Only card of its suit in a hand / THU 4-2-20 / Elf's evil counterpart / Large-beaked bird found in Africa / Gas brand that's also a musical direction / Fancy-schmancy language / Popular Italian car informally

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Constructor: Evan Mahnken

Relative difficulty: Medium? (untimed clipboard solve)

THEME: FIVE-DOLLAR WORDS (57A: Fancy-schmancy language ... or the contents of some special squares in this puzzle) — a rebus with five different squares containing words that can also (kinda) mean "dollar":

Theme answers:
  • NOTEPADS (9A: Places for to-do lists) / NO-TELL MOTEL (9D: Tryst locale)
  • ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE (17A: Social media fad that went viral in 2014) / BUCKAROO (18D: Cowpoke)
  • HORNBILL (24A: Large-beaked bird found in Africa) / BILL MAHER (27D: TV host once with an "Explaining Jokes to Idiots" segment)
  • SINGLETON (28A: Only card of its suit in a hand) / SINGLES BAR (28D: Places where business is picking up?)
  • CLAMOR (38A: Ado) / CLAM CHOWDER (38D: Manhattan, for one)
Word of the Day: Jack ELAM (21A: Jack of "Rio Lobo") —
William Scott "JackElam (November 13, 1920 – October 20, 2003), was an American film and television actor best known for his numerous roles as villains in Western films and, later in his career, comedies (sometimes spoofing his villainous image). His most distinguishing physical quality was his misaligned eye. Before his career in acting, he took several jobs in finance and served two years in the United States Navy during World War II.
Elam played in 73 movies and made appearances in 41 television series. Some of his more memorable performances were in Once Upon a Time in the WestHigh NoonSupport Your Local Sheriff!, and on the anthology series The Twilight Zone, and on the series Gunsmoke. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is shaky, but it holds up, ultimately, I think. I don't think either NOTE or BILL is nearly specific enough for the puzzle's purposes. Bills or notes can be of any denomination, whereas the others (a buck, a clam, a single) all very specifically stand in for one dollar, the denomination needed to make the revealer make sense (5 x $1 = $5). So 40% of the theme matter is overextended. I also wasn't too sure about the revealer, in that it seems like that expression "FIVE-DOLLAR WORDS," might bend and change over time, depending on who's using it. I see that "Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do" (or some close version of that expression) is attributed to Mark Twain in many corners of the internet. So it seems the specific "five-dollar" amount has a good deal of authority. My English teacher in high school used much smaller denominations to express this principle. "Don't use 50-cent words when a nickel word will do," something like that. I guess you could throw in inflation .. but then Mark Twain predates me by a handful of years, so ... I dunno. It's not like I had too much trouble figuring out the amount preceding the word DOLLAR, so no harm done. I'm just curious about how we ended up at five dollars as the price of fanciness. I'm also wondering what in the word a SINGLETON is!?! What a bizarre and (to me) obscure clue for that answer (28A: Only card of its suit in a hand). Somewhere in heaven, the director of "Boyz N The Hood" is staring, deadpan, directly into the camera.

I got ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE very early, so I knew a rebus had to be involved, but I had no idea what part of BUCKET CHALLENGE was supposed to get squozen. Since my first instinct is to look at the place where a word might break across the two words in the answer (i.e. the end of "bucket" into the beginning of "challenge"), I sincerely thought there might be some kind of boat rebus; that is, I tried to make KETCH happen. I tried to rebusify KETCH. A KETCH is a two-masted sailboat, a fact I don't actually know—I just know it's a kind of boat. I probably learned that from crosswords. Anyway, KETCH wouldn't work (too many letters), so then I thought ETCH was a rebus square. Why would you shove ETCH into its own box, I wondered. Well, you wouldn't. Luckily, it didn't take too much work with the crosses to sort things out. But even after BUCK and BILL, I didn't know what the squares were supposed to be. First thought: pro sports teams (Milwaukee Bucks ... Buffalo Bills ... weird that they play different sports, I thought, but we'll see ...). I honestly didn't get the dollar connection til the revealer, which is ... good? That's what a revealer is supposed to do: snap everything into focus in some surprising way. I do wish the set of five "dollar" squares could've been tighter, but as I say, it's defensible, and definitely interesting, as rebuses go.

Five things:
  • 2D: Gas brand that's also a musical direction (ARCO) — the whole grid felt a little crosswordese heavy. Lots of overfamiliar short stuff, and then ELAM ISAO ETO MSDOS. I knew it all, but I've been doing these things for thirty years. I keep imagining younger (say college-age) people solving and being put off by how over-reliant the puzzle can be on bygone names.
  • 3D: Something not to do before Christmas? (PEEK) — this is a weird "?" clue, since in context it's literal. In fact ... it's just literal. Don't PEEK. At your gifts. It makes sense. "?" should be reserved for some kind of real twist in meaning or play on words. Here, there's none of that. 
  • 15A: Dessert not for the diet-conscious (TORTE) — put your diet clues in cold storage, please. I am plenty "conscious" of my diet and would absolutely house a TORTE if the time and place called for it. This clue evokes a horrible "ooh I'm watching my weight, desserts are naughty" culture that is very unuseful. It's got a super '50s vibe. My figure! Look, it's a TORTE, eat it or don't. Why bring up dieting here? A TORTE isn't any more "bad" for your diet than most of the other desserts on the cart. Clue things positively! Eat more TORTEs! Or, as I say, don't.
  • 23D: Animal often with a "mask" around its eyes (FERRET) — like I sit around looking at ferrets all day. If the answer isn't raccoon or panda, I'm out. 
  • 66A: Jabber? (BOXER) — I wrote in POKER. So that was weird.
Please read this open letter to the Executive Director of Puzzles at the New York Times (printed in full, below), written and signed by some very prominent names in the crossword world, as well as a growing number of solvers. The letter details unprofessional, exclusionary, and even abusive behavior by the editor. The unprofessional and exclusionary stuff, I have discussed routinely on this website. The abusive treatment of a test solver (leading ultimately to her resignation) will probably be news to you (I've known for a while, but that wasn't my story to tell, obviously). The demands of the letter are pretty reasonable; to my mind, they don't go far enough. But I am so happy to see so many people in the world of crosswords finally speaking out publicly about how important it is for editorial practices at the NYTXW to change in a way that respects constructors, particularly constructors who aren't white men. Read the letter for yourselves. You might also consider signing it (it's a shared doc, so you can just add your name, I'm pretty sure). Have a nice day.


Dear Eric von Coelln,

We, the undersigned, are writing based on our experiences as New York Times crossword enthusiasts, constructors, test solvers, and assistants to the Editor. We write in light of two events: Claire Muscat’s decision to resign as a New York Times crossword test solver and the publication of Natan Last’s “The Hidden Bigotry of Crossword Puzzles” in The Atlantic, the latest in a series of articles about editorial implicit bias at the newspaper that benefits white male crossword constructors and solvers.

Claire left her job as a New York Times crossword test solver in 2019, after a year of work. As you know, she left because she felt tokenized: not only was she told that she was hired to check for content that might be offensive to female solvers, she was also asked not to offer advice or feedback outside of that identity-based purview. She was made to feel like a lesser solver and constructor than her male colleagues; she was told that her “primary role” was to be a female censor and not, in other words, a multifaceted solver like the puzzle’s other (mostly male) employees. Yet even when her feedback was gender-related, it was often met with such skepticism that she began to feel as if her role was essentially nominal; that the most important part of her position was the “diversity” requirement she fulfilled.

Natan’s essay describes the systemic erasure of minority and female voices in crossword puzzles themselves. As I’m sure you know, the crosswords published in the Times are overwhelmingly written by white male constructors. In describing this phenomenon—sometimes euphemized as the puzzle’s “gender problem”—Natan joined a chorus of journalists, academics, and crossword constructors before him who have tried to raise awareness about this field-wide discrepancy.

But Natan’s piece went further, articulating an even more pervasive threat to gender parity and inclusivity in crossword culture: the systematic erasure of minority voices in puzzles written by women, people of color, and queer constructors. This occurs both at the selection stage—when puzzles are disqualified because they include references that are considered unfamiliar to an imagined straight, white, male, and middle-aged audience—and at the editing stage, when clues are changed to cater to this imagined community of solvers. While these edits are often meant to make the puzzle more inclusive—to make them solver-“neutral”—the effect is to neutralize the lexicons and concerns of minority solvers and constructors. MARIE KONDO, BELL HOOKS, and FLAVOR FLAV are all examples of entries that have been deemed too “niche” for mainstream puzzles. And though Natan’s essay kept the names of editors and newspapers anonymous, the vast majority of his examples were drawn from constructors’ experiences working with the New York Times.

