Escapee from Miss Gulch's bicycle basket / SUN 4-12-20 / Player of Ben Watt on Parks Recreation / Weak unconvincing argument / Moore whom Sports Illustrated called greatest winner in history of women's basketball / Asian city with monument to John McCain / So-called enclosed rhyme scheme

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:48)

THEME: "Barista Training Day" — familiar phrases are clued as if they completed imagined sentences about to people learning to make coffee:

Theme answers:
  • SPILLED THE BEANS (24A: Things got off to a bad start when one trainee tripped and ...)
  • SPLIT HALF AND HALF (40A: The carton leaked milk everywhere when the trainee accidentally ...)
  • LACKED A FILTER (53A: The drip coffee tasted grainy because they ...)
  • FAR FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE (68A: In fact, every cup they served was ...)
  • RAN OUT OF STEAM (85A: To make matters worse, the espresso machine ...)
  • GROUNDS FOR FIRING (95A: They worried about their jobs -- these mistakes were ...)
  • GOT INTO HOT WATER (115A: Sure enough, when the boss showed up, everyone ...)
Word of the Day: Berbers (90A: Home to man Berbers => MOROCCO) —
Berbers, or Amazighs, (Berber languagesⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏromanized: Imaziɣen; singular: Amaziɣⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ ⵎⵣⵗ) are an ethnic group of several nations mostly indigenous to North Africaand some northern parts of West Africa.
Berbers mostly live in MoroccoAlgeriaTunisiaLibyaMauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger, and a small part of western Egypt. (wikipedia)
• • •

As you've probably come to understand by now, my expectations for Sundays are quite low. When the theme misses, or is just too weak to sustain over the course of a 21x21 grid, then the solving experience is the sloggiest of slogs, even when the puzzle isn't terribly difficult. Slightly weak theme on a Wednesday, you can endure, maybe even enjoy, but stretch that same theme out to Sunday size, and woof. Not fun. It's strangely rare that a NYT Sunday has a theme that is truly inventive and delightful *and* well executed. So I have learned not to expect much. But even with those low expectations, I was genuinely stunned at how weak this effort was. Or, rather, I was surprised to see so weak an effort from someone so experienced but also so (relatively) young. This concept is corny and old-fashioned—take a concept, find phrases unrelated to that concept but that contain words that *can* be related to that concept, and then make that wacky reimagining of the phrases the basis of your overarching pun-driven narrative. Seen it. A lot. If you like that sort of thing, great. Especially great if the puns really land, but some people like even just-OK puns of this sort. Fine. A pun-based puzzle like this really has to hit much more often than it misses, and hit Big; this one just putters along. Humor-wise, it's pretty average for this theme type, but too often the phrases themselves seemed awkward or forced or strange. LACKED A FILTER is ... ick. It's just not tight. It's a phrase someone might say, but it isn't stand-alone strong (whether you found them funny or not, SPILLED THE BEANS, RAN OUT OF STEAM, GOT INTO HOT WATER ... those all hold up; solid expressions, and thus tolerable answers). SPLIT HALF AND HALF ... I kept wanting that first word to be "spilt"; also I don't think of "half and half" as "milk," so the clue is weird there. Also, the phrase itself ... teeters. This is ... not a great set of first search results (when I google the phrase in quot. marks):

Wanted FAR FROM YOUR AVERAGE to end in BEAR, but the Yogi Bear phrase is "smarter than the average bear." Still, the phrase as is isn't exactly strong or particularly current. The worst, to my ear, though, was GROUNDS FOR FIRING. The phrase is "grounds for dismissal." Here are the "grounds for" phrases that google expects:

Actually, this is a terrible list. What is "grounds for sculpture"?! The more important google info is that "grounds for dismissal" absolutely trounces "grounds for firing" by about 10 to 1. I figured out FIRING without much trouble, but all these minor misses really left me with a, let's say, bitter taste in my mouth.

But the more surprising issue was how rough the fill was in many places. AYS AAHS *and* AMS!? More than one FIDO!?!? GRP AGER BAHA and on and on. Why do COG (45A: ___ sci, college major related to psych) and ABBA (51D: So-called "enclosed" rhyme scheme) have the dumb clues they have? A COG is a thing; clue it as a thing, not as this alleged major that no one says this way (would sound too much like "cock sigh" ... "cock's eye?"). And I teach bleepin' sonnets and yet have never referred to ABBA as an "enclosed rhyme scheme." I'm sure someone somewhere calls it that, but 9 times out of 10 if ABBA comes up in my life, this is what it means to me:

I did enjoy some stuff today. PHONE TAG is fun (58D: Series of missed calls). RAIN DATE and PRESS BOX aren't bad. I enjoy the work of ADAM SCOTT (might watch all of "The Good Place" again real soon, as I already miss it). But the grid averages out to somewhat below average, and without a tight / funny theme to anchor everything, we end up with another mere time-filler; an exercise in filling in boxes, dutifully completed because that's what we do. But this really does feel like weak ... sauce (I can't even bring myself to use the puzzle's own "weak TEA" metaphor).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Peter Sagal reviews a new book about crosswords in today's New York Times Book Review; it's very much worth reading, even if he does refer to me as "the curmudgeonly scold whom every constructor resents [...]"  

P.P.S. (reprinted from yesterday's write-up) please read this blog post by the great Liz Gorski, a wonderful crossword constructor whose name you might recognize from NYT crosswords past. She stopped submitting to the NYTXW a while back. The blog post explains why. Her words (which, trust me, are diplomatic) provide a complementary perspective to that of the recent Open Letter to the Executive Director of Puzzles at the NYT, calling for, among other things, increased diversity among the test-solving and editorial staff. But Liz is writing from a place of longtime personal experience, and she's demonstrably (and understandably) less sanguine about the likelihood that small editorial policy changes are likely to seriously address the problems with gender parity and overall inclusivity at the NYTXW. Anyway, it's worth a read. She's a legendary constructor, and I'm happy she's added her voice to this discussion.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:02 AM  

Despite not having a lot to do while quarantined, i punted on this puzzle about halfway through. I just found it boring and not the least bit engaging. Quitting on a crossword is really not my style - but neither was this particular puzzle.

And so it goes …

Patrick O'Connor 12:11 AM  

Aww, Rex, you're the curmudgeonly scold that all your readers admire!

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

This is the first time I stayed up to see when Rex posts.

Wasn't sure how OFL would take to this, but was not surprised in the end by his critique, much of which I agreed with. I liked the theme, but have to go with Rex on "GROUNDS FOR FIRING" - I got it, but only with a cock of the head.

My own face palm moments included: 1) "SHRUGS" for "moves like Jagger" (picturing a writhing, shrugging Mick; 2) "PAID" for "it beats nothing"; 3) "I LOSE" for "you win this hand", but there was another "LOSES" for 38D.

Always enjoy seeing a Winnie the Pooh clue. Is it "EEYORE"? or "PIGLET"? or "RABBIT"?

As always, keep safe... and keep your distance!


Z 1:12 AM  

Sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Whole Lotta Love

One Big Holiday

OK. now I’m Happier

Maggot Brain

And that’s about all I have to say about this puzzle. Play them loud.

Z 1:15 AM  

And since I erred, Come downstairs and say hello

Frantic Sloth 1:26 AM  

Yeah. Pretty much agree with OFL on everything - right down to "grounds for sculpture" and what that could possibly mean.

I was just happy to see BABAWAWA since I've been waiting for it since that BABA clue from a few days ago. Now I can stop obsessing.

Harryp 1:43 AM  

I liked it and was challenged by it. Great puzzle for taking an hour and a half out of a boring day.

jae 1:59 AM  

Easy-medium. Kinda with Rex on this one. A tad meh with a couple of themers that didn’t quite work.

okanaganer 2:17 AM  

76A "This is the worst" = AWFUL. Not AWMAN.

