyable, because of the tricky definitions.

@puzzlehoarder, I'd certainly heard the word, and knew it was an English furniture maker -- but I did forget it enough to put in HEPPLEWorth with total confidence. The puzzle might have been easier if I hadn't done that; as it was, it took Sam HOUSTON to rescue me. (And ironically, I got the HEPPLE part from gsP.)

ORATORIO is the same length as operetta, and I didn't know the work in question; also couldn't remember if pot-à-feu and pozzole were SoupS or STEWS. And of course I've never seen a CSI show (though I tried that before COP SHOW), and had no idea about Baba O'RILEY (which saved me from spelling it wrong). So I had to puzzle out the head to mouth thing before I got anywhere up there.

@Southside, another tip to help you keep improving--when you see a clue with obscure trivia, just ignore that part. Or in this case, see that Zimride has something to do with riding, and must be a big company or it wouldn't be crossworthy -- at 4 letters, it's either Uber (my first guess) or LYFT.

OK, the STEM thing. I taught political science, the non-mathematical kind, for 42 years, and was involved in several curriculum revisions. One of the problems was that many social science and humanities faculty really don't like natural science, and will support a ridiculous amount of watering down in that area (also in math). So even for a good liberal arts education we need more STEM than we often get (except for the science or engineering-oriented schools, of course). Many now talk about STEAM, where the A is for Arts, recongizing that they are underemphasized as well.

As for the vocational orientation, the students demand it. Through the early 20th century you had to be well off economically to go to college at all, so you studied liberal arts and employers were expected to teach you any specific skills you needed. Now we've created the expectation that everyone needs to have a college degree, funded it by making the students go into debt, and as a result have had to make it both less demanding and more career oriented.

Which leads to comics. First of all, comics are BIG business. Almost all the blockbuster movies are based on superheroes from comic books; and of course, in an earlier generation, Mickey Mouse gave birth to the Disney Corporation. So they're important; but I'm pretty sure those are not the comics Rex teaches. And, of course, that's just a sideline - his actually specialty is, if I remember right, Elizabethan theater.

But of course no one knows everything about a field. In David Lodge's novel Trading Places, there's an episode at an academic dinner party where they play a game called "Humiliation." When it's your turn, you right down the title of a work of literature you have never read, and the other players try to guess it. The winner writes "Hamlet." The others claim that's impossible, but he maintains that of course he's seen the play many times, so felt no need to read the text. He wins, but when he comes up for tenure a few years later, the committee members say "Isn't that the guy who never read Hamlet?" and vote against him.

OK, enough already!

Swagomatic 12:27 PM  

This was a toughie, for sure. Well above the Friday average, and it did become a slog at the end. A few years ago, I would have gotten nowhere with it. I remember staying at The Boulders resort in Carefree Arizona, and they included a copy the New York Times every morning. Let's see, that would have been about ten years ago. I got nowhere with the Friday or Saturday puzzle. At least I can solve them now.

Armin 12:30 PM  

My first Friday puzzle completion ever... so the reality is... I LOVED IT.

Carola 12:40 PM  

I thought the puzzle was terrific, with its stellar entries and mind-bending clues. I loved the mocking "VERY EASY" down at the bottom - it fell into the "medium" area for me, thanks to some early felicitous crosses. Ne'er has a modest 3-letter entry yielded greater fruit: MAP + HELLENIC pressed the deep memory button to eject HEPPLEWHITES, and MAP + SERPENT got me MARSHMALLOWS, giving me plenty to work with. I found the NW corner the most difficult to penetrate, with COFFEE and ORILEY my last ones in.
Coups of got-it-right-away-clue-decoding: TSA, FLOWS. Moment of staring dumbly into the no-idea abyss: SPITS.

Nancy 12:46 PM  

I'm having an Even-My-Memory-Isn't-That-Bad moment. Didn't @Teedmn and @Quasi do today's puzzle in March???!!! And today is only April 10? And they didn't remember that they'd just done it? Wow.