We write because Claire’s experience and Natan’s essay are noteworthy but not unique. We all recognize our own experiences in their stories. Our intention is not just to register concern or to chastise an institution that we love, which has thrived under the visionary leadership of Will Shortz. Instead, we are asking for three concrete measures that we think can correct for the blindspots of his system:

  1. We ask that constructors receive access to proofs before their puzzles go to print. This practice is not only consistent with the Times’ editorial workflow in many other departments, it is also standard practice for all public writing. Though we acknowledge that the Times’s editorial team will have final say over entries and clues, we feel strongly that it is our authorial right to know what will be published under our bylines. This change to the Times’s editorial process will have a felicitous secondary effect: the constructor will serve as yet another test solver with the ability to lobby for cultural references that they think merit a place in the puzzle and to register concern over any reference they consider offensive and wouldn’t want attributed to their handiwork.

  1. We ask that women and/or non-binary puzzle lovers comprise at least half of Will’s test solving team. This has often been the case at the Times, but it could be formalized. No one should be asked to serve as a token and proxy for an entire gender, which, after all, accounts for at least half of the Times’s solvers.

  1. We want the Times to make a public commitment to adding diversity to its editorial staff. While many voices contribute to the making of the puzzle, it is nonetheless true that three straight white men are at the editorial helm. Though we’re sensitive both to the uncertainty around hiring in these trying economic times, and to the potential for a “diversity hire” to replicate much of the tokenistic discomfort Claire experienced, we still believe strongly that diversifying the puzzle means diversifying those who most closely shape it.

We hope you take these suggestions under consideration. We love the New York Times crossword puzzle. It continually makes our day and, for some of us, it has made our careers. But in order to feel confident supporting the institution with our work, we want our voices heard and our authorial rights recognized.


[see all the signatories here]
Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


QuasiMojo 6:43 AM  

Couldn't read the letter. Too blurry and clipped at the edge. And inscrutable.

'TIL is an abbreviation or whatever that is called. UP TO as clued should be TILL, cue Till The Clouds Roll By...

Something is ROTten in NORWAY?

I had EARL for Sandwich Alternative.

I wanted SIMILES for the SMILES clue. Thinking it was a word pun. Talk about overthinking.

BILL means a c-NOTE, as in a hundred dollars, doesn't it? I dunno, SEE NOTE.

And let's not forget that ADOREable 50s screen idol with those scrumptious DIMPLES: FAB BOXER.

RIP: the late BUCK Henry.

Evan B 6:52 AM  

SINGLETON is commonly used in bridge when a player's hand contains just one of a particular suit.

Lewis 6:59 AM  

After yesterday's tough-act-to-follow puzzle, this was a very good chaser, a solid place to land. Nothing out-of-the-box, but sturdy, with wordplay in the revealer and non-symmetrical rebuses that you had to hunt for. I had to hack through vines and weeds to retrieve SINGLETON, with that rebus square being my last, giving me a feel-good ending. Thank you, Evan.

Loren Muse Smith 7:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 7:13 AM  

This took *forever* to figure out. The satisfaction I got when I finally read the reveal as


instead of


was enormous. It did. . “snap everything into focus in some surprising way” once I got the intonation right.

I was so confused thinking that the rebodes were slang for abes, fins, sawbucks. . .

I love the idea of a FIVE-DOLLAR WORD. That slippery slope that can lead to a spectacular malapropism. Like the letter I read with my own eyes from maintenance apologizing for the delay in repairing our faculty bathroom. Said they hoped it hadn’t caused any undue constipation. No. Really.

What’s your favorite five-dollar word? I kinda like perfunctory and pedestrian, though I think I tend to avoid the fancier words per Rex’s high school English teacher. Do unto others and all that. When I read something rife with flashy words and it starts to scream Look at me and what an admirable vocabulary I have!, I’ll usually move on to another writer. ร€ chacun son goรปt, I guess.

Loved the clue for JABBER.

I’m and NPR/CNN/MSNBC person, so I wasn’t too familiar with VOX. I wish Mom and my sisters would switch from Fox to VOX. Our daily phone calls are tough for me because my rage is at the forefront. Their SOB story is my S.O.B. story.

“Dessert not for the diet conscious” - seriously? Pretty much anything that’s not a joyless bowl of blueberries or maybe a dollop of sherbet. Although I have to say, I’m really enjoying my Swerve-sweetened lemon curd. (Anyone else pronounce it /shur*burt/? See also familiar as /fur*mil*yur/.)

Evan – thanks for the distraction and the supreme satisfaction of finally *getting* this!

PS - Rex . . .“squozen” – love it! I knew there was a reason I like your writing.

PPS – I couldn’t read the letter, either. Too blurry.

Todd 7:14 AM  

The world doesn't need affirmative action for the NYT crossword. If you don't like it, don't do it.

JJ 7:17 AM  

I went confidently to you better not POUT for Christmas, and I kept trying to make Manhattan a DRINK ORDER, instead of CLAM CHOWDER. Fun, challenging solve

amyloowoo 7:24 AM  

Rex - is there a way to read the full letter please?

Mark Nelson 7:31 AM  

Something wrong with that Google Doc. No letter, just a long list of names. Maybe it's been vandalized?

kitshef 7:32 AM  

Hand up for not being able to read the letter. The top seems to be an embedded image that is missing most of its content.

This felt a bit flat, but I think that is just in comparison to yesterday's fun. Bad luck to run the day after a unique puzzle (a singleton?) like that.

ZOO mini-theme with BUCK, HORNBILL, OKAPI, TEAL, SNAILS, FERRET, CLAM, BOXER, and if we stretch, ASS, CHOW and TIT.

Qosmonaut 7:38 AM  

I also can't see the letter, just the signatories.

webwinger 7:39 AM  

At last the rebuses we’ve been awaiting with bated breath—not a moment too soon! Very satisfying Thursday puzzle IMO.

Knew Jack ELAM because he was one of a handful of movie actors with obvious strabismus (more precisely, exotropia, sometimes called “lazy eye”), a condition that was central in my professional life for TNTC (too numerous to count) years. Another was Marty Feldman (best known for playing the lab assistant Igor in Young Frankenstein). Less obvious (and less consistent—it is often evident only intermittently) occurrences in numerous others, including Penelope Cruz, Henry Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, and probably Marilyn Monroe. (Tried to include links to photos, but apparently didn’t work.)

Anyone else spot a Big Lebowski mini-theme today? One of Maude’s confrontations with the Dude has her riffing on slang for dollars, including CLAMs (in another she deals similarly with terms for a male organ). The “nice marmot” later dumped into Dude’s bath water is actually a FERRET according to those most knowledgeable about that unparalleled film.

Philip ROTH’s novel The Plot Against America has been made into a miniseries now running on HBO. Three episodes aired to date are really excellent. It posits an alternate 20th century US in which isolationist Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR in 1940, with dire consequences, especially for American Jews. Makes one wonder even more what our real present and future would be like had the 2016 election turned out differently...

pabloinnh 7:39 AM  

Caught on to ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE right away, thought, yay, a rebus, and went looking for other places in the puzzle to fit in BUCK. Well, there weren't any. Last in was actually my favorite, the NOTEPADS crossing, which replaced IPADS, which had been overstaying its welcome in that square. Also, as any New Englander will tell you, Manhattan CLAMCHOWDER is not clam chowder.

@LMS-My favorite FIVEDOLLARWORD is sesquipedalian. I like that it's so thoroughly self-referential.

Thanks for a Thursday on a Tursday, EM. Just what I was looking for.

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

You have nothing to do with the New York Times crossword. Leave the editor alone.

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

Boycott the signatories.

jae 7:53 AM  

Medium. I haven’t heard the phrase FIVE DOLLAR WORDS since the 50’s, so this might an an OK for boomers puzzle, but not OK for Xers and beyond.

Mostly cute idea that mostly worked for me, liked it.

I meant to add my 2 cents to the Dylan topic from a couple of days ago. I am a major fan of ‘60s Dylan. The best concert I’ve ever been to was Dylan in Columbus, Ohio on his cross county tour after going electric in Newport in 1965. I was home on leave from Navy boot camp and I went with my bride to be. We were both 19, we are now older than that now. However, he lost me with Nashville Skyline and his reborn phase. Oddly enough my daughter saw him during that phase when she was active in an evangelical (Missouri synod) Lutheran youth group in her junior high years. I’ve heard and like a lot of his later stuff but I never got into it as much as those ‘60s albums.

...Because something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you....

Regina George 8:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 8:38 AM  

In contrast to Loren Muse Smith, I found the reveal irritating, not satisfying, because that hyphen is really part of the phrase. It would have much better with his synonyms for a five-dollar bill.