ENDINATIE sounds like a Canadian aboriginal name.

I agree FAR FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE just doesn't work especially as the center grid spanner. Try googling it... it just doesn't google well, in fact almost all the results are actually NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE.

Also LACKED A FILTER is not a thing. Nothing even close. My great nephew/nieces like the adjective UNFILTERED for someone who doesn't think before speaking, which I really like.

Did you notice there is only one letter's difference between GROUNDS FOR HIRING and GROUNDS FOR FIRING?

Anonymous 2:37 AM  

The DIA:Beacon might be considered grounds for sculpture.

Loren Muse Smith 2:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 2:50 AM  

Pretty much what @Harryp said – didn’t blow my socks off, but it was a pleasant way to spend an hour. I definitely agree with Rex on GROUNDS FOR FIRING. It’s grounds for dismissal. We have a pretty slack-ass teacher who regularly and cheerfully does stuff that would be grounds for dismissal in other schools. But hey, - he’s a warm body who shows up (albeit usually late), so. . .

Hip coffee shops give me so much angst since I just don’t speak the language. When it’s my turn to order, I usually quietly tell the barista’s nose ring that I just want a cup of black coffee. I give my name, knowing it’ll be misspelled – who cares – and slide over to wait with the judgy, haughty iced-half-caf-soy-caramel drizzle-one-pump vanilla-four shakes-cinnamon snobs. And I wonder if people with nose rings understand that at a distance it just looks like they have booger.

Loved the ambiguity of the clue for PAIR. “It beats nothing.” But there again, I’m a linguist; I like ambiguity more than most people.

Think that I AM can contract to I’m or he is can contract to he’s any time you feel like going informal? Think again. You absolutely cannot say

*Do you know who I’m?
*Bob is taller than he’s.
*They’re having a lot more fun than we’re.

Your day is now complete.

I noticed some periphery theme material – TEA, BREW, ORDERED IN DETAIL (see order above). USER ID that will be misspelled.

The clue for AGER reminded me of this.

@ okanaganer - loved your Canadian ENDINATIE. Disagree with LACKED A FILTER. Lack a filter is firmly in my idiolect.

USER ID. Sigh. There’s not much worse than being asked to log in again to some site, to provide your user id and password. Now there’s about an hour gone from my day. The MSN gods recently locked my email because of some kind of suspicious activity. After a week of filling out forms online and then an hour on the phone with Vikas from India (nice guy), I was told it was hopeless. My email account could not be recovered. Anyone here who emailed me in the last three weeks. . . I didn’t receive it. My new email is on my profile.

It was fun to try to think of other expressions that could be re-interpreted as baristaspeak. Taking pictures of Starbucks coffee cups for the Christmas catalog: mug shot. Creepo using their hand to move around the froth art on their order: foam rubber (work with me here). And my roast beef – I hate it when I don’t receive the dark roast option; I love that slightly burnt taste. Love it. Actually, dark roast may taste stronger than regular, but it has less caffeine. I can definitely tell when it’s not dark roast since my system is sensitive to a lot of caffeine. I guess you could say I prefer the wienie roast.

chefwen 3:57 AM  

Had a hell of a time getting 40A. Spelled arsenal wrong, had BAjA men, I’m out before I FOLD. What a mess. Other than sorting that out, this was a yawner. Almost tossed it, but I’m stubborn and like the rest of us have plenty of time on my hands.

@Loren, I’m with you on nose rings, so distracting. Blowing ones nose must be kind of painful.

FIDOS brought back fond memories, we named our first cat FIDO, but we spelled it Phydeaux, she was a great retriever of wine bottle corks and crumpled up paper.

CDilly52 4:52 AM  

The best part of this puzzle was @LMS’s discussion of the coffee shop and especially the nose ring! Better entertainment than the puzzle, although I agree that it was a fine way to spend over an hour during my insomnia time!

BarbieBarbie 5:20 AM  

@Rex and @sloth: Grounds for Sculpture is a sculpture park off I-295, near the Hamilton exit, in New Jersey. People looking up how to get there probably boosted its Google score. I’ve never been there but I love just tooling along, seeing the normal central Jersey landscape, and then suddenly these two Picasso-like heads rising up out of the, um, ground.

I found this humdrum as well. But give Joel a break: right now the nation is divided into people with way too much extra work, people with nothing to do, and those states where social distancing is already the norm. We’re all inundated with jokes and memes these days, from well-meaning Group B friends with cabin fever. So anything that doesn’t really stick the landing gets an eye roll and feels like time wasted. Maybe six months ago I would have loved this puzzle.

Bax'N'Nex 5:29 AM  

Peter Sagal was being kind...

BarbieBarbie 5:51 AM  

For anyone looking for the Sagal review in the online NYT: it’s dated March 17. Appearance in the paper edition must be randomized.

sf27shirley 5:58 AM  

Well, I liked this puzzle a lot. It coincided with a trip to the local market because I don't mind running out of everything except coffee. Thank you Joel.

We have all become like Harry Hope these days.

Lewis 6:14 AM  

@rex -- Regarding COG sci, what you call the "alleged major that no one says this way", it is actually half of Joel's college double major, according to Will Shortz's notes in XwordInfo.

Lewis 6:20 AM  

How refreshing! A puzzle that took me to a place of comfort, incorporating the best of old-school constructing, telling a sweet story. Solving this felt like nestling in my favorite reading place with an old classic, tuning the world out, and nourishing my soul.

It was like visiting an old and dear friend (which Mr. Mini has become). No flash. No "Look at my neat constructing trick!". Simply a cozy and involving quality solve.

Perfect for today. Thank you, Joel.

John 7:49 AM  

Does anyone know what percentage of NYT crossword submissions are from women?

Teresa 7:57 AM  

I thought it was great fun. So there.

GILL I. 7:57 AM  

Well dang...I rather enjoyed this one. You give me Gilda and BABA WAWA then I'm gonna do a little happy feet dance.
Well, SPILLED THE BEANS was cool beans. I always wonder where we get these little gems. Full of beans that I am. Why are beans so special? I just put them in my slow cooker and hope for the best.
I suppose I could look up why someone who roasts a bunch of beans is called a Barista but I'm too lazy. I rarely, if ever, go to a coffee place. I have to make my own. It's an takes patience...I would call myself an ARTISTA. See, you have to use a French Press. You have to use Italian BEANS. You boil your water and pour it into 3 Tbs of freshly ground coffee beans, give it a little twirl and set your timer for exactly 4 minutes. Please don't shove the shover down like you would a toilet have to be gentle. Voila.
I dropped off the cutest little Easter basket for my little Hadley Rose. She's going to hunt for goodies by herself. No cousins to help her this year.....major sigh. In my past, I loved Easter. Leg of lamb, happy family and someone else doing the dishes.
Oh...does anyone in New York really say FIFTH AVE? What happened to the NUE?

pmdm 8:18 AM  

I found this puzzle harder than the normal Sunday puzzle, perhaps because I found the theme entries easier than normal. I don't like when I enjoy the acrostic more than the crossword, but I do admit it is nice that Joel didn't try to stuff weird egocentric entries into the grid (whatever tey are). I'm happier to have taken the time to solve the puzzle than to have plodded on scanning decades old papers into my computer. So an odd sort of thumbs up from me.

The theme did feel kind of old fashioned. Is it that not many constructors use this type of theme anymore, or is it that Joel's work gets special dispensation from Will? I wonder.

Nancy: So you, as I, love hot fudge? There is an ice cream store in Watkins Glen that sells home made and vegan ice cream (don't ask what's the point) which you can have with your favorite topping. And some of the wineries have pretty good stuff. Of course, the owner close the store and travel south for the winter, and who know when the store will reopen this year.

