Gilbert and Sullivan princess / FRI 5-15-20 / Rapper on the 2001 #1 hit "Lady Marmalade" / "The Great Movies" author / 2015 winner of Best Musical

Friday, May 15, 2020

Constructor: Christopher Adams

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Straight of JUAN de Fuca (51D: Strait of ___ de Fuca, waterway separating Washington State from Vancouver Island)
The Strait of Juan de Fuca (officially named Juan de Fuca Strait in Canada[1]) is a body of water about 96 miles (83 nmi; 154 km) long[2] that is the Salish Sea's outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait.
It was named in 1787 by the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley, captain of Imperial Eagle, for Juan de Fuca, the Greek navigator who sailed in a Spanish expedition in 1592 to seek the fabled Strait of Anián. Barkley was the first non-indigenous person to find the strait, unless Juan de Fuca's story was true.[3] The strait was explored in detail between 1789 and 1791 by Manuel QuimperJosé María NarváezJuan CarrascoGonzalo López de Haro, and Francisco de Eliza.
• • •
Hi all-- Rachel Fabi subbing in for Rex today. And what a great day to sub! I've said this before, and I'll probably say it many more times, but I friggin love Fridays. Themeless puzzles just have so much more room for the constructor to express who they are and what they care about, and even with the constraints that this *absolutely gorgeous* 66 word grid put on Mr. Adams, his voice really shines through.

And, man, that is a pretty grid. I paused to take a screenshot of the blank grid, giving up valuable clock time, because it's just so lovely. We've got two intersecting staircases through the middle with 3x11s across and 3x11s down, and both sets of 11 are absolutely stunning: MEAN STREETS / BURNT ORANGE / FASHIONISTA run across, and KEPT IN TOUCH / PANTS ON FIRE / RESTRICTIVE run down. Every single part of this central feature is just *chef's kiss* bellissima. I got a little ensnared trying to solve this section because I could have sworn PolitiFact used "Pinocchios" as their measure of truth, but it turns out that is the Washington Post. I also got the second half of ___ORANGE right away but couldn't get past "RUSTY..?" in my head, which slowed me down as well.

With that middle section dominated by the double staircase, the rest of the grid gets pulled a tad TAUTLY, but not so tight that the fill becomes untenable (although there are some rough patches, which is a natural consequence of this ambitious grid design). That said, there are so many flashes of personality and joy in this puzzle that, for me, they greatly outweigh the rougher bits of fill. I'm talking about entries like I'M NOT OK, which I think has become a pandemic mantra for many people coming to terms with our new normal. Similarly, I loved the entry/clue combo on UNPACK (15A: Work through, as feelings), which is one of my favorite overused terms that just means "talk about" (as in, "let's UNPACK the overuse of the term UNPACK, shall we?"). The THOR / CHRIS Hemsworth 1-2 punch (hammer?) was cute as well, and (probably) not just because I am about 2/3 of the way through a pandemic binge of all of the Marvel movies I failed to watch when they were actually coming out. FUN HOME is a beautiful queer musical based on a beautiful queer graphic memoir, and if you have not listened to/seen/read it, I cannot recommend it enough.

Another highlight of this puzzle for me was the excellent wordplay. When I finally parsed (7A: Lines on a record) as CRIMES I may have actually laughed out loud, although I was also a tad grumpy that there was no ? on the clue. Other good ones that also lacked ?'s: (19A: It's used for kicks) for KNEE and (24A: Stand on deck) for BAT NEXT, which I guess maybe isn't wordplay at all now that I look at it again, but going through it felt like a misdirect? Anyways, I liked it. I haven't decided whether or not the clue on MATHLETE (10D: One who's used to adding pressure?) is excellent wordplay or the worst wordplay (I definitely groaned), so I'll let you all hash that one out in the comments.

Ok, now for a few light critiques. Opening the puzzle with LAICAL was not great; it's just not a very good word! Other not-great entries included the bizarre pluralization of LSATS and the even more bizarre singularization of JITTER. Can you have a single JITTER? Seems to me like JITTERs are a package deal. Also TEENTSY... what is that extra T doing in there??? But as I said above, these are all products of the low word count and aesthetically pleasing grid structure, and I think the tradeoff is absolutely worth it. A couple of clues also had me rolling my eyes a bit. The clue on ANI, for one. What, was this puzzle too queer with FUN HOME in it so we couldn't possibly also have ANI DiFranco? (I highly suspect that this was an, ahem, editorial decision). Also the clue on LIE. What is with crosswords and golf?? There are so many ways to clue the word LIE! Here's a Moulin Rouge palate cleanser (ft. LIL KIM) to get the taste of gratuitous golf clues out of your mouth:

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. It's *so* pretty and well-constructed, and despite some fill that was contorted by the grid design, I think it is an excellent themeless Friday. 