It's past time for me to stop talking about my fuzzy memory. Their memories would seem to be even fuzzier. Poor @Teedmn. Poor @Quasi. You are in my thoughts. You see, I know just how that feels.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

I expected to read complaints about how it was too easy for a Friday. I started in the upper left and cycled through the grid only filling checked words. Only hangup was mis-spelling 15 Across. Once the rest was completed I was able to finish that corner.

I thought that the unknowns were easy to get from the crosses. Others were easy to guess from the clues and crosses. I enjoyed all the question mark clues. I think all were completely fair. Quite a few standard fill words used cleverly.

Thumbs up! But, given the stuck at home world, I'd prefer a week of stumpers that can me an hour or more. This was only one cup of coffee after breakfast.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I am an English professor and the number of great works of literature Rex has not read or snobbishly refuses to read (i.e. by Joyce) continues to astonish and appall me

jb129 1:06 PM  

Challenging for a Friday, but I enjoyed it. Friday is supposed to be challenging, right?

Altho I didn't know hepplewhites.

old timer 1:10 PM  

Fridays are almost always harder than Saturdays for me, and if this one holds true to form, tomorrow's will be a breeze. Byron is a genius. Color me delighted.

Haven't read all the comments yet but had to come in and mention @GILL I and @LMS, who have already made my morning delightful. I am sure I am one of hundreds, if not thousands, who would want Loren to be my best friend, my next-door neighbor, my kids' teacher, you name it (I already have a wife, so I will leave out that possibility). But boy, if we can ever go out to a bar, a restaurant, a coffee shop again, I would want Gill at the next table, talking to her friends. I could spend hours listening to her chitchat. I would ask the gratefully re-employed waiter to present a bottle of good Sonoma County wine to her and her party, just to keep the conversation flowing.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  


Well, I read the last paragraph of 'Ulysses'. Sort of. 'A Portrait of the Artist...' on the other hand, is a manageable read.

bauskern 1:17 PM  

@ Offthegrid (9:33) I have no objection to Rex critiquing the puzzle. But I prefer constructive criticism, not the endless whining about "It's Friday but this felt like Saturday," or complaining that the constructor referenced a book that he had never read, or whining about the gender of the constructor, or getting his panties in a wad over a reference to the NRA. Truth be told, Rex appears to be focused so much on his finish time that anything that shakes him up a little bit and makes him lose precious seconds becomes fodder to complain about. (Do you notice how he never gives his times for the puzzles that he struggles on?) I'm all for helpful critiques, and I'm sure I could learn a ton about XW construction from him. I'm not about the constant

GHarris 1:26 PM  

Had lots of great gets which were very gratifying but could only finish by resorting to check puzzle which enabled me to erase some wrong entries and start anew. Don't know which is the bigger cheat, doing this or looking up specific answers.

DigitalDan 1:32 PM  

14+ minutes, a great time for me. This one required letting things go to find clues that were not so hard, then going back with more context. Lucked out. Feels good.

Bernie 1:40 PM  

I loved this puzzle. It was tough, but not unfair. When I initially saw that it was the final puzzle of some tournament, I thought that there was no way I would be able to get much of anything, but sure enough, I did ok.

Chip Hilton 1:52 PM  

I truly don’t get it. Rex is a puzzle genius and I am, at best, a struggler, and yet, he found this to be overly tricky while I thought it was brilliant. Saturday tough? Yeah, maybe, but, gettable. At least half a dozen times I figured out a clue and smiled at its wonderfully devious nature. My favorite was TSA. Thank you, Byron Walden. Just a hoot in five parts.

BobL 1:55 PM  

Just read 104 comments and not once did someone write "natick". Nice.