RAD2626 8:33 AM  

When the brilliant and beloved Merl Reagle died, I bought ten of his books. I have since worked my way through them all. Maybe 15-20% of the puzzles were exactly like this: little Burma Shave story lines with related corny or punny theme answers. I liked them and I liked this. I will just consider it a Merl Reagle tribute puzzle. Thank you Joel.

IrishCream 8:36 AM  

Don’t real coffee snobs judge the folks who defile their coffee with tons of milk and froofy syrups? Your plain black coffee would probably pass muster.

I’m in between the two camps. I don’t like dessert disguised as coffee, but a little steamed milk and foam is delightful.

Nancy 8:37 AM  

Breezy and enjoyable -- even though if the fancy coffee bars waited for me to patronize them, they'd all go belly up. My cuppa in the morning is instant Folgers, very strong, with almost no water, and turned into a latte by heating up some milk in the microwave. When my brother, the one who grinds his own special selection of coffee beans and uses a state-of-the-art coffeemaker, was staying with me and I offered him my wonderful Folgers creation, he looked at me as though I was some sort of weird sea otter creature and asked: "Where's the nearest Starbucks?"

But enough about my own coffee predilections. This provided some Sunday morning entertainment, if not all that much challenge. I was flummoxed in one spot, though: I had I SEE instead of I SPY (41D) for the children's book series -- which kept me from seeing SAPPY and EBAY. And what was the first (3-letter) word in "[blank] FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE"? ONE FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE? CUP FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE? I had no idea. Also, I've been writing verse my entire life and had absolutely no idea what a "so-called 'enclosed' rhyme scheme" is. EBAY and RBI gave me A-B-B-A. Okay, if you say so. I don't really see why.

Other than that section, a smooth brew for me.

M 8:39 AM  

Rarely post. But enough of the “gender parity” please.

When I solve a puzzle I rarely if ever look at the name of the constructor.....unless Rex points it out to me I guess.

But a blog post from an avowed feminist demanding more female constructors because I’d guess she mostly got tired of making them is “weak tea”.

If I had to bet, as part of the NYT, Mr Shortz and his staff are on the liberal side, and basically labeling them sexist without the percentage of puzzles submitted by females known is unfair. And to demand that they “recruit” female puzzle makers also seems unfair. Perhaps that’s something those who think it’s so important can do.

This is a diversion for most of us I’d guess.....this blog continues to try to make it something more.

SouthsideJohnny 8:48 AM  

As I, like many of us, was slogging my way through this one, I also said to myself - “wow, this is just so boring, (and the theme entries are so contrived)”. No surprise that Rex panned it - as have about 4 out of 5 commentators so far.

The only real highlights of today so far are Loren’s musings re coffee shop denizens and the baristas with nose rings that look like boogers.

pabloinnh 8:49 AM  

No sunrise service with me on guitar this morning, which was fine with me, because it was 23 degrees here this AM. My guitar doesn't like to get that cold and neither do I.

BABAWAWA is good stuff, clearly better than Roseanna, which I tried first and was not helpful. APERCU had run away and hid somewhere, although I have actually attended an ARSENAL game in London, which at least gave me the A. Weepy before SAPPY slowed that area down, as did PAIR, which had a nice clue.

My approach to avoiding problems at upscale coffee shops is to not go to them in the first place. There are a couple of Starbucks within driving distance, but if I'm going that far, it will be to a brewpub.

I'm with @Lewis in finding this one as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. Thanks to JF. On a Sunday with not much on the agenda, I found it a PAIR, which is to say, it beats nothing.

David 8:50 AM  

I have two nieces who worked at one of those places you see on every block. Not only did they hate their jobs, they had a very low opinion of people who would spend that much money on the average joe, and especially those who would order it filled up with some gross sugar syrup. Grounds for firing, I suppose.

I found no joy in this puzzle and, for the first time in forever, agree 100% with Rex. Just a slog, and today's acrostic isn't much better. At least we got 29 points in the spelling bee...

Suzie Q 8:53 AM  

When this social-distancing thing began one of my first thoughts was about coffee shops. I rarely go to them as I am an at-home-ritual coffee lover like @GILL.I. However, I have noticed entire coffee shops full of people sitting around others but no one is talking. All of them are staring at their phones or lap tops. Besides a slight adjustment of a few feet of physical distance, is their life very different from before?

Puzzle was just OK. I am not familiar with the meaning of "lacked a filter" but the others were adequate.

What a terrible picture of Sinead O'Connor.

Thanks for your list @ Loren. Yes, my day is now complete.

Is the name Fido given because the dog is a faithful companion?

thfenn 9:02 AM  

Fixed a coffee and sat down, or rather, lay back down, and got a puzzle with a coffee theme, so that seems ok. Bit challenging in places - mushY before SAPPY and then Slog before SERF made the west gnarly up for me. But yes @Gill, BABAWAWA makes this a winner, as does what should be a very reflective upcoming EARTHDAY. Pretty sure 5th Ave used to be a shopping mecca, hope it is again at some point.

Karl Grouch 9:22 AM  

After the first two long theme answers I was totally convinced that this would somehow would lead to an aha! explanation of why all theme answers started with SP.

SãoPaulo? (barista paulista..)

A pair beats nothing, sure.

Anyhoo, no use crying over spilt or even spilled milk.

On to next week.

Michael 9:26 AM  

I liked the puzzle more than Rex, but that is almost always the case.

Here are some thoughts about the low percentage of women constructors for the New York Times, As will be seen, some data would be helpful. I am assuming that comments saying the proportion of women constructors to the NYTimes is about 13 percent.

1. What proportion of puzzles submitted by women are accepted? What proportion of puzzles by men are accepted?

2. I would guess that fewer women than men submit puzzles for consideration for publication to the NYT. What is relative number of submissions by men and women to other major puzzle outlets? What are the acceptance rates for men and women at these other outlets. In other words, is this a specific problem at the NYT or is it general in the crossword world?

3. Why do women submit few puzzles to the NYT (and possibly other outlets)? Of course, this is a complex question for which numerous answers might be offered.

I could go on other themes such as whether the content of NYT and other puzzles tends to be male-biased, the proportion of male and female entrants in crossword-solving contests (not the same as the crossword construction to be sure), the proportion of male and female high scorers in these contests (an indication perhaps of the sort of obsession perhaps helpful in crossword construction), etc.

Finally, I have to say that I was struck by these comments coming from Liz Gorski, who obviously has not had problems having her own (terrific) puzzles accepted by the NYTimes. I think a critique coming from her should be taken seriously.


Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Grounds for Sculpture is a wonderful art museum concept in NJ. Here is a link to their website.

kitshef 9:28 AM  

Nothing particularly wrong with this, but I found it dull.

There are puzzles I’ve disliked much more, but normally even puzzles I don’t like will have five or more clues or answers that make me happy. Today, I marked two (BABAWAWA and EEYORE).

What really struck me is that in a puzzle that is intended to amuse, there was a notable lack of wittiness in the clues.

Teedmn 9:46 AM  

Nice theme phrases. Some work better than others. My favorite is RAN OUT OF STEAM. I liked SPLIT HALF AND HALF but I don't think the clue worked very well. SPILLED THE BEANS worked perfectly. Good job, Joel Fagliano.

What a great clue for 77A! "Flier for a magic show" = DOVE.

I had a lot of missteps today. I jutted at 7D, "ran" at 82A, "dined in" at 92D. The Soap Box derby entrant was a "scout". I hyped instead of FLOGged. And then there was the last-letter, run-the-alphabet panic at the cross of CO_ and A_ER in the NE. What a relief when I got to G. Done in AVERAGE time.

Are FIDOS typical dogs? I can't see naming one's chihuahua FIDO, except ironically.Then again, @chefwen had a cat named Phydeaux, so what do I know?

TJS 9:57 AM  

Well, I don't think it would be possible to parody a Rex review any longer because they are already parodies of themselves. So "cog" is not good fill because to Rex' ear it sounds like "cock". Hmm... And what's with all the Google justification. Couldn't find any twits who agreed?