PS, if you enjoy Themeless Friday as much as I do, I highly recommend checking out the New Yorker puzzles, which are (almost) always themeless and come out on Mondays and Fridays. I also happen to review them on that other crossword blog, so if you enjoy Themeless Friday *and* my reviews, you could read my write-up of Friday's New Yorker puzzle over there (although that puzzle won't come out until 6am, so that writeup will be up later).

PPS. I just realized I also constructed today's USA Today puzzle, so, um, if you *don't* like Themeless Friday but *do* like me, you could also check that out here. Big crossword day for me, I guess!

Signed, Rachel Fabi, Queen-for-a-Day of CrossWorld
[Follow Rachel on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:22 AM  

Guess I've been reading Rex for too long; I had no idea someone could offer such unbridled praise and also find some items to criticize in a crossword. Nice review, Rachel!

I had two of the same issues, thinking "Pinocchios" was the scale and guessing "sunny" ORANGE when I had "_U_N_".

A nice challenge and a good feeling of accomplishment when the final letter dropped in to place.

manitou 1:05 AM  

Quite the four-woman, proper noun intersection in the NE! Seemed fair to me but I wonder if people will cry Natick... Third fastest Friday ever.

puzzlehoarder 1:05 AM  

A pretty routine Friday. Things didn't fly in just a steady rate of one thing leading to another. There should be a term of non-poc for 37D. That word is used only in the plural.

Speaking of words, I'm at 29 words and 135 points on the SB. I need to squeeze another 9 points out of these letters to get the QB. Haven't found a word in hours.

manitou 1:07 AM  

oops... *NW

Carl LaFong 1:26 AM  

Must've been easy, I rarely finish a Friday the night before. SONARS plural as used here is pretty awkward. You'd think Whatsisname could arrange for ENO to appear in the NYT on his birthday... We see him often enough. Happy 72nd to Brian Eno.

jae 1:40 AM  

Easy-medium, with the top half on the tougher side. Delightful two way center stack. Liked it, or pretty much what @Rachel said.

George NYC 2:34 AM  

I'm sorry, but starting a puzzle with LAICAL sent this right into the wastebasket for me, especially when crossed with LOTSA and ATS and "Glass Menagerie" trivia. Baseball players don't "stand on deck." They are "on deck." Or they were, back in the '60s when that term was in vogue. I'm happy to have never met a MATHLETE and I try to use my foot to kick something, unless perhaps I have a JITTER. These days, people UNPACK nonsensical statements by the likes of William Barr, not their "feelings" and what's up with JINX and "saying the same thing"? I'm excited to see that the sin of incorrectly TAGGING someone on social media has made it into the NYT lexicon because that's something I've done never. I'm just gonna take my pâte à choux as my LASTSTEP and go to bed.

chefwen 3:20 AM  

Thanks for filling Rachel, really enjoyed your write up.

Puzzle was pretty easy for this tag team. Didn’t like TEENTSY, spell check doesn’t like it either, it’s TEENSY, where did that second T come into play? UNPACK was a new one for me @15A. tat before INK set me back a little and EVACUATE 54A makes me shudder, had to do that twice in So Cal due to wild fires, frightening times.

On to Saturday, hope it’s as kind.

will hunt 3:29 AM  

Omg...first comment!?

This is possibly the first Friday I have ever solved on my own...ok I looked up a few and DNF one letter, but still, mostly on my own!

I agree with your praise Rachel, this puzzle had a TON of satisfying moments. I got lucky with a bunch of pop culture stuff from the get go (always my first fills): CHRIS Hemsworth's THOR, Margaret CHO, LIL KIM, ARIANA Grande, FUN HOME, and UFC were among my first, along with a lucky college tour's knowledge of BURNT ORANGE and one of this social media professional's least favorite tasks, RETAGS.

I should know by now that any 5-letter movie related clue will be EBERT, will I ever learn? MEAN STREETS took me way too long considering how recently I watched and discussed The Irishman, same for SKYNET.

My hangups were not even frustrating, mostly cute and fixable -- I had FASHION ICON for FASHIONISTA and THREAD for INSEAM for a while, as well as RESTRICTING, but they were easy to reJITTER (rejigger? I'm trying here) once I filled in the cross.

My only complaint about this puzzle is the NW corner, which I did have to reveal the C in LAICAL and COTE. Both seem very obscure, and ATS is still a mystery to me. It was just a lucky guess for the letter A. Is he talking about emails? Like john AT gmail dot com? If so, that's pretty weak. I also eye roll every time a xword uses TONIER or any variety, which is something nobody under 60 says. I was ready for 10D's pressure pun to be something about massage, or diamonds, so the MATHLETE reveal was kind of underwhelming to me. But all that is forgivable given the rest of the fun fill!