TJS 9:09 AM  

Sorry, Rex, I'm a little bit busy with other concerns right now to get all worked up about someone quitting their job because they felt marginalized. Although the idea that Marie Kondo, Bell Hooks and Flaor Flav being "too niche" has me livid.

puzzlehoarder 9:13 AM  

I routinely scroll past our host's comments. Today I saw that special note at the end and actually read it. We're in the midst of a life threatening pandemic and I thought to myself that the least I can do is hear what he has to say about it. WTF.

As for the puzzle it was a nice solid rebus solve.

Cassieopia 9:16 AM  

Yay for a Thursday rebus! But my pattern-seeking brain stumbled on the 6-letter SINGLE, as all the other theme rebuses were 4 letters. It didn't ruin the puzzle for me, but it definitely decreased the elegance factor, in my mind. Otherwise it was a decent Thursday and scratched my rebus itch.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

When I was an undergraduate back in the 60s, I had an econ professor (can you believe it!) who explained the justification for affirmative action this way.

Imagine a race between two runners. One is outfitted with standard running clothes, and so is the other, plus a rucksack with 50 pounds of rocks. The race starts, and the rock laden runner falls far behind. At the half-way point, the race is stopped and the runners are told to hold their positions. The rucksack is removed from the second runner, and the race is resumed.

Question: is this now a fair race?

KAS 9:20 AM  

I’m writing as a woman who back in the day (way, way back) worked in an unstated culture of “no married woman will be promoted to this job because she’ll probably leave to have a baby,” That Claire Muscat was hired to check for content that might be offensive to women seems to me a good thing (despite the incorrect assumption that one member of a group represents all members). Had a man been given that responsibility, the hiring entity would likely have been skewered for cultural appropriation. Without context, it’s harder to respond to her being told to limit her input to that area. Was she truly being minimized or just being asked to do the job she was hired to do?

The rampant spread of identity politics concerns me. In the name of a worthy goal, it fosters divisiveness.

Joaquin 9:22 AM  

Speaking of five-dollar words, here are the LINES I had to memorize in junior high:

"When promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your superficial sentimentalities, and amicable philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational and descriptive communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compacted comprehensibility coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerates of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and voracious vivacity without rodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolifically, ventriloquial verbosity, and vain vapidity.

In other words, say what you mean, mean what you say, and don't use big words."

Josh 9:23 AM  

Was having the toughest time coming up with the theme answer on 9A/9D... I just put I there and assumed that trysts happened in a place called the ILL MOTEL. Cause sure, it fits. Figured it out later.

GILL I. 9:27 AM  

Like @pablo, I got the ICE(BUCK)ET CHALLENGE pretty early on, said a few yay's, and went hunting for more BUCKs. Woah, Nellie.....there is no such thing as a BUCKel MOTEL now, is there? Hmmmm....I smell a rat. Of course....(NOTE)LL MOTEL. Then my mind wandered as usual and I said to myself that If I were ever to have a tryst it better be at the Le Royal Monceau in Paris. Not any stinking Motel 6.....
So I knew we were talking dinero stuff here. SINGLE was my last entry. I wanted that picking up business to be a juice bar for some stupid reason. The last SINGLES BAR I went to was in San Francisco. I think it was called Scotts. They had some delicious liver and onions, the men were also delicious but they were all gay.
Loved the FIVE DOLLAR WORDS reveal. Our dear governator, Gavin Newsom, is impossible to listen to. He takes a breath between each word that he throws out like pellucid and disphoric. I think he called Trump a sybarite. He likes those big words probably hoping no one knows what he's talking about.
I'll go back upstairs and try and read the letter.

John H 9:28 AM  

Liked this very much. Did well except for the cross of vox and boxer. No experience with vox.

Rex, have you never played cards? Singleton is very common usage in poker, bridge, hearts, etc.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Sure, let's allow four, five, seventeen letters in one square! "Rebuses" are garbage. The whole idea of a crossword puzzle is to have ONE letter/character per square. Please stop publishing these terrible examples of "wordplay."

Pepper 9:36 AM  

@Todd With your stupid logic, we wouldn’t need any policy to address systemic inequalities. Minoritized students having the deck stacked against them in college admissions? If you don’t like it, don’t apply. Drinking fountains segregated by race? If you don’t like it, bring your own water. Todd, you bigoted simpleton, if you don’t like where the world is headed then you’re free to see yourself out of it. That goes for every whiny entitled piece of garbage in this godforsaken comments section.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

My parents taught my brother and me bridge at a early age so they could play. Turns out a singleton (in a non-trump suit) in one (or very rarely both) hand is useful. That means, usually, that the bidders have excess cards in the suit, and the defender can trump those leads and win the tricks. Haven't played in decades. Quarantine seems a good excuse to start playing again. If only I could find three more soles here in the mountains.

Regina George 9:43 AM  

Stop trying to make KETCH happen. It's never going to happen.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

If you heard of an ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE, this puzzle would have been a lot easier for you than it was for me. Or, for that matter, the expression FIVE DOLLAR WORDS. I felt like I was doing this puzzle through a glass, darkly, but I managed to prevail.

My biggest confusion -- I'm sure I'll find that was shared by others, when I go back to read you -- was I was looking for rebuses based on nicknames for the FIVE DOLLAR bill. Not five examples of the ONE DOLLAR bill. Couldn't remember what a CLAM was. Was it a fiver?

So imagine how perplexed I was when I finally, finally figured out BUCK and SINGLE. NOTE could have worked for a fiver, but not those two.

Anyway, very CHALLENGing for me, rather frustrating because of the aforementioned reasons, but gratifying to finish. One of those puzzles that I found more fun to have solved than to solve.

Todd 9:49 AM  

@Pepper sure because thinking Marie Kondo is too niche for the puzzle is exactly the same as white only water fountains. The kind of idiocy you express where everything you don't like is racist or sexist or some other ist is why it is impossible to take anything you say seriously and also why Trump got elected. You are your own worst enemies. Mark Lilla at Columbia as written good pieces on it. And I don't need to see myself out of the world, just need to convince most people how absurd view like yours are and that they need to be rejected. I like my odds since your side makes it so easy.

Regina George 8:29am 9:53 AM  

@Regina George 9:43am Great minds...

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Hey @Todd: would you opt to run the race with or without the 50 pound rucksack? If you were in charge of the race, rather than a runner, how would you decide who gets the bonus rucksack? Why would you decide that **there needs to be a rucksack** in the first place? Why not a fair race from the start?

Woke Millenial 10:01 AM  

I ask for a more diverse group of signatories.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Not really. For instance, my favorite bumper sticker is: “Against abortion? Don’t have one.”

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Yes, but “too obscure” is more appropriate.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

I was perfectly willing to accept that ILL MOTEL was a term that worked but with which I was simply unfamiliar.

bauskern 10:07 AM  

LOVED this puzzle! Although I had IPADS crossing with ILLMOTEL . . . .

As far as Rex advocating for affirmative action re: NYTXW staff, I think there are far more pressing issues to be concerned about right now. And as a lawyer, I always know that there at least two sides to every story. Sometimes three. We've only heard one version.

Z 10:10 AM  

Right there with @LMS in needing to de-hyphenate my thoughts to figure out the theme. To the persons complaining about needing to reimagine FIVE-DOLLAR WORDS without the hyphen, that’s what revealers do, take a common phrase and reimagine it, hence the “...or” in the clue.

@LMS - perseverate and prevaricate. The first like me on Dylan. The second like his orangeness every time he opens his mouth.

@jae - If more Dylan fans were like you I’d probably be less strident in my response. Definitely great, just not Shakespeare great.

I’m going to have Welcome Interstate Managers on repeat and drink some <a href=">Mexican Wine.</a> It’s tough when seeing <i>Stacy’s Mom</i> trending on Twitter creates a frisson of panic that then gets confirmed.

JC66 10:12 AM  

Hopefully, this link to the letter will work better.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

But Trump IS a sybarite!

Popeye 10:21 AM  

@ ReginaGeorge seems to have it in for the ketch. It's just a sailboat. Anyway, a question for @Z or @Lewis or others. Has "KETCH" appeared in the NYT puzz? BTW, a ketch is 2 masted sailer with the helm aft of the aft (mizzen) mast. A yawl has the helm between masts.

jberg 10:22 AM  

This was a beautiful rebus. I noticed the problem with BILL and NOTE, but come on .. close enough for crosswords. I mean, in a perfect puzzle, all the theme answers would be like NO-TELL MOTEL, where the dollar word broke across two different words -- but that's probably not possible IRL.

I also liked the little ZOO with the OKAPI and the FERRET.

My biggest problem was seeing the RON and writing in iRON cross. It didn't fit, but I didn't notice that extra space at the end right away.

I had missed Natan Last's article, but I liked the letter; it seems things are worse than I had thought. I don't buy the argument that because we are in the midst of a plague we should just accept job discrimination.