IMO this was one of our better Sundays. Took me 48 minutes at my timeless pace, which is nice. Thought the theme held up well. "Lacked a filter" is by no means an outlier to my ear. I hear it all the time, and use it. Really enjoyed much of the cluing :Draft choice, beats nothing,flier for a magic show, team-building activity. Found out what "apercu" means. And who knew "Ponce" wasn't his first name ?
Dominican "Molido" is great coffee, and cheap down here. They sell little it pre-brewed at the colmados in little paper cups about the size of those useless catchup deals, and at a strength known to no one, except possibly @Nancy.

vostradamus 9:57 AM  

Can someone please explain 'AGER'? How does this mean constant stress or heavy drinking?

Birchbark 9:58 AM  

LACKED A FILTER -- I do that maybe twice a year by accident. I still drink the coffee.

As for the evocative, seventeen-letter "Curmudgeonly Scold" -- I've begun to read James Boswell's three-volume "Life of Samuel Johnson." It's been on my shelf far too long to not know directly what it says about this arbiter of everything 18th century, grounded in lexicography, Shakespeare, etc. There is much more to the story, both mine and Johnson's; here, merely that @Rex can warm to his new title and see the gift behind it.

I keep looking for Easter eggs in this puzzle but can't find any. So will crack a few of our own this morning for an "old-country" family tradition of frittata for Easter brunch (just the three of us this year): first brown ground veal and ham with a little garlic and set aside. Mix a dozen eggs (we have eight, which is fine) in a bowl. Add a little salt (trust the ham for the rest) and as many twists of the pepper grinder as you have eggs. Add chopped fresh mint. Add the veal and ham. Then generously olive oil or butter a large skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in the frittata and cook, using a spatula to gently keep it "free" on the bottom. When it's cooked well up the sides and firming on top, cover with a big plate, take everything to the sink (experience teaches) flip the pan onto the plate, quickly slide the upended frittata back into the pan, correct things with the spatula, and cook until done. We serve it in slices with a salad and fruit, but the family tradition also includes a sweet bread called "paloma." Now to that, and Happy Easter.

Ernonymous 10:04 AM  

@Chefwen I love Phydeaux! Great name for a cat! I had a foster dog named Spot, he was white with a big black spot. I loved the name it's so cliche that it's out of style. The people who adopted him changed it to Toby. I'm still mad about that.

Hungry Mother 10:06 AM  

Long slog, but survived it. It took forever for COG to fall. As a Chemistry and then Mathematics major, the other side of campus was a mystery. However, when I taught, I fought with those other majors for the ownership of Statistics courses. Appropriate to today, those were "religious" arguments.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

% Why do we always come here?
% I guess we’ll never know
% It’s like a kind of torture
% To have to watch the show.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

A couple of the clues/answers made me smile. The clue (Escapee from Miss Gulch's bicycle basket) and answer to Gilda Radner SNL character (Babawawa) were worth doing the whole puzzle for me. I like anything that makes me smile even a little bit during this time in our lives.

Z 10:09 AM  

Speaking of coffee snobbery, we recently got a Starbucks near the highway exit/downtown. When I asked the barista (from Italian for “the person behind the bar”) at my local dealer if they were much worried the response as he looked down his nose ring was, “No, we don’t really serve the same sort of customer.” There was so much shade in the comment that the sky actually darkened. BTW - I grind my beans at home and use a french press, Suplicar Clemencia when I’m feeling dark and bitter, Ethiopia Sidamo when I want something a little lighter. I’ve been known to get a latte or café au lait on occasion, but 99% of the time I take my coffee neat.

RooMonster 10:15 AM  

Hey All !
Fun story, but dang, if I went to that coffee joint on that day, they'd never see me again! Coffee made without a filter? Yeesh.

Liked this "Inept Barista" puz. Fun figuring out the themers. Even funner, there are 7 of the 8 F's in the theme/story! So a great story! Har.

93D, started with atmS, then CpaS, then CeOS, finally CFOS. Funny how a clue can have so many "right" answers. 114A, rah for HUM for way too long. Other writeovers, IMOut-IMOFF, AWful-AWMAN (til almost the very end), mushY-SAPPY, ikea-EBAY, tem-AMS, and maybe one or two more I'm forgetting.

Some nice clues, SCISSORS one comes to mind.

Overall an enjoyable SunPuz, surprised myself by finishing in 4X Rex, 44 minutes. And 100% correct! No LOSES here!

I bet BABA WAWA never imagined 2020 to be like this so far!

IM OFF, says RUE

CVarg 10:19 AM  

Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park/museum in Hamilton, NJ (former NJ state fairgrounds).

kitshef 10:29 AM  

Mostly agree with LMS on Starbucks (but disagree on nose rings).

Only time I visit Starbucks is in airports, for hot chocolate. Tip for you (future) travelers - often Starbucks menus at airports will NOT list hot chocolate, but they always have it. Conversely, Dunkin' Donuts menus at airports will always list hot chocolate, but they never have it.

Scubamom 10:31 AM  

Loved Loved Merl...

yaffa 10:41 AM  

Grounds for Sculpture is a beautiful park in Trenton ,NJ.

JC66 10:41 AM  

I found the puzzle just okay, but really enjoyed the Acrostic (maybe because it was easier than usual for me).


The clue fo FIFTH AVE uses N.Y.C. so the abbreviation works for me.


Stress and/or heavy drinking could cause one to age prematurely, ergo they're AGERS.

Crimson Devil 10:45 AM  

Great to be reminded of lost national treasure Gilda, RIP. My favorite character was Emily Litella, whom I frequently quote.

Z 10:45 AM  

Francis Heaney shared this on Twitter. I enjoyed the crossword puzzle. It’s the kind of theme that I think will cause @Muse to muse.

Frantic Sloth 10:51 AM  

@Giovanni 1004am. Oh, dear. I can never unsee this ad when I hear the name Toby.

Does anyone know what "Grounds for Sculpture" means? ;-). I'm sorry - I just had to.

RooMonster 11:00 AM  

Oh, and Happy Easter to y'all!

RooMonster Subbing For The Easter Bunny Guy

Ann Hedonia 11:11 AM  

This is another terrible puzzle. What is "cog sci?" I hated this so much. These young whippersnappers are making the worst crosswords I've seen in all my born days.

KnittyContessa 11:16 AM  

This started promising. I was so proud of myself for remembering Baba Wawa. Spilled the beans made me hopeful for a fun Sunday. It turned out to be just okay. The only clue that really bothered me was 92D. Shouldn't it be "ordered in"? "ordered" by itself just doesn't sound right to me.

Michiganman 11:17 AM  

The first time I visited my son in San Francisco he lived just south of Golden Gate Park and a block or two from the beach. I found a place called Java Beach and went there every morning, then enjoyed my coffee and a sweet treat looking out on the ocean. Later I happened to go to a Starbuck's and was kiddingly shamed by my son and his girlfriend. I didn't know about SB at that time. I had never seen one before (it was a while ago). It was a great trip. I loved SF of course.

Here's a Covid-19 safety tip. Don't share nose rings!

QuasiMojo 11:21 AM  

I dunno I was kind of amused by this since it came from "Joe L."

My only Starbucks encounter began and ended when I asked the barista for a caffè latte and she said "We don't sell those." I pointed to LATTE on the menu. "Oh that! Sure. Why didn't you say so?"

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

This was supposed to be Masters Sunday and Adam Scott has a green jacket. Why clue him as some sitcom actor ? Sheesh.

Joe Dipinto 11:24 AM  

I usually like this kind of puzzle, I think. Or maybe sometimes I like this kind of puzzle. This one kind of fell flat though. The phrasal aberrations (like "firing" instead of "dismissal") didn't bother me, but there just wasn't much zing to the theme entries as a whole.