Such clever cluing for UNPACK, INSEAM (I had thread here for a while), SONAR, STAMP. Like Rachel, a special highlight for me was the slow unfolding of CRIMES. I wrote Grimes for a moment thinking, is that some technical music term that she named herself after? Which reminds me, I better wait to see X Æ A-12 in a puzzle by the end of 2020.

4/5 so far this week, wish me luck on the deadly Saturday tomorrow!


bulgie 4:45 AM  

Fun, LOTSA great fill and impressive construction. Loved BURNT crossing ON FIRE.

Not so fond of one JITTER, or plural ATS. But the worst was LAICAL, an ugly word that does not mean Secular. Take the adjective LAY and add not one but two adjective-forming morphemes (suffixes), "ic" and "al", to get back to an adjective that means, roughly, LAY, back where we started.

Of the four NW women, MAMIE was a gimme, the other three unknown to me. The D at the cross of the play character and the musical character was a lucky guess, the last square I filled. So the puzzle fell not with a bang but with a whimper.

In SB, only rand and unary between me and QB. Anyone get there?

Loren Muse Smith 5:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 5:34 AM  

A most excellent write-up, Rachel. Gobbled up every word.

“Themeless puzzles just have so much more room for the constructor to express who they are and what they care about.” I know, right? @Bulgie, I’m more cynical than you; today I just kept seeing BURNT ORANGE MEAN STREETS PANTS ON FIRE LIE.

So I was in a mood when I thought maybe “Mudda” for 51d JUAN. ;-)

I liked the clue for LAST STEP. “What to do just before you’re done.” Mine is usually fumble around with step two, scan ahead to make sure I truly do not understand any of the mystifying diagrams and arrows, and call it a day.

I bet we’re all gonna give the singular JITTER the side-eye. Better clue might have been, “___ bug.” There’s nothing more fun than doing the jitterbug. ‘Cep maybe a spirited polka.

ECLAIRS went right in ‘cause I adore The Great British Baking Show, and so now I want to own strong white bread flour, caster sugar, treacle. Whip up my baps and cover them with cling film.

@George NYC - Back in the day in Chattanooga, whenever Joanne H and I said the same word at the same time, the quickest one would yell JINX!, put both forefingers together, and start counting until the other person could break apart the fingers. I have forgotten what the number signified. Like maybe if you got all the way to 12, then the other person has to buy you 12 pieces of bubblegum.

FASHIONISTA. Hmm. That suffix makes it feel bossy and judgmental. Like not only do they dress to the nines, but they, not TACITLY, point out clothes fails once you’re at the damn party and can’t do anything about it. I generously point out clothes fails here to save you from leaving the house in those gauchos and cap sleeves. I wonder if the –ista suffix took on a mean feel because of Sandinista or Batista?

@Will Hunt – congrats on your Friday success and good luck tomorrow. Oh, and I’m under 60 and use tony and TONIER every now and then. David Sedaris uses it, and he’s the Supreme Writer of the Universe.

I somehow kept considering BEER HAT sharing the grid with BEGAT. Hah. Bet some beer hats (leading to beer goggles) have been responsible for their share of begatments.

Rachel – I was thinking maybe that the clue for RAS would have a question mark: “peer leaders.” Beer leaders might could be Sigma Chi brothers. Shear leader – head sheep barber. Rear leader – Kim Kardashian. Sneer leader, jeer leader, leer leader. . . we got a three-fer there, people. Clear leader – nope. Dear leader.

This guy definitely lives in a FUN HOME.

Same guy

One more

QuasiMojo 6:40 AM  

I loathe the term UNPACK to describe feelings or as a way to discuss events. They use it on the news all the time. What's wrong with discuss or explain or break down?

This was an okay puzzle. A lot of things stretched out. LAICAL. TAUTLY. TACITLY. RETAGS. SONARS.

LAST STEP would be a last choice for me. BAT NEXT?

Anna Wintour as a Fashionista? She's kinda bigger than that. That's like calling Nancy Pelosi a pol.

The clue for MATHLETE was CUTE.

@puzzlehoarder, I typed in the 9-letter word yesterday in SB but again the app didn't take it. I'm going to do them by hand from now on. I guess the closest I'll ever get to Queen Bee is watching that hilarious movie by that name starring Joan Crawford. :)

pabloinnh 6:46 AM  

Very nice review by Rachel, as she hit on most of the things that I found jarring--JITTER, TEENTSY, SONARS, and some others. BURNTORANGE was a gimme, which is a good thing, because I am thoroughly unfamiliar with Ms. Wintour and her oeuvre. ANI used to be clued as a "black billed cuckoo" , or something similar, if memory serves.