QuasiMojo 1:59 PM  

@Nancy, I have no doubt my memory is worse than yours. I killed off a lot of brain cells in my youth. I'm not sure they ever grow back. But in our own defense, remember we had to do half-a-dozen or so puzzles in a short amount of time during that intense competition (even if online). So they do tend to blur in our minds. At least my own. I can't speak for Teedmn. Plus I can't recall what I had for dessert the last time I went out for dinner. Oh wait, that was over a month ago, too. :)

Hungry Mother 2:12 PM  

I hiked up the Shilthorn with a family group a few years ago. We had some ice cream up in the lair and then opted to pay for the gondola ride down rather than hike it.

Greg 2:16 PM  

Pozole pichelsteiner doblones ataxophobes and HEPPLEWHITES were all KNOWN to me. We all have different wheelhouses. Foreign languages, science and classical music are mine. It's the puzzles chock full of obscure literary and geographic references that leave me stuck. But I know those are in REx's wheelhouse.

Newboy 2:19 PM  

Anonymous (12:53 & 1:13) recall that old saw about higher ed & degrees “you learn more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing.” Too many books and so little time. Rex has his focus right where he wants it—as do we all. One retirement goal for me after decades in English teaching in its many varieties is to read one work by each Nobel laureate in literature. Hemingway, Faulkner or Bellow I can nail; Sigrid Unstead is probably misspelled 🤡

Teedmn 2:29 PM  

I just popped a memory test in the mail for @Nancy. Hopefully, she will tell us the results.

@Quasi, thanks for the plausible reason for my amnesia, I'm going with that one.

Ando 2:30 PM  

What I especially liked was the pointer to the Crossword from your Couch competition. I went there and filled out the puzzles and had a decent result for someone who's never done any kind of competition before. (Figuring out your standing was a very manual process.). Does anyone know if the NYT puzzle was the easy or tough cluing of the final puzzle in the tournament? The site says there were two versions, but you're not able to access that one puzzle (out of seven) as far as I can tell.

Ethan Taliesin 2:31 PM  

Only cheat was asking my wife what the small at Starbucks was called. I thought it was an interesting and fun puzzle. Got off to a shaky start but finished in 28min, which for me is not too shabby.

As pointed out, LEMON is not a clunker.

Petsounds 2:32 PM  

@RooMonster: Thanks for the info! Never knew that!

Unknown 2:35 PM  

Finally, finally understand 29A, TSA (“wanders around LAX or JFK”).

GILL I. 2:35 PM  

@old timer 1:10
What a delightful and sweet post; you have made my day. I can assure you that if you ever sent a bottle of good Sonoma County wine to my table, you'd be right there sitting next to me. And bring your wife! I might just talk my head off......I'm known to do that!

Petsounds 2:37 PM  

@Amin: Congratulations!! Feels good, doesn't it?

Richardf8 2:42 PM  

It’s a holdover from the “we can’t call something small” days of drink sizing. So it goes Tall, Grande, Venti, and they recently added something bigger than that.

What really hurts is that when you go in there and say “I want a 12 oz Pikes Place” they have no idea what you mean. Sorry, I know how much coffee I want but I don’t give a brass farthing about your cutesy little euphemism based sizing system. At least “Venti” is Italian for Twenty, so I can make sense of that.

Phil 3:02 PM  

I did run over my average but no real road blocks just went thru it normally. thought the misdirection was not as bad as Rex did and Rex being a veteran solver is surely always looking for misdirections.

Anyway, blah blah. What was interesting. I plopped in RAPSHEET for crime series but didn’t see it as a ? clue so easily vented.

Liked the puzzle, Thank you BW

Richardf8 3:11 PM  

I don’t think that the irksome thing is who gets what students, but rather the depressing emphasis on utilitarianism that has been used to promote STEM. Honestly, we need people in this country who have both the scientific skills to advance technology and the Liberal Arts skills so that those advances do not take place in a moral vacuum. I sincerely believe that the dichotomy that has grown up between them is less endemic to the natures of these discipline than it is induced by Reagan Era culture wars that have become the backbone of our politics to this day.