Connections: the ATLAS mountains are at least partly in MOROCCO. ABBA was a PAIR of married couples, at least for awhile. MOI? I AM, I SEE, I SPY, I FOLD.

I was going to post a link to J.S. Bach's "Coffee Cantata" but I decided to go with his Easter Oratorio instead (it's actually just another cantata). If you have 40 minutes or so, this is a very nice performance (with countertenor instead of alto!). @pabloinnh, it has an appealing tenor aria, at about the 23:45 point – I bet you could do a bang-up job with it. Enjoy!

LeaveItToYourGoat 11:29 AM  

I didn't hate the theme, but it wasn't exactly stellar either.

Glad Rex mentioned how dumb the clue for COG was. The clue for AGER wasn't much better. That G at COG / AGER was the last letter to fall far me after spending 3 or 4 minutes going through the alphabet trying to make sense of every letter at that crossing. Not every clue needs to be overly-challenging, especially at a 3-letter / 4-letter crossing in a 21x21 Sunday grid featuring 140+ answers. A simple "Machine part" / "Teen follower?" would more than suffice.

ERE is not a lead-in to "long," at least not in this century. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen the word ERE outside of crossword puzzles, high school poetry textbooks, and a certain Napoleonic palindrome.

Is RAIN DATE a thing? I know "rain check" and "rainy day" are contingency-related terms, but RAIN DATE just doesn't hit the ear well.

Got NATICKED at EMI / APERCU, but guessed correctly.

AW MAN gets a whole lot better if you can convince yourself that the clue is referring to itself.

Had MOUTH at 103-D ("D and ), in texts"), then had GRILL.

I really liked the clues for TRYOUT (Team-building activity?) and HEX (Spell the wrong way?)

Lastly, Rex, "curmudgeonly scold whom every constructor resents," is a perfect description of you. But we still love you, and solving the NYT crossword wouldn't be the same without you and your grumpy blog :)

ML 11:30 AM  

Long time reader, first time commenter - fwiw, I was a cognitive science major in college and I have called and still call it CogSci!

But yes, bad puzzle.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Agree with Rex. This was such a weak puzzle with an uninspiring theme and tired clues.

I'm sure Joel is a very nice person who is doing his best but puzzles like this are proof that Will Shortz needs to expand the pool of constructors beyond his usual boys club and broaden his editing constrictions.

Gerry Kelly 11:33 AM  

Also has a great French restaurant called "Rats"! The grounds were the idea of the Johnson and Johnson heir who passed recently!

Cyclist227 11:42 AM  

For some reason, I had a lot of trouble with this one, which is very rare for a Sunday. I'll blame it on cabin fever. I think my brain is on energy saving mode.
Will Shortz, please retire!

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

Grounds for Sculpture

When I was in school, I guess some sort of social science class, the term was 'sculpture garden' and most were in the Olde World.

Aketi 11:46 AM  

I noticed that JOE was conjoined with JUAN who used to FLOG Folgers

AWMAN, confession time:
I confess that FIFTH AVE did not come to mind as a shopping Mecca. I only thought of grocery stores and Fairway and Zarbars definitely didn’t fit. Other than a thermometer and oximeter and masks we haven’t bought any physical goods other then food in a month. Perhaps it is because shopping has been reduced to a) waiting for the buzzer at the apartment door, opening it and picking up the bags deposited at the door with a brief glimpse of a delivery person fleeing or b) an ornate process of hand washing and putting on gloves and a mask without touching anything that might make you want to restart the whole process. We are doing more a) than b)

I confess that we’ve overly stockpiled BEANS. I have reverted to my grad school days when I lived on a tiny stipend so I bought BEANS of every type, red, pinto, white, black as well as chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils and rotated through all the different varieties. I have not yet attempted grinding our own coffee BEANS.

I also confess that I AM unrepentantly one of “those people” who liked my lavender latte with HALF the syrup with a cute winking teddy bear or alpaca latte art. I used to sit there between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes because the interval between classes was not long enough to go home and return for the next class. I could linger over my NOT so AVERAGE JOE for the hour between and manage to sip carefully enough to retain the shape of the art till the bitter end. None of my baristas wore nose rings. Many were also fellow Martial Artists. The baristas were all young and interesting and earnestly striving to better themselves to get their dream jobs. I miss chatting with them. Our Mr Coffee cappuccino maker is very easy to use but it’s not nearly as entertaining.

I confess that my son does LACK A FILTER and his friends describe him that way. I confess that it’s hereditary on the maternal side.

jberg 11:55 AM  

Well, agrees that PIED means having two colors, but I've never, ever heard or seen it used for anything but black and white. So that bothered me, but I guess I'm out of date. And I'm with @Okanaganer, it's 'not YOUR AVERAGE JOE' every time. Or, of course, 'just an average joe.'

I had a malapop with I SEE, putting it in for I SPY before finding it in its own right later.

Kind of a slog, but it didn't take too long.

What? 12:04 PM  

People who complain about this puzzle have never constructed one (or at least one that was published).

johnk 12:09 PM  

This decaf failed to stimulate.

REO 12:10 PM  

I've never built a car but I get to complain if mine is LEMON.

Ellen S 12:11 PM  

@Gill I, if you are making truly snobby coffee, it’s essential to measure the grounds in grams, not tablespoons. Also, you need a special thermometer to make sure the water is precisely the right temperature, whatever that is. Since my daughter moved in with me, we’re just using a coffee maker. Crude but effective.

Speaking of adult kids living with parents, over in xwordinfo, today’s constructor mentions that he’s “back living at home.” It’s interesting that wherever your parents live, no matter how old you are, that’s “at home”.

No surprise that I enjoyed the puzzle more than @Rex did, but I think in this case it’s about puns. People who like puns even like them when they’re bad. Or ... maybe we like them better the worse they are. Something like that. But “non pun” people (no hyphen since the cat sat on the keyboard) don’t like them at all. “Eww, it’s puns, here, you do the puzzle,” my sainted husband used to say.

Carola 12:14 PM  

Arduous, and, for being so coffee-fueled, I thought the theme was surprisingly lacking in zip. I found my pleasures elsewhere: STEALTHY, APERCU, CHARADE, the cross of FAROE and HEROES, RAIN DATE over PRESS BOX, and the PAIR NEATER + DRAWER: not only have I managed to weed-out and organize two of the worst offenders, but now I can entertain myself by repeatedly opening them and admiring my work. Stay tuned for my closet report.

Chip Hilton 12:30 PM  

6-Down: Since Tottenham Hotspur has 16 letters, it would require an oversized puzzle for inclusion, so seeing my beloved Spurs in a clue is the best I should hope for. Hated ARS**** is their opponent in the North London Derby (pronounced darby), which is at least as heated as Yanks/Bosox and UNC/Duke. Gunners fans amused themselves with their annual St. Tottingham’s Day celebration for twenty consecutive seasons. That’s the day when they would assure themselves of finishing ahead of Spurs in the English top-flight league standings. Happily, Spurs broke the streak a few seasons back and have a streak of their own going. They were one point ahead of their rivals when play was suspended this year although both sides were having sub-par seasons. At least Spurs have a brand new stadium which has to be seen to be believed. It has won raves from NFL players who have played there. COYS!

Whatsername 12:39 PM  

I rarely patronize the hip coffee shops but I’ve noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid nose rings. They’re everywhere, occasionally on a server in a restaurant which makes me lose my appetite before I can even order. I grew up on a farm and my dad raised hogs. Few experiences are more frustrating than trying to drive wayward swine back into the pen after they’ve rooted under the fence to escape. Those animals will soon find themselves sporting nose rings to keep them from doing it again. So naturally every time I see a human wearing one, my first thought is, why would anyone want to look like a pig. What I normally do is try to avoid making eye contact or even looking in their general direction if I can avoid it.