RA-I was an RA at college-we called them dorm counselors-and it payed my room and board, which was nice. My guys occupied the third floor of our dorm, a good bunch, lots of football and hockey players. They were usually well-behaved and not a problem but one time I came up the stairwell, which was in the center of things--the rooms went around the perimeter of the building-to find them playing what the called "Puero Rican soccer". The idea was to open a door at one end of the hallways and another at the opposite end, and then try to get a medicine ball through the opponents' door by any means possible. Not wanting to jump into the middle of this unarmed combat, I had my finest idea as an RA. "Next goal wins!", I said, and it did, and we all survived. Whew.

Very nice Friday, CA, except for LAICAL, and I'm not being IRONICAL.

JOHN X 6:54 AM  

Friday? I kicked the shit out of this puzzle. I want hard puzzles that require some effort, like landing a sport fish or a woman. Some of you "speed solvers" gloat over how easy you solved the puzzle, which, to me, is like bragging about beating up a small retarded orphan child. There ain't no honor there.

Speaking of which, did you ever notice that all of Robert De Niro's best roles were all retarded guys? Not just MEANSTREETS (1973), but Bang the Drum Slowly(1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), The Untouchables (1987), Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, just to name a few. I'll leave this to your judgement.

How's everybody surviving the great quarantine of 2020? This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I'm full-time employed by not one but TWO companies who can't even fire me, and all I do is call in sick and collect money. I hope this never ends!


amyyanni 7:01 AM  

Hi Rachel, sprightly review, thanks. Will try and check out your suggestions during my telework breaks today. Am among the solvers who found this on the easy side. Still a good challenge. Also another fan of "Fun Home."

Lewis 7:06 AM  

@rachel -- Wow review. Hit all the points with feeling and balance. Brava.

Sometimes solving a crossword is like visiting a foreign country (remember that?). You get taken to places of knowledge you've rarely or never encountered, sometimes you have to think differently to understand what's going on, and you bathe in the flavor of a differing culture, or, in this case, the flavor of a crossword constructor.

This happens when that constructor has talent and fully and honestly taps into it, and isn't satisfied until it's polished as well as it can be. Then the constructor's flavor radiates from the puzzle.

That happened today, IMO. I not only coursed through a just-right Friday entertaining tussle, but also through a place named Christopher Adams, and, for a space of time, it made for a most edifying and marvelous vacation.

kitshef 7:25 AM  

Shamefully whiffed on SKYNET. One of my favorite movies. Put in psYops at first – no idea where that came from.

Saw right through the misdirect at 7A only to put in pRIors before CRIMES.

Did not enjoy this one much – the singular JITTER rankled, and the spelling of TEENTSY, and the very awkward partials I PUT and AN I.

And I fail to see how anyone could consider KEPT IN TOUCH to be an “absolutely stunning” entry.

But what really steamed by cauliflower was the clue "These feelings have got me pretty down". If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be broke.

John H 7:43 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyable.

I must agree about jitters, but the extra t in teensy belongs there.

I was looking forward to Rex's critique, since he would have nothing to gripe about here, which would have been refreshing after som recent crabbiness. But this was a lovely review of a lovely puzzle.

Joaquin 7:59 AM  

@John H (7:43) said, "I was looking forward to Rex's critique, since he would have nothing to gripe about here ... "

Dream on, brother!

Frantic Sloth 8:00 AM  

This was a lot more fun for me than yesterday's puzzle.
Easier and funner. Two qualities usually diametrically opposed, but not this time.
Some chew, no choking, and plenty of swallowing. Yum!

Didn't know ATS, but only saw it after completion so it didn't matter while solving.
Enjoyed PANTSONFIRE, MATHLETE (especially as clued), MEANSTREETS, and "stand on deck" for BATNEXT.

Work through, as feelings = UNPACK. Not the usual terminology; however, if it's referring to UNPACKing (as in) baggage, I guess that works...sort of. But it's a bit of a stretch.

SONARS as a plural seems odd. Okay, it's wrong. Sound Navigation & Ranging...S? Not so sound. IMNOTOK with that.

Another nit was JITTER. Singular. Who says "Oh, I've got a case of the JITTER!"?? JEAN - that's who.

JITTER and SONARS need to switch quantities.

Minor quibbles. I enjoyed it bigly.

@Nancy from yesterday - thank you for the follow-up. I had just assumed you didn't see it because I posted so late, but it's nice to know you feel my pain. Misery & company & all that. 😉

CDilly52 8:00 AM  

Thank you Rachel for a fine analysis and thank you and congratulations Mr. Adams for a Friday with clever word play and enough crunch to be very Friday worthy!

Other than the awkward singular JITTER (I can almost give you this one-jitterbug, after all), and the really, truly is not a plural SONARS, and the attempt to avoid boring us us with the advice not to buy AN I, this was one of the tidiest grids in a long while!