R. Duke 10:24 AM  

I use the NYT crossword app on my iPad. Got only four of the five rebuses and the happy music came on despite the fact that my answer to 28 down was ssbars.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Yeah, the on-line dictionary makes it a slam dunk:

" (usually lowercase) a person devoted to luxury and pleasure."

Checking the synonyms:

Sir Hillary 10:34 AM  

Fun enough, although I agree with @Rex that [BILL] and [NOTE] are too generic.

No issue at all with the letter to the NYT -- the cause is just. I'm actually mildly offended that no one asked me to sign as a Solver. :)

Notice, however, that Rex decided to use the phrase "abusive treatment of a test solver" in his lead-in. Interesting word, "abusive" -- vague, yet highly sinister. I didn't see it anywhere in the letter. Does the fact that someone resigned because they felt tokenized mean they were "abused"? Typical Rex, using inflammatory language to up the ante into an accusation he can't substantiate (and, of course, has no interest in doing so). Our President does crap like this every day, so Rex is keeping interesting company.

Lewis 10:35 AM  

@popeye -- 32 times, 7 in the Shortz era (1993 and beyond).

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

To Anonymous who wants to play Bridge - Try Bridge Base Online. You don’t need other players. And I’m so sick of video game clues. A Bridge clue is equally valid.

xyz 10:39 AM  

I was disappointed that "$" didn't work on the NYT site.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  


Interesting. But how do you finesse a computer?

Marilyn Andrews 11:02 AM  

a singleton is commonly used in bridge, where you have only one card in one suit

Pepper 11:04 AM  

@Anonymous That bumper sticker certainly uses the language of self-involvement as outlined above, but the language is deployed for diametrically opposite purposes. Banning abortion denies well-being and personhood for people, whereas systemically supporting equitable success is in favor of such. The mimicry of language is deployed here precisely for that opposition; because it lays bare the hypocrisy of self-involvement by pointing out that the privileged only consider it a virtue when it works in their favor. Anyway, if anyone thinks this is an invitation for them to start wailing about the supposed personhood of fetuses, go cry in the shower about it because I don’t care and I’m done commenting for the day.

Bax'N'Nex 11:05 AM  

Leave it a Mike to rant about dessert. Is there ANYTHING truly upsetting about that clue? C’mon, bro. Your panties are just a little too much in a wad.

On both my iPhone and iPad, the letter/document was perfectly clear...FWIW.

Bax’N’Nex (not really anonymous because now everybody actually KNOWS me)

Camilita 11:09 AM  

It's wrong that the constructors can't see the version of their puzzle before it is published. The constructor of last Sunday's puzzle, Ricky, stopped by here to say that they changed his puzzle and screwed up the whole purpose of the revealer. It was Spot The Difference, but the editors circled the differences.
As a middle aged, almost elderly, white man, I agree 100% with this petition. The world is diverse, that's what makes it interesting. Crossword puzzles are for learning about the world. At least for me, anyway.
I have been trying to memorize ISAO AOKI and ESAI Morales with no luck
Does anyone have a tip for how I can learn these? They actually crossed each other in an LA Times puzzle I did a few weeks ago!!

pmdm 11:09 AM  

Those I played cards with always used to refer to the only card of a suit you were dealt as a singleton. (Boy, what tortured grammar.) I'm not sure how anyone who hasn't played cards would know the term.

I solve the paper version of the puzzle. Instead of filling in the rebus word, I just enter a black dot and remember what it stands for. That would not be an option for a non-print version. Choose your own poison.

Now on to the emotional topic at hand. First, I use my own experience as organist as an example. If, when you are hired, you are told to paly the hymns slowly and solemnly, if you play them quickly with bounciness, most in the congregation will approve and be more inspired. But you will be fired. If, when you are being interviewed for a job, you are told of the restrictions placed on you, you either accept the restrictions (whether you like them or not) or you should not accept the job. It sounds as if Claire Muscat knew her job restrictions before accepting the position. While one can question if the restriction was appropriate, you can also question whether it was appropriate for her to accept the position given the restrictions. If she did offer expected input that others received with skepticism, I would say that would be problematic.

If ADOLF was an entry (clued as Peter Serkin's middle name, for example), some on this site (including Mr. Sharp) would howl with disapproval. The point is that it is a fact that certain words are off limits. Based upon earlier write-ups, Mr. Sharp wholeheartedly agrees with this policy and would even enlarge the number of off-limits entries. The general rule seems to be a negative one. If a majority of solvers react negatively to an entry, that entry is barred. If a majority of solvers are not tuned into a given entry that is slang or a neologism, that entry is barred, especially in early week puzzles. Where to draw the line? I am not a fan of political correctness. But I suspect I oppose forced feeding.

The terms discrimination, affirmative action, and quota are hot-button issues. And the fact that the ultimate goal of the NYT is revenue while the ultimate goal of Shortz should include solver satisfaction does create a conflict.

At one time, orchestras were white male groups with rare exceptions. Not so today, although blacks are still under representative. I expect things will get better, but probably not without a fight. And I suspect any fight has to include economic warfare. Not pleasant to think about.

Newboy 11:11 AM  

Today’s commentariat might enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron (sorry I have no link to share) from an early 60s publication. Here’s Wikipedia: “In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear "handicaps": masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.” Staycationing is its own reward? The more things change...?

Thanks Evan for a lovely Thursday puzzle.

Carola 11:12 AM  

Wonderful puzzle, with its scattering of cash among a NO-TELL MOTEL, a BUCKAROO, a HORNBILL, CLAM CHOWDER Mostly super-easy here, except for FERRETing out that nicely hidden CLAM (I spotted the BUCK right away and the following NOTE gave me the theme). Terrific DIMPLES-inducing reveal.

Unknown 11:14 AM  

First, I appreciate the letter that you have written.
Second, I did the puzzle on the app and then checked it here when I got notice that it wasn't right but I match your solve. Did anyone else have this issue? I know it's silly but I don't want to lose my solve streak by using the check puzzle tool on the app. Just wondering where I might have gone wrong

Barbara S. 11:16 AM  

I love rebuses. I can't remember ever disliking a rebus puzzle. They have that extra CHALLENGE that always gives me a thrill to overcome.

I also love five-dollar words, an actuality that I'm convinced must be readily discernible to those perusing my quotidian contributions to this cruciverbian discourse. OK, I promise: I'll try to rein it in.

As a rather happy-go-lucky solver, I don't tend to think too deeply about these puzzles unless Rex (or one of you) makes me. But this issue of diversity among constructors, editors and test-solvers strikes me as a worthy one. My default position is that it's good to open institutions to a wide variety of voices. Selfishly, as an older solver, I wonder how well I might do if the wheelhouse drops below my horizon. But then again, it's important to attract younger solvers. And, hey, I might learn a thing or two.

@webwinger 7:39
Somehow I never thought I'd see strabismus discussed on this blog. I'm a strabismus-survivor, having had two surgeries in childhood. I no longer have a wandering eye (so my once-close resemblance to Marty Feldman has really softened -- thank goodness!). My sister has it, too (although our parents seemingly didn't), but hers wasn't diagnosed until senior adulthood and they say she's too old for surgery now -- the brain's no longer sufficiently plastic to make the required adjustments after the operation.

Debra 11:16 AM  

I guess it’s inflation—fancy schmancy language was 50-cent words back in the day.

Pepper 11:18 AM  

@Todd Yes Todd, only things that are exactly identical to each other can be compared. You are so inept at pattern recognition that you are unable to identify systemic obstacles underlying inequalities. Newsflash, you myopic fossil, none of us ever get to where we are solely on our own. Have fun at your Mark Lilla school of blaming minoritized populations for not being nice enough to racists and sexists.

RooMonster 11:30 AM  

Hey All !
Gonna comment ERE reading y'all.

First, I am a straight white male and I have yet to get a puz in the NYT, after manyan attempts, so take that as you will. I guess my puzs really do not measure up. (Read: they suck! ๐Ÿ˜€)

Second, I think it's based on the actual number of puzs submitted by women, "minorities" (for lack of a better PC word), or the LGBT community, as being straight or not isn't something you have to tell to get a puz published. We've had this percentage discussion of submitted puzs versus accepted puzs by women, etc. here many times.

Third, that's it about all that from me!

Fourth, this puz. Liked it, but boy howdy, I had to pseudo-cheat to find Dollar synonyms, as that 38D clue was flummoxing me. Had the OWD, and just could not come up with anything. Once I saw CLAM in the synonym list, the AHA CLAM CHOWDER. Only two Manhattans I thought of was the BOR (or island), and the drink. Then, that little SW corner got me good. FAB for A-OK seems a stretch. Didn't have the fifth rebus yet, as for NOTEPAD/NOTELLMOTEL, I had iPADS/iLLMOTEL, even though I'd never heard of an iLL MOTEL! So I was looking in that SW for a rebus square. VOX was an unknown. Finally hit Check Puzzle, saw my wrong i in the NE, changed it to NOTE rebus, decided that FAB had to be right, and finally saw BOXER.