@Nancy (8:37): I’m not at all day coffee drinker and normally only have one cup in the morning. But I can’t abide instant, so I bought myself a Keurig one-cup maker as a retirement gift to myself. No offense to Folgers if that’s your cup of brew, but I really enjoy trying the different blends one cup at a time. Sometimes I get crazy and add a squirt of chocolate syrup and some Cool Whip for my own little version of a Mocha. And the best part is I don’t have to pay 5 bucks for it or avoid looking at anyone’s nose ring in the process.

Nancy from Chicago 12:45 PM  

@RAD2626, in the constructor's notes on Wordplay, Joel wrote that he modeled this on Merl Reagle's story puzzles.

I thought this puzzle was ok. I was hoping for some kind of "easter egg" gimmick so that was a little disappointing. Anyway, Happy Easter everyone! Keep staying safe!

Whatsername 12:47 PM  

@Goat (11:29) Is rain date a thing? Every year my neighborhood holds community-wide garage sales. We choose a date to have it and then designate an alternate day in case of rain. We call that the RAIN DATE.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Ah, but a diamond, or other precious (looking, anyway) stone stud in the side of the nostril is quite a beauty statement among (only? mostly??) women of South Asia. Kind of like having your 'mad money' in plain site.

Deano 12:57 PM  

Like to see the science behind 39 down. Hic.

webwinger 1:03 PM  

Anyone else really bothered that the first five theme phrases were used in an unusual literal sense specific to coffee making, but the last two were clued figuratively, as per usual, despite including terms related to coffee making? That made a meh theme experience painful for me.

Awoke this morning to find new snow on the ground, temperature 20 deg F: Easter in Colorado! And we were almost out of coffee, and our neighborhood grocery store, only place we can walk to for beans, was closed for the holiday. Turned out we had just enough for two mugs. A small miracle of the season.

My two favorite local spots for coffee and pastry remain open for take-out. On days when it’s reasonably warm (hopefully most from now on) I can sit in an outdoor plaza and enjoy the morning. It feels gloriously normal.

See here for my favorite New Yorker barista cartoon.

@LMS: You outdid yourself today! LOL over your accounts of both ordering from a nose-ornamented barista and dealing with your email woes.

Donna 1:19 PM  

I once had a 3-legged cat named Phideaux, with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Who wooda thunk it:
"Most Hindu women prefer to wear the nose rings on the left nostril since the nerves leading from the left nostril are associated with the female reproductive organs. Therefore, they believe that piercing the nose at this position helps in easing childbirth."

the innterTubes. May haps your pet sow would appreciate the relief?

Pamela 1:43 PM  

I loved doing this puzzle because it was easy, and after yesterday’s debacle, a great relief that I’m not so dumb after all. There were a few sticking points, but nothing impossible. The theme answers weren’t hard to suss out, which helped a lot with the few team related clues. I rolled my eyes when AGER finally became obvious, but totally got it, Never heard of ORLY nail polish, which is weird because I’m always looking for new colors. Little chuckles here and there, but agree nothing outstanding. The whole process felt familiar and comfy. Lovely!

@LMS, I’m with all those above who enjoyed your riff on Starbucks- it was more entertaining than the puzzle. I drink black coffee at home, freshly ground then filtered, but there I get decaf cappuccino because I like the foam, and I say small because I can never remember what their size descriptions mean. Everything else mystifies me too, including the nose rings. I mean, why?!

Rex, thank you for the link to Liz Gorski’s blog. She’s obviously a highly respected professional, so I took her comments as an accurate report. Up to now, I’ve just assumed that this is just the way the world continues to be, but didn’t realize that one editor stands out as a champion of the status quo in effect, if not in words.

MR. Cheese 1:49 PM  

Grounds for Sculpture in NJ is worth the trip.

Birchbark 1:51 PM  

@Nancy (8:37), @Gill I. et al. re AVERAGE JOE -- I grind my own medium-roast beans and use a drip coffee maker. I keep Folgers as a backup. When my daughter has her voice lesson at MacPhail, she and her teacher drink instant Folgers from individual packs, which her teacher brings back from family trips to Korea. And she always sends a few home. (A casualty of the current remote lessons is the dwindling supply thereof.)

Two of my siblings have "the" professional grade espresso makers from Italy, acquired judiciously from the estates of bankrupt cafes. They are manual contraptions, intriguing to study and try to understand. When I visit, they accommodate my request for AVERAGE JOE by adding hot water to an espresso shot until the mug is full, then politely look the other way as I drink it. It was different in my foppish twenties, but that was then.

Lately in the afternoon I've been making a tea of crushed dried Ginseng roots, maple syrup, and a cinnamon stick. This is FARther FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE, but tasty.

jae 1:55 PM  

Fun fact: Rex and Joel are both Pomona grads.

Fun opinion: FAROE Island salmon is tastier than any west coast salmon I’ve tried.

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

Lacked a filter, is often heard in these parts.
All the themers worked for me, even half and half, if you think about sharing a piece of cake.
I've never attempted to construct a puzzle, and am a below average Joe when it comes to solving, so I guess I just don't expect perfection. I do always find Rex to be more than curmudgeonly. Really enjoyed the guests hosts lately.

Ernonymous 2:19 PM  

This puzzle has me in the mood for a caffè corretto. That is literally translated as Corrected Coffee. It means coffee with a shot of booze in it. All coffee is mistaken and must be corrected!

sixtyni yogini 2:21 PM  

Grounds for Sculpture is a wonderful park in New Jersey (as noted above.)
What Rex said. 🎯🥊🎯
Before reading Rex, was thinking that Sunday puzzles without a good/clever theme are just long, boring daily puzzles, like today’s.
Smiled at some clues/answers.
Seems too I enjoy a meh 😑 puzzle 🧩 especially on a cold, rainy shut-in day. 😷😜😷 So thanks to Mr. Fagliano and Rex!

Barbara S. 2:34 PM  

Terribly late, as I always am on Sunday. It's because of having an extended long-range chat with a beloved sister who lives far, far away.

I liked the puzzle but didn't find it scintillating. To be honest, after yesterday I was just glad not to get massacred.

29A I welcomed back YURI Zhivago, after what seemed like a long absence. (He probably got lost in those snowy steppes.)

Enjoyed the cross of STEALTHY and SAPPY.

In Rex's list of "Grounds," one of the items was "Grounds for hounds." Does that mean anything particular to anyone?

Do ELMS still line the National Mall? How have they escaped Dutch ELM disease? ELMs are virtually non-existent where I live, although they used to be quite common.

111A Polite title: MAAM. I never know what to think when someone addresses me as MAAM. Is it simply a "polite title" or might there be an air of condescension? I feel it may be in more common usage in the U.S. than here, so that may help to explain why I'm not so comfortable with it.

@jberg 11:55
The Oxford says that PIED means "having two or more different colors," so there seems to be disagreement among dictionaries.
I think there's another slangy meaning for pies/PIED in Britain. If AYN pies ABE, it means she's rejecting him. Perhaps it's related to the concept of a pie in the face? Any U.K. bloggers, please help me out here.

@sf27shirley 5:58
Enjoyed your O'Neill reference. Here's hoping we'll all avoid becoming as far gone as old Harry.

@Anonymous 10:07
Had a giggle over your Muppet Show shout-out.

old timer 2:48 PM  

Sunday slog, and I agree with OFL today.

I was so delighted with my favorite teacher @LMS today. Made my day. I used to go to Starbucks back before I subscribed to the Times. They had it (no longer do). But I have ground my own beans every morning at home since I moved out of my college dorm. There is always a good source of beans. My usual source, where I always buy two half-pounds of Kenya, decided to close, but the place I used to go is still roasting, and open for take-out. Very grateful to them. I imagine the kitchen supply store I go to for FILTERS is open still -- hey, kitchenware is the same as hardware, and therefore essential. But somehow even the best grocers really don't have fresh beans worth grinding and brewing.