My troubles were all in the NW. I fell for the misdirects of nest and foot for COTE and KNEE, and even knowing the four ladies up in that territory, I’M NOT OK did not want to fall, nor did ATS. I just did not think that the first letter of 5D could possibly be A. And the clue made no sense to me - might as well have been written in Sanskrit. Add that to the fact that I had never ever seen LAICAL, and was so certain that the only correct word to describe non-clergy is LAIC that I refused to put in the final AL until the very LAST STEP.

I chuckled at BURNT ORANGE, knowing that anyone not familiar with the Big XII would think that hue would certainly be the very last chosen for school colors! And in my opinion, those holding to that would be correct. Truly the ugliest school color I have ever encountered. And we see a great deal of it here in the “Crimson and Cream” territory of Norman OK. But there it is, the color of the ugly soil in this part of the world. Georgia with its famous and similarly colored red earth knows better!

Clever clue for CRIMES. At first, I toyed with the idea that this referred to an old vinyl LP and the answer was grooves, or groove (since we seemed to be having some issues with singular and plural), but no. And if one is not steeped in a love of baseball, BAT NEXT might not reveal itself quickly, but it is Friday. I disagree that the clues for CRIMES, KNEE or BAT NEXT should have had ?s because all of them are just very clever word play or sleights-of -hand.

A true Friday puzzle: crunch, humor, good words, clever clues and something to learn.

Diver 8:08 AM  

Yay, a puzzle that got me through a whole cup of coffee! Thoroughly enjoyed this one, except for TEENTSY. Thanks for an upbeat review Rachel, what a refreshing change of pace for this blog.

Tim90249 8:12 AM  


OMG how do you forget Bloody Mama where Robert DeNiro is the glue sniffing son ha ha!

Mike 8:29 AM  

I see LOTSA people referencing ATS but without the underlying explanation. I’m stumped as to what it stands for. Help. Please and thank you!

TinPT 8:34 AM  

LOTSA fun overall, including the trip-ups. Had nest, then coop before COTE. FASHIONicon dropped in quickly before FASHIONISTA but was relatively easy to resolve. Tat before INK. PoshER before TONIER. BURNTsienna before ORANGE. MATHLETE seemed like a stretch, but okay. Tricky puzzle, but in the enjoyable way — not the “ugh let it be over” way. Relatively easy, as Fridays go. Thumbs up!

webwinger 8:36 AM  

What a breath of fresh air, both puzzle and review! I too noticed the appealing esthetic of the open grid, and enjoyed every minute of the solve, a bit easier than average for Friday. Fave clue/answer: 16A. Thanks Christopher and Rachel...

Happy to note that more than 2 weeks after relaxing its RESTRICTIVE stay-home policy, Colorado has seen no meaningful increase in its rates of new COVID cases and deaths, and hospitalizations continue to decline. Except for continuing localized outbreaks, the rest of the country ain’t looking so bad either. And everyone who remains obsessed with testing should read this just-published report from Johns Hopkins, which concludes that current PCR tests for COVID RNA have almost no value in detecting pre-symptomatic carriers of the virus.

Joaquin 8:37 AM  

@Mike (8:29) ATS = the plural of @.

thfenn 8:42 AM  

Really enjoyed this one. KEEPINTOUCH, PANTSONFIRE, and RESTRICTIVE all had relevance we might wish they didn't, not to mention IMNOTOK and EVACUATE. And the long acrosses we're just fun in their own right. Got held up going with 'evil' before THAN, kind of strange I just wrote that right in...also dropped in emineM as soon as I had MAMIE, but happy to UNPACK my own ignorance on that one. Thanks for a great puzzle.

Suzie Q 8:45 AM  

Fun puzzle and nice write up.
I only know Ida and Amanda, as clued, from crosswords but somehow remembered.
I like @ Loren's jitter bug suggestion. Much better.
Teentsy looks weird in print but actually sounds OK when spoken.
I liked the clue for spare. Lots of bowling stuff lately.
Leave it to @ JOHN X to be rolling in clover and smelling like a rose.

DavidL 8:46 AM  

After I got the M from MAMIE, I was excited to drop in "Eminem" for 1 Down because I don't know too many rappers from 2001. Boy, that screwed me up big time.

Other than that, a mostly smooth and enjoyable solve. Excellent puzzle - well done Christopher Adams. And such a nice guest write-up today, thanks Rachel.

Nancy 8:47 AM  

How could I have gone through an entire lifetime without knowing that it was a JINX when two people said the same thing at the same time? I had no idea it was a JINX. I thought it meant: "Great minds think alike". Or: "We're really on the same wavelength." But I checked with Google before coming here and, when I put in JINX, two people saying the same thing at the same time was the first thing to come up. (Evidently I've been JINXed a lot more in my life than I ever realized.) My mistake.