Lots of black squares on the edges, but that's alright, as it (probably) made for better fill.

Five OO's, to add o the FIVE theme. I could be known as BUCKAROO ROO. Har. Or, give a BUCK to ROO!

Pretty nice ThursPuz rebus. A-OK, as it were.

Three F's

Joaquin 11:37 AM  

Geez, @Pepper, we have enough personal attacks in the rest of our lives. We don't need it here, on a crossword blog. This is a place to escape that sort of nonsense. Even if it's only for a brief moment.

Have an opinion; I have lots of 'em. Express your opinion; I often do. But leave the personal attacks behind, at least for this blog. It's about CROSSWORDS and related stuff.

Adam Fromm 11:40 AM  

@Giovanni: Yes, constructors do see their puzzles before going to print, but they are not invited or given the opportunity to comment or provided feedback. Fully edited puzzles are sent to their authors in the week prior to publication so they can write up their constructor comments for XWord Info and Wordplay, should they wish to mention specific clues or editorial changes. In short, once a puzzle is accepted, it's out of the constructor's hands completely, with no voice regarding editorial decisions; the letter calls, among other things, for a change to that policy.

Z 11:45 AM  

Hand up for 50¢ words. Hand up for now wondering if that’s where Curtis Jackson got his stage name.

@Unknown11:14 - Rex did not write the letter.

@Sir Hillary - “Abusive,” I agree that is a word best avoided. It’s too fraught with meanings beyond its meaning so paints an especially harsh picture. Having had to write disciplinary letters in a professional context, we were to taught to let the facts speak for themselves by avoiding adjectives and loaded words. We could probably lawyer it as “accurate” since the dictionary definitions are broad, but we all know it has a connotation of physical violence or verbal violence so severe as to seem physical. I will add that based on a Twitter conversation and what Rex wrote today, he apparently knows quite a bit more of the details than he feels permitted to share.
As to being asked to sign, if you agree you’re free to sign. I did.

Whatsername 11:55 AM  

Well it’s Thursday and we have a rebus which I normally love but this one frustrated more than usual. I got BILL and CLAM, then saw the revealer and started looking for $5 terms like ABE and FIN. After getting BUCK, expected SAW. Finally got NOTE but Naticked at 28A/D because SINGLE wasn’t even on my wave length. Now I see the theme is not words that mean FIVEDOLLARS but FIVE WORDS that are synonyms for DOLLAR. That little frustration aside, it was still a good Thursday challenge and most enjoyable.

@Loren (7:13) Favorite $5 word = paraprosdokian. My most commonly used in casual conversation: “Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.“ Grandiloquence - there’s another high-hat expression, mostly applicable to SNOOTs. Who probably dine on CLAMCHOWDER and TORTEs doncha know.

@Joaquin (9:22) Well said. ROTFL

William of Ockham 11:56 AM  

Discrimination and abusive behavior is one thing.

Afirmative action for its own sake will give us crap puzzles (Not that the quality isn't already diluted.

Frankly, I'm a little sick and tired of this quest for equality among unequal achievers for their own sake of diversity (The very definition).

Curious to see if this gets published.

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

This whole AA argument boils down to one concept dealt, sometimes and only a bit, with in school. Nearly universally ignored by those who work in the profession, esp. the Private Sector. It's called Externalities.

The ones we know most about are the various pollutions we live with. Some industrialist(s) got away with dumping crap in the air, land, and waters for decades if not centuries, thus avoiding the cost of not doing so, and sloughing off the effects (which are costs to those affected) on neighbors. Corporate pig farms in the South are a current example.

But abortion (how did that get in the conversation?) and AA are both cases of Externality. Banning, or restricting enough to make it prohibitively expensive, abortion has two externalities (contra not banning): the woman must bear the burden of paying for a child not wanted for whatever reason, while the contra case puts some psychological burden on those offended. As the bumper sticker announces: don't want one, don't get one. Whatever happened to that notion of personal freedom of the Revolution?

Being for or against AA also involves two cases of Externality: the historical accumulation of loss to those discriminated against, and the perceived loss of status to those who believe that AA has caused them 'immediate loss' of income/position/prestige. For decades Jews were banned from many economic and social position of status, but after WWII (appr.) that mostly disappeared. Why should not the same recompense be dealt to blacks or LGBTQ or ...?

One Right Wingnut wrote some place some time ago (trust me, I'm not making this up), that if all this inter-marriage went on much longer, "we'll all look like Brazilians!!" Wow. Another basis for discrimination up in flames.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

Isn’t it reasonable to think thecrevealer is saying there are five dollar (any denomination). In the puzzle? Where does the hyphen come in? Jim

Plum 12:24 PM  

The only bridge players I know are 75+, white, and of higher socioeconomic status. While there are certain to be younger & more diverse bridge players out there, if "SINGLETON" is considered common cultural knowledge, and MARIE KONDO & other examples are considered obscure, then that proves the point of the letter. As for the commentators that suggest there are more pressing matters to give attention to now, note you have just finished a crossword, read a crossword blog, and then took the time to comment on that blog. So you have already set the bar.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Rex, I'm curious as to why you haven't signed the letter?
I'm also curious why the comments of @Pepper have not been removed. I didn't think you allowed ad hominem attacks in this blog (on other commenters at any rate). I also noticed that "Pepper" has only had an account since last month. This is often associated with a trolling account. Please remove them.

Greg 12:34 PM  

My parents were avid bridge players, and they used the word SINGLETON to refer to a single card of a given suit held in their hand. "I had a singleton club."

Pamela 12:39 PM  

I was able to read the letter easily.

Why should the woman’s job be so severely limited? Presumably she was hired, like the rest of the staff, because of qualifications in intelligence and expertise as well as for being female. She would have a gender awareness that is different from theirs, but her mind must be just as capable in the other areas as anyone else’s.

Reminds me of when I had my first house renovated. The attitude from many of the various trades was, ‘Don’t worry, little lady, we’ll take care of everything,” as they proceeded to ignore my directions for specific details, and tried to get by with work that was average or even mediocre. It took a long time for me to collect plumbers, electricians, carpenters, handymen, etc who heard me and responded with answers and solutions and workmanship that made sense.

This puzzle was very tough for me. I never heard of ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE, also wanted iRON cross. So many blank spaces before I admitted defeat. Even after I PEEKed to get NOTEPADS I was no better off. Sigh. When the light finally went on, I chuckled and rolled my eyes. I’m sorry I missed out on the fun, it was a good one.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  


According to the wiki, yes bridge players skew geezer, but also better educated, thus higher income and so forth. But so does Republicanism (well, modulo the Rural Redneck sub-genre). I'm OK with banning both. :)

CaryInBoulder 12:41 PM  

After the first round of upsy-downsy I was still looking at huge swaths of white. As so often when that happens I was tempted to just say “F#%k it.” But, as also often happens, a few crosses eventually came into view and I was off. The 27D clue was SO snarky that it just had to be BILL Maher, which got me going rebus-wise. SW corner was a long-time head scratcher that finally began to take shape when VOX popped into my brain. I still didn’t get the celebratory music because of an ELAH-HOTEL cross. Never hoid of old Jack. With athletic events on indefinite hold, a sports reference would’ve suited me better: “Kicker who is in a four-way tie for longest field goal in NFL history.” (Jason). Speaking of sports, I’ve also heard this in a baseball announcer context: “The Rockies came up with a SINGLETON in the bottom of the fourth.”

Anyway even with having to search for the one misplaced letter I finished in slightly better than average time. I liked it a lot.

BTW, to the Anonymous who whined about rebuses: Get over it. That actually could’ve been me when I first encountered one in NYTXW. Now I dig ‘em as a Thursday feature.

Robert A. Simon 12:45 PM  

What Evan said.

webwinger 12:50 PM  

@Barbara S 11:16: Many eye care professionals still advise adults with strabismus that they are too old to benefit from treatment. Providers who are most knowledgeable in this area strongly disagree. Although some of what can be achieved at best in childhood is not accessible in adulthood, there can be many very substantial benefits no matter how advanced the age. Feel free to email me (click on the blue “webwinger” above) if you want to discuss further. (And think about “going blue” yourself—you’ve clearly become a regular here!)

Masked and Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Tried IPADS for a while, tho didn't really believe in it. My Rebus Thursday alert light eventually came on, and settled more comfortably on NOTEPADS. This was soon fortified by ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE, and knew we had some kinda moneybucks rebus goin on.