Preferred Customer 2:54 PM  


I used to be that person behind the counter, minus the nose ring.

We did not serve drip coffee.

People would come past the menu that listed prices for all the coffees we served, 2 huge cones of coffee beans, an extremely large espresso machine, and after a few puzzled seconds of desperately looking all over ask: "Do you have any coffee?" To which I would answer, "no", since I knew they meant drip coffee. Then I'd take pity on them and offer to make them an americano.


pkelly 2:56 PM  

Hey everyone! Check out this sweet puzzle by Sid Sivakumar over at Sid’s Grids: Really well done, in my opinion!!

Ernonymous 3:06 PM  

@barbara s SISTER CYNTHIA IS SIMPLY SCINTILLATING! According to Lucy Ricardo, repeating that will help with your diction, and maybe you'll find saying that phrase more scintillating than this puzzle. Oy vey iz mir, the caffè corretto has gone to my head.

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

On the 59th anniversary of the first human to reach space, it’s a shame the Yuri Gagarin’s first name was clued as that Zhivago guy. Such a missed opportunity.

GILL I. 3:09 PM  

@Giovanni 2:19....Your Corrected Coffee reminds me of my attempts to make some killer left-over coffee recipes. My husband and I only drink one cup of Peet's in the morning so there is always some leftover. I hate wasting things so I thought I'd try to make something out of it. My girlfriend who comes over for a drink now and then only drinks Baileys so I always have a bottle in the fridge. I put my leftover coffee in a Ball canning jar, add Baileys and a pretty good hunk of brandy, stir it up with ice cubes then add some melted chocolate chips. And just to add insult to injury, some mulled mint. Sprinkle the top with leftover chocolate chips. It sounds disgusting but it's delicious. I name it the GILLIBEAN. I'm wondering if I'm an AGER?

Kathy 3:16 PM  

The theme didn’t sparkle and the FLOG/GOER cross got me, neither answer makes any sense to me. Does anyone say goer? And I guessed AGER/COG. Agree with Rex and others, FIRING doesn’t cut it. No real aha’s or AHHS, and a lot of what’s?? but I strangely enjoyed the solving experience anyway. What does that say about me? Quarantined too long?

@Barbara S. The first time someone called me Ma’am I did feel old and kinda shocked. Decades later, I’m way past that and am just happy when anyone is polite!

Happy Easter!

pabloinnh 3:21 PM  

@JoeD-Thanks for posting the Bach and imagining me as the tenor. Actually, I've sung this piece a few, no, I mean LOTS of times. Yeah that's right. Sometimes in the local, I mean the state, no, I mean, Carnegie Hall. Yeah, that's the ticket. And I always got polite, I mean, a standing ovation. Yeah that's it. And if you don't believe me, you can ask my wife, Morgan Fairchild.

Okoume 3:30 PM  

Stress and heavy drinking age you. I was surprised Rex didn't mention this one and also GOER. Both seemed a little weak!

Barbara S. 4:22 PM  

@Giovanni 3:06
What a hoot! I think if more of us took life advice from Lucy the world would be a happier place. The ability to speak clearly is always an important skill, especially after a few cups of YOUR coffee. [GRINS]

Z 4:23 PM  

@Barbara S and @jberg - So I tried doing a google image search of PIED. i got lots of pictures of toes. Then I tried “pied color” as my search term and got lots of dogs. No soap, so I decided to go with the standard definition search where I discovered that P.I.E.D. is now an acronym for Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction. I’m not searching anymore.

In the course of enjoying big hair and guitar solos last night I ran back into the California Guitar Trio doing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. CGT covers all the classics.

TJS 4:24 PM  

So if you don't drink and have no stress, will you live longer or will it just seem longer?

bigsteve46 4:25 PM  

I am not a big Starbucks fan, primarily because I only drink coffee black, no sugar, and I have always found their coffee on the bitter side. In their defense, however: I credit them - more than any other entity - with raising the overall quality of coffee in this country - and more importantly (at least to me) upgrading the overall coffee shop scene. Starbucks locations more often than not actually have comfortable chairs and seating options, pleasant lighting - a real upgrade over the horrific neon glare of the average fast food operation. Of course, in Europe (at least Austria and Italy where I hang out) the overall coffee shop at a highway rest stop beats 99% of the so-called coffee shops here. For example, try getting a "caffe corretto" here! In most places, getting a liquor license is an expensive and complex ordeal - simply not worth it for a primarily coffee locale.

In Europe, coffee places always have alcohol available - and, as I am a big fan of a dollop of amaretto or brandy in my cup of Joe, this is a big deal for me.

P.S.: I have always thought that the reason for Starbucks coffee is bitter and overly strong is that it is intended as a base substance for their "haughty iced-half-caf-soy-caramel drizzle-one-pump vanilla-four shakes-cinnamon" stuff (as someone above cleverly and accurately described it)- and not really intended to be drunk neat. In my experience it seems that every time I have been to a Starbucks, I'm the only person on the line who orders a plain black coffee.

Well, "e cosi la vita." My paesani in Italy have a lot more on their minds these days than the quality of their coffee - and as I sink further into senior-citizenship I can only hope that I hang around the planet long enough to be able to share a cup with them once again on their turf.

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

I love reading everyone's comments, and the broad range of responses to both the puzzle and to one another's comments.

A few have commented on "PIED" but no one has mentioned the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Anyone remember this story? This, from Wikipedia:

"The legend [of the Pied Piper] dates back to the Middle Ages, the earliest references describing a piper, dressed in multicolored ("pied") clothing, who was a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away[1] with his magic pipe."

Multicolored clothing!!


Ernonymous 4:56 PM  

@gill I what you made is pretty much what they make in Italy called caffè freddo, cold coffee. They make it from leftover espresso. They add sugar to it, a lot of sugar, and stick it in the fridge. I love it!
@steve, one of my best friends from Italy goes on a rampage, a huge Rex style rant, when he's in the USA about how horrible and disgusting Starbucks coffee is. He goes on and on as if it personally offends him. I tried to say that the company is very popular, and that must mean a lot of people like their coffee, which means it can't be that horrible. Just because something isn't to your taste doesn't mean it's disgusting.

Cowgirl 5:04 PM  

The horse in National Velvet is called Pie.
Some horses are described as piebald.

amyyanni 5:31 PM  

Ditto @GILL I. Happy to be amused, and grew up with a mom who disdainfully referred to weak coffee as "spoiled water." And I so enjoyed reading everyone's comments. "Only Connect." Feels good to do just that with fellow puzzle people.

Nancy 5:36 PM  

@Barbara S (2:34)-- When you said you thought that MA'AM was in more common usage in the U.S. than it is where you live, I was wondering where you live. Then, at the end of your post, I saw that you live in the U.K. Well, after binge-watching "The Crown" for the last few isolated weeks, I can explain that, Barbara. Ordinary Brits call the Queen "MA'AM". Everyone seems to. All the time. So if they called commoner drudges like us MA'AM, they'd be elevating us to Queenhood. Which is why they probably don't. Doesn't that make sense?

I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've been called MA'AM in NYC. A stranger calling out on the street is more likely to call out "Miss, you dropped a glove!" The most flattering term is in restaurants with Italian waiters, where it's "Are you ready to order, Senorita?" I have never been called "Senora" in an Italian restaurant, not once. (Maybe it's time for a trip to Italy when this nightmare is over?)

African American men sometimes call you "Mama". As in, when you think someone is about to plow into you on a bike they'll call out, "Take it easy, Mama, I see you." I felt offended the first time I heard it, but now I realize that in their culture it's sort of a term of affection for an older woman. And that's the way I react to it now.

@Birchbark (1:51)-- Thanks for standing up for Folgers -- even as your backup coffee option. Folgers thanks you too. It feels respected and...vindicated.

Barbara S. 5:50 PM  

@Z 4:23
Your search efforts were heroic and at the end...what a letdown.