Not my mistake: TEENTSY. Google's not accepting TEENTSY. Why should it? I'M NOT OK with it either. Begone, 2nd "T".

And I'M NOT OK with JITTER either. How should I use it in a sentence? I was really nervous yesterday. I had a bad case of the JITTER. ???

When did we stop examining feelings or expressing them and start to UNPACK them? Do they come out neatly in rows like piles of well-ironed shirts? Let's stop with the psychotherapy-speak and leave the unpacking to suitcases.

Has any MATHLETE worth his salt experienced any "adding pressure" since third grade? Isn't he now dealing with differential equations and statistical analysis and Advanced Calculus? At a minimum?

Easy for a Friday and mildly diverting, there were nevertheless a lot of problems with this puzzle that should have been corrected.

Todd 8:51 AM  

Nice review. Rachel proves that you can critique a puzzle without being angry and snippy. Maybe Rex can try to learn that lesson. I enjoyed the puzzle and did it in 20 minutes which is good for me on a Friday. It helped that I just wrote in Means Streets. I put in and took out laical several times mostly because I wanted avian shelter to be nest.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Error on 55D
Clue says ‘Comedian’...

Unknown 9:07 AM  

@JOHN X Thank you for that refreshing dose of misogyny and bullying on a Friday morning. Big fan. You're so UNPC. Keep owning the libs!

gregg 9:12 AM  

Please explicate SB & QB for me.

LeaveItToYourGoat 9:19 AM  

I don't know what's more refreshing, the puzzle or Rachel's commentary. When you read Rex every day, you come here expecting the most dismissive and cynical response possible, so this is a nice change of pace for sure.

This puzzle deserves praise just for the 3x11 crossings alone.

I came out of the NW with only MAMIE in place, and figured this was going to be an ordeal. Then I got MEAN STREETS immediately, and as a Texan and Big XII Conference rival of UT, BURNT ORANGE was a gimme (sorry for the golf term) for me. Ended up finishing much faster than I had expected.

FASHIONISTA took a while to drop in, because of a) my initial spelling of TEENsie, b) rUN HOME for FUN HOME, and c) BEER cAp for BEER HAT. So I may have strongly considered googling RASCIONISSA for a few minutes before deciding to take another look at the crossings.

Nice tricky clues for PIXELS, CRIMES and SONARS. Perhaps my favorite thing about this puzzle was the refreshingly tempered use of crossword-ese short fill, with IDA, REI, ERG, and ANI being among the very few offenders.

TEENTSY is really my only complaint here, because of that bizarre spelling. I'm fine with JITTER appearing in the singular and LSATS appearing in the plural. I'm totally ok with I'M NOT OK being in the grid, but I'M NOT OK with the clue for it. "These feelings have got me pretty down," seems like a fairly casual and innocuous expression, whereas "I'm not okay," sounds like a more alarming phrase.

Overall very, very good puzzle.

Frantic Sloth 9:25 AM  

Well, imagine my surprise, chagrin, and embarrassment upon learning UNPACK is not only a common term, but has already attained "overused" status.
As is typical, I'm late to the game, but it's always nice to learn new things.

I hear tell of this thing on the internet called the Face Book. Stupid name, but sounds promising.
Gonna fire up the old Commodore, plug in my Divine Miss M 8-track and see if I can find it somehow.

In my earlier comment I forgot to mention TEENTSY, but the less said about that "word", the better.

Was looking at ATS as an abbreviation because who thinks of AT in the plural?? Unlike UNPACK, that one is most decidedly not on me.

Nice review (and puzzle!) Rachel. Could not agree more!

An enthusiastic "welcome back"
 to JOHN X, but *ahem* Hello? Stanley & Iris ??

JOHN X 9:26 AM  

@Unknown 9:07 AM

Thank you very much for your kind words, although I don't even know what some of them mean.

God Bless

Sir Hillary 9:36 AM  

Flew through this one for some reason. Didn't notice the low word count or the four-way symmetry while solving, but I appreciate both. I did notice the beautiful central stacks -- they're as good as I can remember seeing. LOTSA other good stuff as well -- EVACUATE, JUNTA, MATHLETE (great clue), AMANDA (my oldest), EMIGRE and BANKONIT are some of my favorites.

Unfortunately, I also noticed TEENTSY, BATNEXT, IPUT and ANI (as clued), all of which stick out like sore thumbs.

UNPACK (as clued) and FASHIONISTA are two terms I would prefer vanish forever, but they look great in the grid.

Took me a while to remember SKYNET, but for some reason "Cyberdyne Systems" is forever etched in my brain. Only seen that film 872 times.


mathgent 9:38 AM  

Ms. Fabi expressed my feelings about the puzzle beautifully. I especially liked her observation that the constructor’s personality shone through.