@muse: Don't think M&A has a go-to five-dollar word. One that comes to mind is perspicacity. Also ululate. Stolid is kinda spunky, too boot. Always admired @RP's HOGCALLS puzentry, but it may not qualify, in the strictest cents.

staff weeject pick: BOR.
fave longball entry: TAKECREDIT. Since there weren't no rebus $quares in the lower half-puz, I got a hoot out of that section just asking for acceptin CREDIT, instead. It evidently did not accept checks, however.

Thanx, Mr. Mahnken.

Masked & Anonymo … ewww!


JC66 12:54 PM  

For those interested, VOX publishes a crossword puzzle daily (Mon-Sat).

Klazzic 12:55 PM  

Spot on, @Todd. I'm all for equal representation based on merit. But this diatribe on the NYTXW's alleged discrimination against female constructors, offensive cluing and employment practices is beyond the pale. No one can ever challenge my socialist bona fides, so when I ask my brothers and sisters to tone down this cacophony of hate, it is done with a deep understanding of discrimination and prejudice and a lifetime of work as an attorney battling iniquities. This is the wrong place to expend that energy. I think it would be far more honest for you to just come out and say Will Shortz is a misogynist racist pig. Christ, folks, a crossword is for amusement. Fight your wars at the ballot box. Sheesh.

David 12:59 PM  

Five, Buck, Note, Clam, Bill all 4 letters. Single? That final square broke me.

On the internet, Mark Twain has said many things he didn't say (or write) in his life. It's something he has in common with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin, all of whom are on bills. Cleveland, not so much.

Yes, Chief Justice Roberts notwithstanding, systemic "isms" are real things; and Rex didn't write the letter.

Why is a torte, specifically, a dietary no no?

The animals and pop culture references had me saying what I was writing in the puzzle yesterday.

Overall a pretty fun puzzle.

Also Rex, you'd be surprised at the number of people and/or corporations who still use DOS on a daily basis.

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

DNF today. I got the trick early, at NOTEPADS, saw the DOLLAR connection when BUCK went in. But I could not come up with SINGLE for love or money, even with the in-your-face 28A clue. I knew what the clue for 28D was looking for and could not come up with the word for that kind of bar (meat market came to mind but no ____SBARS). I'm especially chagrined by this because my favorite Roxy Music song, "Love Is The Drug" has the following lyrics:

Late that night I park my car
Stake my place in the singles bar
Face to face, toe to toe
Heart to heart as we hit the floor
Lumber up, limbo down
The locked embrace, the stumble round
I say go, she say yes
Dim the lights, you can guess the rest

I also had trouble with the beginning word of the revealer. Was it a rebus for million-dollar word? Fifty dollar word? Putting pOkER in for "jabber" didn't help either. I went off to get my lunch and FAB and BOXER came to mind, but SINGLE still stubbornly refused to pop into the brain.

I boldly plopped in OKAla at 20A (am I thinking of Florida's Ocala?), had trouble coming up with SNOOT as High-hat and vainly looked for a word that described not tagging the deer you shot during the fall hunt for 5D. They say that when you're under stress, your IQ loses a few points. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Evan Mahnken, I really liked your puzzle, thanks.

Royals fan 1:20 PM  

Joe Posnanski has been writing a series of articles on The Athletic web site about favorite baseball players. Today's is about Dan Quisenberry, a very effective relief pitcher and very funny guy. (He called his 80-mile-an-hour fastball Peggy Lee: "Is That All There Is?"). Before games, Quiz used to exchange $5 words (though Posnanski didn't use that term) with Denny Matthews, the Royals' radio announcer. Posnanski's examples are "plenary" and "mellifluous." Then, Denny would have to work Quiz's word into the radio broadcast, and Quiz would have to work Denny's word into his post-game interview.

albatross shell 1:21 PM  

Revealer perfect. "...or contents of some squares in this puzzle". 5 dollar words.
All synonyms of dollar.

Rex seems to have a "bridge" problem, two days in a row. Yesterday didn't know cable in the river-spanning construction, today didn't know singleton in the card game.

@anon943am and all
Very bad time to invite folks over for card games. Play online. Unless your living with 3 other people and sheltering together. Please.

Hate to SOB here, but I thought this was a fun, well-designed theme. But I got little joy doing it. Perhaps our situation is getting to me. That was last night. Today my K got word that her niece-in-law's grandmother died in a nursing home in Chicago area. Covid19. No condolences, please. I met her at the wedding several years back. That was it. Don't want this blog to fill with that stuff for for someone I didn't really know. First person I knew who even had it. You NYC folks, I can imagine how things are, but just barely. Only 3 cases confirmed and one death in my county. Doncha just hate it when the real world intrudes. Good luck to all. And do take care.


@Williamof Oakham 1156am
Because diversity has made the human race shitty, I guess.

jae 1:22 PM  

@Giovanni - I find it helpful to remember that the last two letters of ISAO’ first name are the same as the first two letters of his last name AOKI.

JC66 1:37 PM  

@jae & @Giovanni

and ISAO AOKI begins and ends in I.

Smith 1:39 PM  

@ web
Hand up for The Plot Against America

Mo Pariser 1:43 PM  

@Pepper ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Mo Pariser 1:45 PM  

Now do I think herons are African? No, but I'm also not an ecologist. Here's what was presented:

5 letter word, large beaked bird, H _ R_ _

Second letter? Nope. Either a themer or something weird.

5th letter? Nope. Either a themer or someone weird.

4th letter? Non parlo.

The responsible thing to do is to fill in Heron because when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not hornbills. No that's not it... Think herons not okapis. Nailed it. Anyway, it took me quite the while to sort out that mistake. Tried too hard to squeeze Newhart (?) into Maher's makom kavuah. I don't know, it was a mess. But not nearly as messy as the mid/north west. I mean what kind of..... Squeeze 3 themers into 6x4 area, tack on TACK ON, ETO, ISAO, OKAPI, preheat oven to 350 and you've got yourself a nice little recipe for disaster. Plus a game of Choose your favorite Channel! (NBC/ABC), and Choose your favorite Phil! (Dick/Roth). Originally had BUCKpROd and was so unreasonably confident it was correct. Just that and a snooty amount of white space smirking up at me. To add insult to injury, my app didnt sing me my jingle upon completion. It couldn't even be bothered to notify me at all. I must have spent 5 extra minutes (on top of what had already turned into an embarrassingly tall heap of minutes) combing frustratedly through my solved puzzle for an inexistent mistake.

Liked Othello Dimples right down the center.
If you want to hear more about that, you should talk to my friend Desdemona. I think they're at a No Tell Motel somewhere or other.

PS More solving videos please!

Smith 1:59 PM  

DNF at SW corner and SINGLETON because... I had BUCK, BILL and NOTE and ERGO thought it was fourDOLLARWORDS (almost like a play on "four letter words").
But enjoyable anyway, thanks, Evan.

Z 2:01 PM  

@JC66, @jae, & @Giovanni - Looking forward to the day that ”Japanese hockey player“ is the clue. Of course, that ISAO Asai, Kakihara, Kawabuchi, and Ono‽ all apply means it will have to be a Saturday clue. If “Japanese hockey player Isao” is used to clue Ono some Saturday, though, don’t blame me.

@Plum - I think the Bridge demographic world-wide, much like Chess, is more diverse.

@M&A - Nice catch on TAKE CREDIT. But now I’m wondering about ululating pewits.

@JC66 - Has it improved? When the Vox puzzle started it was the butt of much criticism from TwitterCrossWorld.

Linda 2:06 PM  

Jeez. It’s only a crossword puzzle. It’s not the coronavirus.

Michael Girouard 2:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
old timer 2:18 PM  

I'm the guy who reads everything including the notes, the sources, and sometimes the sources' sources, then comments. Makes me into a defender of the Orange Monster, because so often he is misquoted and misunderstood -- though I didn't vote for him and never will. I say that because I read the letter, and also the illustrious and numerous list of signers, and I have too much respect for them to think they really agreed with everything in that often inane letter. What they surely agreed with is Demand One: Constructors should be shown the edits made to their puzzle and have a chance to comment BEFORE the puzzle is in final form, in the queue for publication, and unchangeable barring some egregious error or important intervening news. (For instance, there must be occasions where it was necessary to insert the word "late" before a a clue referring to a person who was alive at the time the puzzle was accepted).

Yes, WS and his team make the final decisions. But there should be a full and fair opportunity for the constructor to explain why a proposed edit was wrong.

I DNF'd on this one. I guess I have never heard of VOX. And the solve was so hard, I forgot I had not filled in one (easy) part in the East. OTOH I got the trick at [single]TON and [single]BARS.