Anonymous 6:05 PM  

RE: coffee.

What matters is grinding fresh beans (store in air tight metal container). This is how:

Appears to be still available. No, I don't get a commission. Just get a similar grinder and good quality storage. Even marginal beans will make a better cuppa. And builds up your biceps.

Barbara S. 6:19 PM  

I love your analysis, and really, don't we all deserve to be so elevated?! But I actually live in Canada, where U.S. influence is pretty strong, but I don't feel I get ma'amed all that much. I'll have to make a concerted effort to notice (if I ever again get out of my house). My impression from @Kathy (3:16) and you(?) is that being called "ma'am" seems fine with no negative overtones?

Newboy 6:36 PM  

I guess I had Ennio Morricone playing in the background today: the puzzle wasn’t bad for a Sunday and the tale told bordered on good, but ELEV crossing FAR FROM YOUR AVERAGE JOE was ugly for sure. Thanks Joel for a medium roast that went down well with unSPILT HALF AND HALF & the last baking of blackberry scones, another of the guilty pleasures of social isolation.

I SPY Grounds for Sculpture at Hirshhorn-museum-and-sculpture-garden anytime I am lucky enough to be in D.C.

Great to have “The curmudgeonly scold whom every constructor resents” day after day, week by week throughout the decades to brighten my mornings. Whether one agrees with his assessments or not, any returning reader has to admire the tenacity of Rex’s efforts, especially as we lurch toward a return to societal sanity. And y’all above brighten my afternoon.

xyz 6:40 PM  


Your general attitude towards 21x21's is so close to mine it is scary.

S L O G doesn't do NYT Sundays (ESSes?) justice.

quadruple ugh.

bookmark 6:46 PM  

I always think of this Gerard Manley Hopkins poem when I see the word "pied."

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

isolated Joe not a robot 7:04 PM  

For me the problem is that some of the theme answers are metaphors, and this puzzle demetaphorizes them.. For example, 'spill the beans' takes the image of spilling beans, and makes it a metaphor. Then the metaphor is reduced to an actual spilling of beans again. This is funny? Likewise 'ran out of steam', 'lacked a filter', and 'got into hot water'.

Barbara S. 8:24 PM  

A ton of engaging comments on PIED thanks to
@Anonymous/Colin 4:45
@Cowgirl 5:04
@bookmark 6:46

Talk of the Pied Piper immediately put that goofy pop song from the 60s into my head: "Follow me, I'm the Pied Piper/And I'll show you where it's at." Eek.

@Cowgirl raises something interesting by mentioning "piebald." That word is defined by Oxford:
"(of a horse) having irregular patches of two colors, typically black and white."
This jives with the definition of PIED mentioned by jberg (11:55)

I loved rereading "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Thanks, @bookmark. I recently lost a very dear friend, a Renaissance man who, among other things, was a Hopkins scholar.

Nancy 8:47 PM  

@Barbara S (6:19) -- To answer your question: I'm sure the first time I heard MA'AM after a lifetime of "Miss" -- and who remembers, it could have been as much as 20 years ago -- I did what all other women do the first time it's applied to them: look around to see just who the speaker can possibly be addressing.:) But as I said in my earlier post, it very seldom happens -- even now at my advanced age. When it does happen, it's more often on the phone than anywhere else and one certainly can't be insulted in that instance since the "Ma'am"-er can't see you and has no idea what you look like.

I've never considered MA'AM as an insult, either deliberate or inadvertent. I consider it merely reflective of the speech patterns and preferences of the speaker: what they've heard in their own families and growing up. There are people who were brought up to say MA'AM and MA'AM they will say. It has very little to do with the appearance of the person being "ma'am-ed. At least that's the way I look at it, Barbara.

albatross shell 8:47 PM  

Spell the wrong way?
I was hoping for "XEH" or "EHT".
But alas.
Here late cause I worked in the garden all day. I do not actually think of it as work. I did enjoy @Z's musical selections. Thanks.
I thought the theme answers were more solid than most. Grounds for firing, dismissal, termination seem equivalent to my ear. Firing a little older, informal, blue collar. Split half and half is an easy substitute for split fifty fifty. At least 3 others were perfect. You do have to give some leeway for being puns about a coffee shop, hmm? And they were good enough to help in the solve.
Best to all.

Joaquin 9:19 PM  

I find all this MA'AM talk quite relatable. I remember the first time some middle-aged person called me "sir", I looked around to see if my Dad was with me. Now, old retired guys defer to me and call me "sir". One even asked me if I was a WWII veteran (IRL I'm a Vietnam vet).

Life goes on and if you don't hold on it may blow right past you.

So ... stay well and enjoy!

Barbara S. 9:30 PM  

I remember the first time I heard a nearby child's voice say, "Look, mommy, that lady is..." Of course, I, too, looked around to see who the lady was.

I think your point about upbringing is a good one, and tends to reassure me that MA'AM is often used with no ill intent.

Joe Dipinto 9:47 PM  

@Barbara S. 8:24 – That was Crispian, with an "a", St. Peters. It really was awful, to this day I can't see how it became a Top 10 hit.

JC66 10:01 PM  


When they call me sir (it's been happening for years), I always respond "How'd you know my middle name?"

Jason 10:51 PM  

Oh, Rex I'm so sorry you had to be exposed to the name of Ayn Rand. I know how traumatic that must have been. Maybe a safe space and some finger paints will help.

JJC 3:29 PM  

StormKing even better

Joe 6:07 PM  


Burma Shave 10:25 AM  


on an RRATED DATE with YOUR daughter
TO SEE how FAR LAUREL would go,


rondo 11:01 AM  

I rarely drink coffee anymore. Strike one. When I did, no barista was involved. Strike two. Just no interest in the theme. My fault I s’pose.

Why is LED never clued ___Zeppelin.

Justice KAGAN gets a yeah baby.

Hard to knock a puz with my daughter’s name in it. Maybe time for a BREW?

spacecraft 12:29 PM  

Not bad. Theme is kinda cute; hits on some, near-misses on a couple. AVERAGE. Fill is...well, it is Sunday, and there are a lot of squares to occupy. Let's be kind. There's plenty of + and - to go around.

Sensing a theme here? Yep. This puzzle is just about YOURAVERAGEJOE[l]. Par.

rainforest 2:06 PM  

Well, I liked it. I like a Sunday puzzle I can finish; I like a Sunday puzzle where I don't get bogged down in some section; I like a Sunday puzzle with a coherent theme; I like coffee.

The fill was fine, maybe iffy in a spot or two, but fine for a puzzle of this size. Though not particularly risible, the theme hung together pretty well. Of course one could pick nits, but I'm not into that.

So, even though constructed by a male, this puzzle was a good one for Sunday.

Diana, LIW 5:24 PM  

Fun to watch the story unfold - whilst enjoying my second cup of coffee.

Ultimately a one-letter DNF, tho. Can you believe it? A G. Can you guess where?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 6:12 PM  

Okay, @Diana, this is my guess: The G at the COG/AGER cross.

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

This was my syndicated puzzle on April 26. So I'm wondering if I am the only one since the syndicated button revealed a puzzle from April 19. I'm guessing maybe the choice is left to the receiving newspaper, or maybe the nyt sends the April 19 one to a certain section of the country and the April 12 to another section ? Quite confusing.

Anyway it was a slog for me and not much fun. The "leaked milk" clue was especially deceptive, or rather plain wrong. This constructor must not put "cream" in his coffee - otherwise he would know that no matter how much milk you put into a cup of coffee it will never be the same as having half and half in it. All it will do is water it down and make it cold. And as Rex said you don't split half and half - you spill it - or you split the carton. Argh !

Diana, LIW 9:46 PM  

@Lefty - yup. The AGER got me.

Lady Di

rondo 10:47 PM  

@anon - Sunday syndi puz used to be 1 week behind, now 2. Button has not been fixed.

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