JC66 3:27 PM  

I finished the puzzle pretty quickly for a Friday, but I can't remember if I did the Crossword From Your Couch puzzles. I'd like to check them out, but can't find a link that works. Can someone please help?

Anonymous 3:37 PM  


Well, some, generally of the Liberal persuasion, use the term 'higher order thinking' to mean an education and mental development that provides the tools to decipher truth from BS. Which goes a ways to explaining how the Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) is supported mostly by the 'poorly educated' (his term, btw).

One gnarly side-effect of that approach is the MBA: a person, most often white, male, and Protestant, who has been convinced by his education and educators that he possesses the knowledge and skills to solve any problem. The Orange Sh!tgibbon (ditto) is about 1/4 MBA. Rejected by Wharton as a Freshman undergraduate, he slunk off to Fordham for two years, then his alcoholic brother finagled him his last two years to a BS economics. So, of course, being a half-assed Wharton graduate, and depending on most folk *assuming* that means a Wharton MBA, he has strode across this great land.

Whatsername 3:38 PM  

A tough Friday but not so much that I’d call it a stumper. Really disagree with RP as I found the cluing to be stellar. Absolutely loved wanders for TSA and even though I looked at that T and S, I still didn’t think TSA until I got the down. Didn’t know STEMPIPELINE but it’s a fascinating term. Also learned a new meaning for squatter, and it’s so precisely descriptive of the situation.

Like @GILL’s friend, my closet is organized according to garment and color, all hangers turned the same direction and equally spaced. Items in my cabinets and fridge are grouped and facing label forward. Money in my purse is is stacked face forward in declining denominations. I always called it OCD, but now I realize I am an ATAXOPHOBE and didn’t even know it.

So HOSS’ name was Eric? That seems so very wrong for a western ranch family of that era. I have found that when a novel is PROSY it’s usually not that good. Thank you Byron for this SHARP Friday effort. It wasn’t VERYEASY but I enjoyed it.


Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Is anon 3:37's comments edifying, or any way related to the puzzle or Rex's criticism? I'd appreciate an honest answer. Frankly, it seems screeds of some persuadipns get green lighted. Others, let's call them, less popular, get spiked.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

@Anon/3:37 (not me, btw)

The discussion, certainly a tangent sort of, on the meaning and meaningfulness of STEM is about the puzzle. It only came about because some of us have notions about STEM and its place in society. Some others take the opportunity to push lawyers, guns, and money whenever NRA is clued via the Gun Lobby. Hell, some push the Gun Lobby when the clue has nothing to do with the Gun Lobby,

Barbara S. 4:02 PM  

Something I forgot to mention in my earlier post --

How's this for an outlier? (Or an outfielder?) When I read the clue for 1D "Series of crimes?" I had nothing else filled in and strangely my first thought was World Series, specifically the scandal of 1919. "Black Sox" would have fit in the space and I briefly thought of entering it, but it seemed just a bit too obscure even for a late-week puzzle. If I'd been right, I guess that would have been an example of a hidden capital letter in a clue. Funny where the mind will go.

jmac 4:09 PM  

When I read in the Notes that this was the final puzzle in an online replacement for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to solve it. However, I found it to be not very difficult (finished in 65% of my Friday average time), and I was surprised that Rex gave it as Challenging rating. I had partaken of a recreational product legal in my state, which I thought might be a hindrance, but maybe it helped!

Cassieopia 4:13 PM  

The Law of Inverse Rex Relative Difficulty held true for me again today - puzzles that Rex rates "easy" (see: Puzzle, Yesterday's) I find difficult, and puzzles that Rex finds "Challenging" I actually tend to finish in under my average time.