Whereas yesterday’s dish was full of scraps (26 three-letter entries and only 12 longer ones), today’s was meaty and delicious (32 entries were six-letters or longer, nearly half).

Good line: JITTERs are a package deal.

The constructor regretted the Jeopardy clue for ANI on Jeff Chen, but I liked it.

Thanks to Loren for reminding me about JINX.

I’ve heard that Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada was based on Anna Wintour. That’s the movie that made me fall in love with Anne Hathaway.

Mike 9:52 AM  

Thank you! All I could come up with was as a possible abbreviation for “Avatar”.

Pamela 9:53 AM  

@LMS You outdid yourself today! ‘Mudda’ indeed! I had to go back to the puzzle to get it, then roared! Many other gems, all the way to the final links. Priceless!

For a change, I actually did the puzzle in the app last night instead of waiting for today’s paper. I thought I’d just preview it to see how hard it was going to be, but next thing I knew it was done. FASHIONISTA went right in. I know BURNT ORANGE as a color, no idea about the school. PANTSONFIRE has been used a lot around here lately, usually referring to Muffed-it and his cohorts.

Rachel, nice, balanced review. Thanks for that and the clips, especially Lil’ Kim.

Z 10:00 AM  

So much to dislike here. First, 23 straight up PPP is never going to win praise here. Littering you’re puzzle with 35% pop culture trivia is always bad. I was going to praise Adams for at least letting some women into the puzzle, but we just have to clue two of them via men and then use another to clue the vaguely insulting FASHIONISTA. And the middle stack?!? There is absolutely nothing elegant or enjoyable about stacking triple Pop Culture clues and then crossing them with another, Worse, none of the middle had to be given the PPP treatment. We don’t need DiNiro or Texas or Wintour or PolitiFacts to clue any of that. But, no, we substitute PPP for actual cleverness. Guess what, some of us don’t care about any Scorsese film or the Marvel Universe or mixed martial arts. Take your testosterone poisoning somewhere else. And then there is the JUAN clue. Let’s take our PPP and mix it up with some relatively obscure geography. SRSLY? If it weren’t so early in Olympia I’d call my oldest and ask him if he knows where JUAN de Fuca Strait is. He’s been in Washington a few years now, maybe one person in the family knows that answer.

As for UNPACK, how about you just keep those feelings packed up and out of sight because, frankly, nobody gives a damn. Go talk to your partner or your parent or your therapist, leave me the hell out of it. Let me be clear, there are plenty of people in emotional distress that I will willingly listen to, console, comfort, and even advise if they want advice. But the person who needs to “UNPACK” their feelings - get away. Invariably, they don’t need comfort, they just have the mistaken idea that figuring out their feelings are somehow important. Gah.

I see lots of you liked this. My guess, just enough wheelhouse to not grate. Fine, but this is objectively sub-optimal if you subscribe to the notion that word-play is better than trivia. The worst part for me is that the middle stack could have been good if the clue writers had chosen to be clever instead of lazily going for pop culture.

Lorelei Lee 10:05 AM  

With all the supermarket hot food bars closed down, I've lost weight.

My jean is now to big. I could take a scissor to the inseam but I don't sew. And it's embarrassing when your pant starts to droop in a rare public appearance. It's warming up so I could wear short, but then I'd have to do something about the leg hair.

It's giving me a jitter. Just one. I'm cutting back on expenses in Furloughville and plurals are just extravagant. I'm not OK.

I actually loved this puzzle. My solving pattern was a swirl. Started in the NW, then it took me vertically through the middle to the SE, from there west again, then a veer back through the middle where I filled that part in, and up to the NE where I died.

Who under 90 says UNPACK!

GILL I. 10:07 AM  

My little secret wish was to come here and tell everyone how much I loved this puzzle because this last week has been crappy puzzledom. I had LOTSA huh's - more than aha's and that's not really a good thing.
What did I like?...PANTS ON FIRE. That's always fun but you need the liar liar. I think Judge Judy uses it a lot. I liked ECLAIRS as well and its pad a shoe filling.
I liked seeing JINX. I learned that word when I came here. But then you had to add "buy me a coke" and I was confused. Why should I have to buy you a coke? My husband and I would do that and he'd get all romantic and tell me in very long Shakespearian detail that it's really a connected Nirvana oneness. I'd rather buy a coke.
I got to Anna Wintour and without thinking twice I put in "VOGUE EDITOR." I knew 31D had to be BEGAT because I know my brought forth's. So it looks like Anna does something that ends in A. OK..FASHIONISTA. Yeah, she's that but she's also one smart cookie.
I get to the best musical winner at 36D and drew a blank. I kept thinking maybe MATILDA or ALADDIN. I really wanted to squeeze KINKY BOOTS in. Light bulb moment. I had the FU thing going and then I remembered to add the N and the HOME.
My huh's were UN PACK, LIE for that golfers consideration, I want TAT instead of INK, the never heard of BAT NEXT and TEENTSY with an extra T. I PUT looks silly just hanging out there. I usually add a hell when I can't find my keys.
If Christopher had clued COTE with a d"Azur, it would've at least brought on a smile. Nothing like the over priced French Riviera. I wonder how they're doing during these times.
My best ah today, was reading Rachel and her up-beat review. I like that.