Scott's in SF was a favorite of mine, back in the 70's. Never thought of it as a gay place, but the food was very, very good, and parking was easy at night. But I liked some gay hangouts, especially Hamburger Mary's.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Hmm. @Todd still hasn't let us know which runner he'd choose to be. I am not surprised. More fun being in the majority. Even more fun is being in the autocratic minority.

Think Harder 2:31 PM  

If your job consists of searching for one offensive thing in crossword puzzles all day long, in this case references to women, it's going to be pretty hard to make a full time job out of it. The very position is ridiculous. Are there no female solvers there who can identify this stuff? Are there no male solvers who can? Those are the people I'd either send to sensitivity training (which a company the size of the NYT should have), or cut loose.

Of course the job was CYA tokenism. And if the staff is generally inclusive, then what you're possibly are asking for in the letter (the intent and clarity of which I admire), is quotas, which I believe the Supreme Court disallowed in the late 1970s.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

@old timer:
because so often he is misquoted and misunderstood

really? other than Faux News parroting his lies, can you give us all just a couple of examples? don't strain yourself.

this is his tally before the Covid nonsense:

Aketi 2:39 PM  

I’m clearly was not up to speed today when had all the letters of ICE _ _ _ _ET CHALLENGE and finally got ALS before I found the BUCK. I have done a lot of CHALLENGEs in my day, but an ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE is not on my BUCKET list.

Z 2:40 PM  

@Gill I - Where’d all the TP go?

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

@Think Harder:

So, which runner would choose to be?

JC66 2:58 PM  


The VOX puzzles are "different," but I still enjoy doing them.

BTW, anyone else have TAKEthehIT for 41A (say "Yes I did it") before TAKECREDIT?

bertoray 3:04 PM  

I seem to remember The Thing often accuse Reed Richards of using twenty dollar words.
And like @LMS, loved squozen.

bertoray 3:09 PM  

Yes I did it.

webwinger 3:11 PM  

Well, culture wars topics seem to have returned to supplant at least partially the pandemic as issue du jour. (Don’t know if that’s a welcome sign or not.) I have a few more references and thoughts to share on the latter, though, which FWIW I am going to do, despite the reception I’ve felt after earlier such forays:

The NYT has expanded and reformatted its frequently updated COVID-19 tracking articles (for the United States and for the world), making them even more valuable. There seems to be no doubt that the virus is now in retreat in the US overall and in nearly all states, including Florida and Texas (late to impose stringent restrictions on social interaction) and more recent “hot spots” like Illinois, Michigan, and Louisiana. We can’t expect to see a drop in the mortality rate for at least another week or two, but I’ve already made a bet with my wife that total deaths in this country will max out at around 20,000, one tenth of the most widely cited recent estimate, and 1% of the 2 million in some early predictions.

I doubt that we’ll be free of social distancing and hyper-hygiene expectations for a long time, but those really haven’t been very hard to live with. (After a couple weeks of symptom-free separation, it seems reasonable for family and close friends to lower barriers to proximity.) I expect masking in public to quickly become the norm and persist for a good while (looks like a great opportunity for home-based micro businesses), which I will welcome if it allows commerce to reawaken soon. But we’ve absolutely got to get folks back to work in the retail service sector ASAP to avoid lasting economic damage that could far exceed what results from the virus itself. No amount of largesse from the federal government can take the place of that.

We must be prepared for a “second wave” in the fall, but hopefully by then we will have a vaccine (recently predicted by at least one industry leader to be only about 6 months away, which I find not hard-to-believe in the very much not business-as-usual place where we now find ourselves), and reliable and available tests for both the presence of virus and antibody response to it; and we won’t be facing shortages of essential healthcare products (or toilet paper). Dr. Fauci has already said that he does not expect as much need to curtail social activity at that point.

Conditions at the front line are still dire in some places, of course. I feel terrible for docs, nurses, and other hospital staff with crushing workloads; shortages of critical supplies, equipment, and drugs; inability to alter or even predict the course of the disease in many cases; heightened stress resulting from the separation of gravely ill patients and their families; and fear for the personal safety of themselves and their own families. But there seems definitely to be “light at the end of the tunnel”, based not only on current statistics, but on the unprecedented enormous (if delayed) and increasingly coordinated (if still somewhat fragmented) mobilization of clinical and research healthcare, and societal, resources we are seeing in response to the crisis.

Think Harder 3:33 PM  

@Anon at 2:40, your question shows that you completely understand the very point I'm making. Think harder.

kaoconno 3:59 PM  

I like Pepper.

GHarris 4:01 PM  

I was going to make the point that @whatsername beat me to. To put a finer point on it, if I may, Rex misconstrues the revealer. Think the dollar as a currency not a one dollar bill. Then the references in the several rebus answers are appropriate. There are five examples of how a unit of that currency may be referred to.

Anonymoose 4:08 PM  

@webwinger 3:11. Sorry for the cliche but what planet are YOU on?

Barbara S. 4:09 PM  

@JC66 2:58
Snap! I was sure that clue (41A) carried negative connotations.

OffTheGrid 4:13 PM  

There's nothing clever here but CARNIVOROUS is an anagram of CORONAVIRUS.

Anonymous 4:24 PM  

"We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point," Vice President Pence said during an interview with CNN Wednesday."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that overall, the picture should encourage Americans to observe strict mitigation measures, including social distancing. As Birx did, he used Italy as an example of the horrible toll that awaits the U.S., even if Americans heed federal guidance to wash hands and avoid public contact.


sanfranman59 4:29 PM  

Just for the record, ARCO {2D: Gas brand that's also a musical direction} is most definitely not a "bygone name". We've got them all over the place in the Bay Area and Wikipedia says they have 1300 gas stations in the Western US. Like most of the corporate world, they've gone through a lot of changes over the years through mergers and spin-offs, but they're certainly not "bygone."

john towle 4:30 PM  

Eschew obfuscation, SVP.



Anonymous 4:32 PM  

I wonder how the SINGLE did today against the yen. Har

GILL I. 4:36 PM  

@old timer 2:18. I don't think Scotts was really designated a "gay" bar. There was always a little bit of everything. This was San Francisco after all. It's just that the yummy looking men who also happened to be funny as hell and smart were the ones I naturally gravitated to. After an hour of sheer fun, I'd find out they weren't the least bit interested in me - in, well, anything other than a drink. Waaah. I wanted to marry at least 10 of them (sigh).
@Z....Wow. Interesting. My bidet arrived and I recommend everyone get one. It will tickle your fancy.

Aketi 4:40 PM  

Rethinking the ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE. Instead of the abysmal practice of throwing a BUCKET of ICE water over people’s heads, you could use the ICE BUCKET to chill drinks for drinking games.

@Anonymoose, 4:08 pm, that was exactly what I was thinking. I’ve been following the data from Johns Hopkins and sadly, I’d be ready to take on his bet. I know too many people working in the hospitals as well.

Joaquin 5:00 PM  

@GILL I. (4:36) - Does your new bidet tickle your fancy or tickle your fanny?

Anonymous 5:02 PM  


The definition of a blit is 5 pounds of shit in a 4 pound sack. Taught to me by a Texan.

Here's the hospital blit:

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

thanks.....use your energy on the bigger fight for now

JC66 5:11 PM  


I'd guess both.

What? 5:13 PM  

Re Open Letter to the Times
We need to look at what’s going on when we “solve” a crossword. Aside from those skills we only get from the crosses, filling a fill requires knowledge. Crossword editors, and their instructions to constructors, emphasize one should stay away from obscurities. The conceit is that the intended audience should be considered to be generally knowledgeable. For example, as a biochemist, I should not use definitions that one can reasonably assume would be known only to Biochemists.
General knowledge can be loosely defined as knowing a little about a lot, as opposed to knowing only a lot about a little. In the real world, can general knowledge be knowing a lot about a lot? Generally, no, and so there are gaps. Everyone has gaps except the exceptional ones among us. For example, I know nothing about popular music while many would know little about classical music or old movies. Do I resent puzzles that require knowledge about popular music? I don’t, realizing it’s on me, not the constructor or editor and maybe I’ll learn something. Do I think editors should push for less about popular music? No. It’s a part of our experience, a part of general knowledge, something I should be made more aware of. Marie Kondo, Bell Hooks, Flavor Flav - never heard of them but now I have and thanks to Wikipedia, they are now part of my general knowledge.
A crossword can not only test our scholarship, it can enhance it. Inclusivity in crossword culture is not only a social imperative, it’s an intellectual one as well.