SERPENT was the first toe-hold (thank you, teenage foray into evangelical Christianity), along with HOUSTON, AMESIOWA (that was a stab in the dark - "Big 12" solutions tend to be either AMES or IOWA, and I figured why not), and with GUSTAV I was off to the races in the SW corner.

GPS before MAP, Uber before LYFT, UAW before NEA, eagle EYE before SHARP EYE (a shout out to Rex?), and retinA before SCLEARA. Which I *loved*. A puzzle that has two solutions for one clue, both of which fit (even if temporarily) give me real pleasure - they seem to be a sign of elegant and thoughtful construction. And this puzzle was loaded with them.

The NW gave me the most fits, and I got started by making educated guesses: had no clue what Anguilliformes fish were but EEL is very common in crosswords so in it went. The only nickname from Bonanza I remembered was HOSS, so that had to be right, right? Right. After that it was a lot of "try this, nope, try that" and I finally wrestled it to the ground.

I loved this puzzle. And completed it under my average - a no-Google no-cheat day on a Friday! Made my day.

@LMS I always love your stories; was tickled to see Shelbyville in your post today. I know a guy from that area, he says it's pronounced "Shevville" which is a true kick in the pants. Language is awesome.

GILL I. 4:33 PM  

@Whatsername.. You're invited to our wine table as well. HAH....My fridge is a mess. I'm always cooking or baking and I just toss leftovers in however whichaway they land. They then get put in some plastic container I can find and pawned off to neighbors. My closet - on the other hand - is my temple. Sacred, mind you. Nobody comes near it except me. I buy a lot of clothes (sigh). Every item is color coded and hung to perfection. My sweet husband ALWAYS says to me "why don't you just wear those jeans and a T-shirt. You can change your T-shirt color everyday and call it a day. (sigh).....I wonder if that makes me a closet ATAXOPHOBE?

Z 5:53 PM  

@jberg - His dissertation title is Fraternity and danger : imagining male community in late medieval England, and I think Rex has referenced being a medievalist before. I thought I tracked down the abstract before, but both UM and Proquest are demanding log in credentials. No squatting allowed, apparently.

@egsforbreakfast - One of the functions of the difficulty progression is as a metric (how often do we read somebody happy with finally solving a Saturday without cheating?). Another function is as an editing device (i.e. - people might eschew doing certain days of the week because they know they are too hard or too easy). The progression is followed by most daily xwords, while the New Yorker has their Monday as generally more challenging than their Friday offering. BEQ rates each of his puzzles, but also seems to follow the harder puzzle earlier in the week. I suspect both are trying to tap into solvers looking for more of an early week challenge. Anyway, I think the difficulty progression is worth keeping. This from the guy who has bemoaned the “Thursday is Rebusday” phenomenon.

@pmdm (and others) - The irony is, of course, that STEM grads only make more money than humanities grads for about 3-5 years, and humanities grads than make more on average for the rest of their lives (although I hear several states are desperate for coders who know COBOL - Whudda thunk?). And then there’s the whole traditional trades shortages. Plumber, carpenter, mason,... all more powerful as wage generators than coding at age 30. The whole “everyone needs to go to college” thing was poorly thought out and has more than a hint of class myopia to it.

If you think what Rex teaches is Marvel (a whole category he has mentioned he has never read) then let me encourage you to look at my earlier link. Japanese Internment camps, the road trip genre a la Kerouac and Steinbeck, noir, a work the reviewer compares to Faulkner and Miller, afrofuturism (a therm the writer disdains), memoir, ... and that’s just Forbes take on one year’s worth of good stuff.

Z 5:57 PM  

@JC66 - Links to the puzzles and other Couch tournament info.

Whatsername 5:59 PM  

@GILL: I’d be honored to join you. I’m a bit of a clothes horse too I’m afraid. And don’t even get me started on shoes. My philosophy is “if the shoe fits, buy one in every color” – and it shows.

Anonymous 6:09 PM  

although I hear several states are desperate for coders who know COBOL - Whudda thunk?

Not the first time there's been a COBOL implosion. Not recall the Y2K disaster? All those COBOL systems, almost every bank for instance, were written back in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s, used just 2 digits for date year!!!!! Everything will crash!!! Hire up all those geezers to fix it!! Don't remember the catastrophe? Neither does anyone else.

Speedweeder 6:17 PM  

Ando 2:30 - This was the easier of the two final puzzles from the tournament. The other (Chesterfield) version was considerably harder.

JC66 6:38 PM  


Thanks for the link.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

I heard Bill Barr, America’s hero, loves crossword puzzles.

Z 6:55 PM  

@Anon6:09 - As I understand the issue, it isn’t so much that people don’t remember Y2K or are ignoring the issues with COBOL, it’s that states don’t have the resources (i.e. money and personnel) to migrate their systems. Way back when I used “Job Control Language” to schedule my 1,600 student high school because that’s what the county supported. Green on black CRT screens, dot matrix print outs on large green bar paper, and a remote job entry person dedicated to support me (and the nearby middle schools). It took the county 2 years to complete the transition to a modern system, and we still managed to lose some data in the process. That was for migrating a single county’s school systems to a modern system. I cannot begin to imagine how much time and resources it will require to migrate a state like New Jersey from COBOL. A 9-figure cost would not surprise me. But it is definitely like those old car service ads, “you can pay me now or you can pay me later.”

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

I had a good time for a Friday. As I've commented here many times, we all know different things. I don't know the names of sports stadiums ...or players....except for the things I've learned doing crosswords. But I know about Hepplewhite, Sheridan and Chippendale, and I know Oedipus Rex is an Oratorio.

Somehow, Rex seems to think difficulty ratings should rest on what stumps him. I also didn't think the clues wee any trickier than any other Friday.

albatross shell 7:28 PM  

@RooMoonster 1032am
Maybe you don't do Sundays, but GUSTAV was clued with Mahler last Sunday. Harder clue on a Sunday, with only one name. Repeated on a Friday with two names. Seems strange.

tim 7:56 PM  

Rex, if it's literally been decades since you loved a Friday puzzle, maybe it's time to consider the possibility that it's not the puzzles that have changed.

Anonymous 8:33 PM  


Not that I've used any, but there are multiple COBOL to [language du jour] translators out there. Might get much of the code transliterated. I've been in shops that tried to convert geezer COBOLers to java, and it wasn't a pretty sight. If you're gonna leave COBOL on mainframe class machines, java's not the language, C++ is. And that's a completely different head space from COBOL.

But today's SOS for COBOL coders is a different issue. From the reports I've seen the issue has been about load management of the state UI systems, which are COBOL mostly, but I suspect the fix isn't in the application code, but configuration management with, you guessed it...JCL. And/or database configuration for those that at least left files behind and moved to database storage.

We return you to your regular comment stream.

JC66 9:11 PM  


The good news: I did the 6 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament puzzles (2 warm ups, 4 regular) and had no memory of any of them.

The bad news: I then checked the final standings and there I was at #721.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Z 9:41 PM  

@Anon8:33 - Yep, meanwhile Congress doesn’t want to appropriate any money to even do a competent analysis of what needs fixing, let alone then appropriate money to actually fix it. Yikes.

@JC66-9:11 - I print out various puzzles and will occasionally print one out twice. I usually will realize I already solved once before, but not always. HEPPLEWHITES was such a WOE the first time, though, that this one was still fresh. They must have frozen results, now, because I haven’t moved from 629th in weeks. I’m still a wee bit bitter that one wrong letter, an oversight where I corrected only one of two letters in a short answer, cost me about 70 spots in the rankings.

Rex shared this John Prine set on Twitter.

Unknown 9:56 PM  

Once again,, “Wow!”. The depth of your knowledge and experience can be measured only by (look it up) a micrometer!

JC66 10:44 PM  


Great John Prine. Thanks!