Krytykal 5:35 PM  

Read the letter. I'm all for inclusivity. But....according to the most up-to-date studies I can find, 97.4% of men worldwide identify as heterosexual and 97.7% of women identify as heterosexual. Meaning, the queer population is approximately (let's be generous) 3%. You honestly want clues and answers to lean into a tiny minority? I'm Jewish, the world's Jewish population is 0.2%. Is the average crossword solver expected to know Jewish Arcana? Nope. Crosswords test general knowledge, not niche facts. General is defined by Merriam-Webster (1st definition, btw) as "Involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole." Not tiny groups. The whole. So include Bell Hooks; if I know who she is, great. If not, I'll learn something. But enough with every splinter faction whining about crossword inclusivity.

Z 6:26 PM  

@Krytykal - “ Is the average crossword solver expected to know Jewish Arcana?” Yiddish, holidays, religious practices... Yep, all of it and fairly frequently. If you eliminate Nas and Dr. Dre there’s going to be far more Jewish Arcana than rap in your typical NYTX. Heck, we had an extended conversation here over two days about presidential mensches. Do you even do puzzles or are you just here to be an troll?

GILL I. 6:31 PM  

@Joaquin. Teehee...BUT OF COURSE.....@I'm thinking @JC66 is getting to know me.... By the way, I really liked your 11:37 post.

Anonymous 8:45 PM  


Those are interesting numbers. About 1/3 of decades of study, i.e. 10%. In any case, the Arts, viewed 'globally' is far more gay than 10%. Many of the best in any sector are gay. So, whatever the percentage, the impact of the LGBTQ community far exceeds their absolute number. In general, such folks rarely make unprovoked assaults on straight folks. The same can't be said of the straight community.

KFC 11:00 PM  

@Krytykal - You seem to believe the letter is advocating for arcane clue/answers that represent tiny splinter factions. The three answers cited in the letter do not come close to that characterization: Marie Kondo brings joy to de cluttering and has a show on Netflix, Flavor Flav is a rapper who had been around since the mid 1980’s, and Bell Hooks is a well known feminist author. They are hardly niche. I’m an old white guy and I knew all three.

Eat more chicken. We now deliver!

dm3000 11:56 PM  

Your self righteous obsession with identity politics and your dismissal of western culture under the guise of inclusion is a microcosm of most of what is wrong with American universities today. That you cannot even conceive that many consider this a problem speaks volumes.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

I called my 94-year old mother, a bridge fanatic, to ask her if singleton is the answer to that clue. She confirmed for me right away.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

My interpretation of "Five dollar words" was not 5x$1=$5, rather, just that there were 5 squares that referred to dollars. So, "note" and "bill" seemed just fine to me.

Kathy D. 12:48 AM  

I liked this puzzle and the rebuses (rebi?). No problems once I got it.

On the letter, I liked it. I signed it and sent the link to other solvers.

Society constantly changes. And huge sectors of the population who have been left out historically are claiming their rights to be heard, involved, have input, be hired, do the work, achieve and be respected. And it takes bold words and action to command their rightful place -- in all spheres.

Those of us who are older have to listen and work on ourselves and evolve. That's just part of life, and since we live in this society we have a responsibility to listen to people and support their involvement to the fullest degree.

I'm all for it. And Marie Konco, Bell Hooks and Flavor Flav are well-known. I mean do we want the puzzles to be stuck in the past, citing old dead white guys (no offense to literature professors, students or readers)? The world is changing. Or rather the world hasn't changed. What's changed is that many people are insisting on being heard and involved and recognized.

And surely, the Times crossword puzzle can reflect the full spectrum of the people in this country. And the Times must want younger readers and puzzle doers. Or they'll find media which speaks more to them, and which has puzzles. Get with it, NY Times.

pdplot 1:08 PM  

Be careful what you wish for. I learned bridge from my mother and we both loved the NY Times bridge column every day. Indeed, even in her 90s, my mom would call me to discuss a tricky hand from the column.
The bridge column was removed years ago. No more bridge column in the Times. There is a syndicated one in the Hearst and other papers but its nowhere near as good. I'm a lawyer in my mid-80s and look forward to the puzzle every day. That section was missing in my paper today. As far as the puzzles are concerned, I've never read Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings so I'm at a disadvantage. Is that any less specialized than Marie Kondo or Flavor Flav? I've always considered a crossword puzzle to be a learning experience as well.

Plum 4:23 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 10:57 AM  

I liked yesterday’s way more than today’s.

Burma Shave 11:54 AM  


ALFA-ALFA was a SNOOTy FELLA, so to TAKECREDIT was simple,


spacecraft 12:25 PM  

I knew OFC would pick up on the weakness of NOTE and BILL vis-ร -vis the other three. If that's this puzzle's only weakness, though, we have a winner.

I too wanted ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE right away, and so suspected rebusiness. At that point, I scan for a revealer clue and skip to that section to begin solving the crosses, hoping to get a handle on the "McGuffin." Duly, I arrived at ____DOLLARWORDS, but (not knowing VOX) had to leave the SW corner for later. In my experience, somehow the expression "75 cent words" appears. Must be local. At any rate, the assumption was for the _BUCK_ part of 17a, which properly yielded BUCKAROO: off to the races.

Indeed, as a former bridge player, I am very familiar with the SINGLETON (there are also doubletons and tripletons!). That part was no problem. So after counting all the rebus squares, I filled in FIVE in the SW and finished 'er off. DOD is ANN Wilson: How can I get you alone indeed! Birdie.

Diana, LIW 1:54 PM  

Got 2 of the 4 rebi - a personal triumph for me on a Thursday rebii puzzle. How oh how could I miss out on Bill Maher???? Oh...that's how.

Don't do this (rebii) to us during the virus - please. I have PLED my cast.

And RAD? Really? nah

btw - @Spacey - I like your word "rebusiness"

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 3:07 PM  

Don’t particularly care for a rebus.
More so when the answers in those squares are different.
Even more so when they TACKON 26 threes.

NEER could remember whether ANN or Nancy Wilson was the yeah baby.

NOT a big AHA moment at the NOTELLMOTEL. NOT a big CHALLENGE.

leftcoaster 4:02 PM  

So the contents of the rebus squares contained "fancy-schmancy language"? Really? Could have misled me. And they did.

Will I ever get ISAO AOKI's name right? After today I will...maybe.

Had fOX (what??, no! no!) before VOX.

Waxy in Montreal 4:15 PM  

Must be honest and tell you that I'd never heard of MARIE KONDO, BELL HOOKS, and FLAVOR FLAV before reading the letter. OTOH, SINGLETON was a gimme (I'm a 75 year old white male and used to play bridge a lot though) so I'm hoping Eric von Coelln simply ignores the letter.

Oh, did I mention I really loved this Thursday puzzle? Lotsa fun and an appropriate challenge.

rondo 4:26 PM  

@lefty - thanks for the reminder. Both of crossworld's favorite golfers are in the opus. ISAO Aoki and Ernie ELS.

rainforest 4:32 PM  

Not a fan of a rebus puzzle generally, but this one tickled my fancy-schmantzy for some reason. Got BUCK early and went looking for more BUCKs or possibly does. NOTE didn't open my eyes, but BILL filled the, er, BILL.

When I tried the revealer, (something) DOLLAR WORDS had me wondering what denomination I should consider, and without completing that section, I decided FIVE was it. So then went looking for two more rebi. CLAM and SINGLE volunteered and so the last section, the SW had to be done. I had a little trouble there, but finally got BOXER. Done.

Liked it, even as a rebus effort.

PurityofEssence 10:39 AM  

Typical NYT xwd pluses and minuses. What I did like was the literal “five dollar words”, not the hyphenated version. Yes, notes and bills were not as good for answers as the slang terms, but if you are going to complain about that you would have regular problems with the NYTXW. I learned from the letter that the constructor does not see changes before it goes to print, which seems to be at odds with fairness.

Once again I am anonymous due to wishing to distance myself from the mixed bag of wits and curmudgeons who make up the commenters

Anonymous 11:37 PM  

Took me until today - Saturday - working off and on - to finish this, but finally figured it all out without internet help. And I really liked it. Agree with Rex - no ? needed after the clue for peek. And agree with Rondo can't remember which Wilson is the DOD gal - but I think we're thinking of years ago and maybe not today ? What a talented duo they are. Musician / vocalist icons. Great pop songs. My favorite is "Straight On," as I can imagine them singing about me --as if that would ever be !

So now on to Friday and Saturday and hope I catch up before Monday.

Unknown 1:14 AM  

It's great to hear from so many men about how puzzles are fine the way they are and that Rex is overreacting. Remember the clue a couple of months ago that related to the OJ case? Rex called them out and I so appreciated it. Violence against women was not something I wished to see referenced casually in a puzzle for entertainment. Also, just look at how often the NYT has clued "hood," but won't clue bell hooks. I love solving these puzzles. But when it comes to cultural inclusiveness, they get an F from me.

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