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Plus senator from one and representative from another and head of state of a foreign country (Republic of Texas). And the first word spoken from the moon- "Houston we have landed". He once had a fist fight with Davy Crockett on the floor of Congress.

Frantic Sloth 8:16 PM  

Jumping into the SMARTIEs debate with this picture for proof of the existence of both types of this candy.

Since the clue calls for a "Classic candy with a biconcave shape", it obviously is referring to the American version.

Apologies if this has been settled already - I can't read all the comments right now!

Over and out.
(Guess I've been watching too many "Detectorists" episodes.)

spacecraft 11:14 AM  

VERYEASY, a SOFTISH MARSHMALLOW (that last a flat gimme). This COFFEE lover had no trouble figuring out what went with cake and shop, and I'm surprised that a wordsmith such as OFC would be stumped for long. The note tells us that this was the championship puzzle in a tournament. If that's the case, it must've been a speed-solving contest. Yesterday's taxed my brain at least three times harder than today's.

Not to say it wasn't good. STEMPIPELINE was unfamiliar, but with a few crosses very inferable. A nice, open 68-worder with GAL Gadot as DOD. Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:18 AM  


IT’S VERY TRUE she’ll NOMORE swallow,
but that TALL, SHARP GAL never quits,
from when she STARTED ‘til she SPITS.


rondo 12:52 PM  

No write-overs here, musta been VERYEASY. Baba ORILEY a gimme. So was HOSS. EZ up there as I STARTED.

STEM is not just coding as OFL and sycophant @Z would have you believe. That T for Technology is only a part of STEM. What about Science and Math and Engineering. That ain’t coding new video games. Much of civil Engineering (and even architecture) these days is hi-tech. Even construction jobs. You can’t be an idiot to operate a $300,000 satellite-controlled road grader or dozer. Poetry doesn’t help much there. Laser-aligned pipe-laying? The world needs ditch diggers, too. And they gotta be SHARP. Just checked prevailing wages in MN Twin Cities area as of May 1: Bulldozer Operator wages $38.64/hr + fringes $21.40/hr = $60.04/hr total. Pipelayer (Sewer/Water) 35.30 + 20.44 = $55.74 total. What’ll your Art class get you? Super-sized?

Hope everybody is staying well ATHOME.

Diana, LIW 1:24 PM  

Oh give it a rest, @Spacey. I was basking in my triumph points after thinking I'd have to give up. And COFFEE was one of the last ones in. (I drink my coffee with milk and sweetener, no cake.) And I even had a cat named ORILEY, tho I never heard of that musical number.

But persistence paid. I remember reading an article by WS recently on how to solve a crossword - write down your guesses, he said. True that. Often helps find another answer, even if one's first guess is wrong.

EPIDURAL brought back memories of working with the anesthesiologists at UCSD many years ago. Good times. No pain.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

thefogman 1:29 PM  

Agree with Rex. Too tricksy. Too misdirects. And not in a fun way.

thefogman 2:17 PM  

Too misdirecty. Damn autocorrect!

DaveR8R 2:53 PM  

Lol good one

rainforest 6:07 PM  

Late to the puzzle and to the comments today. Busy bottling a pert 2019 Pinot Grigio -definite floral bouquet with pears and lime on the palate. A winner, if a little too yellow in colour.

The puzzle was difficult to get into, but once in, the NE and NW went fairly quickly, as did the SW. The centre section had a few tough spots, but was quite doable. The SE section put up the biggest fight. I took too many nanoseconds to get LEMON - my bad. Overall, a good romp with a Medium level of difficulty. Loved TSA, LYFT, PAROLE, and actually many more, but it's late and I gotta go.

Anonymous 9:01 PM  

I have relatives and know other people from the Seattle area, and they will harshly admonish you by saying to you, that it is called Pike Place. NO S!!!

Anonymous 10:50 PM  

wtf was that?

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