xyz 10:34 AM  

TEENTSY - the worst aspect of X-Word LAICAL only very bad

Absolutely lovely otherwise

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

gadzooks!!! It sure sounds like @Z is OFL's doppelganger.

Birchbark 10:36 AM  

I use UNPACK in business-mode not to further a conversation but to end it, when at a decision point I'd rather tackle it in my own time. "I'm going to spend a little time unpacking that and come back to you."

pRIorS --> CRIMES.

Skipped past 1A, since LAIC has only four letters. But LAIC is elastic enough to make LAICAL if you get to the end and still have a couple of boxes to go.

thfenn 10:36 AM  

LOL @Z, I thought tall intelligent white guys agreed on everything.

OffTheGrid 10:49 AM  

@Webwinger. When I evaluate the credibility of your comments I keep in mind that the current death toll is 4 times your recent prediction. So save your breath.

Hungry Mother 10:52 AM  

I’ve been called a MATHLETE, but I didn’t get the clue until after I had the answer. My clue would have been, “runner with a PhD in Mathematics”, even though the clue/answer would have broken an Xword rule. This solve went a lot faster than I did in my 10 mile run/walk this morning. It didn’t hurt as much.

pmdm 10:55 AM  

Seems to me constructors new to the NYT tend to load PPP more heavily into the gird than when they are more experienced. Granted, that's not based on scientific evidence, but it how it seems to me to progress, So a far as critiquing this puzzle, I would second Z's comments.

From reading the comments today, a get a feeling many of those here object more how Mr. Sharp communicates than what he communicates. Personally, I do not support the idea that one has a right to be an obnoxious boor just because one owns a blog. (And understand this: Mike is not an obnoxious boor. I am NOT saying that.) So to all of you who praise how today's write-up communicated: in the future, grumble about the manner of communication, not the judgment. One cannot disagree with how one feels (even when not sharing the reaction) but one can certainly discuss better ways to express one's emotions.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Happy to note that more than 2 weeks after relaxing its RESTRICTIVE stay-home policy,

Are you just as happy to note that the number of rural hospitals being over-topped is skyrocketing? We're not in NYC any more. Well, I guess since some of that over-topping is geezers in long-term care, prisoners, and poor folk in meat plants, then all is well? NIMBY?

ghkozen 10:57 AM  

I was loving this puzzle right up until TEENSTY. That simply is not a word. Despite everything else right, I ended up with a very sour taste in my mouth when I was done, all from that one poison entry.

Frantic Sloth 10:58 AM  

LOL @Lorelei Lee 1005 am Loved your economy of word.

@Z 1000am LOL- Somebody drink your milkshake?

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

An Applicant Tracking System — or ATS, for short — is a type of software used by recruiters and employers during the hiring process to collect, sort, scan, and rank the job applications they receive for their open positions.

Masked and Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Mighty impressed by @Rachel's blog write-up and her enthusiasm for this FriPuz. M&A still leans ever so slightly toward likin themed puzs more, but that's just one of them de busta gut deals. Kinda like preferrin schlock flicks over documentaries.

It was a pretty easy themeless at our house, once I got past the rappers, Menagerie moms, and G&S princesses, in the NW. Thanx to MAMIE, for her help, up there.

Also thanx later on to some of the longballs that were easy gets offa couple letters each, namely: KEPTINTOUCH & MEANSTREETS. KEPT more of them nanoseconds off the STREETS and in the bank.

Primo sadistic clue award goes today to {Lines on a record} = CRIMES. That puppy got m&e to bravely write in TRACKS offa nuthin. Sorta like my COOP before COTE, in the NW. Wrongs again, M&A Breath.

Quad Jaws of Themelessness, once again. Like. They must make 15x15 themeless puzs easier to construct, in some way? They do turn up, quite often lately.

staff weeject pick: UFC. Which probably stands for the U Fashionista Club. Yep yep. Sounds right.
M&A 365-day uniform: Sweatshirt & jeans. Oh, and mask. Except when forced to go all fashionistac(al) [yo, @LAIC(AL)], and sub a be-sloganed T-shirt instead of the sweatshirt.

Thanx for the themeless fun, Mr. Adams. Nice use of a BEERHAT, btw.

Masked & Anonym6Us


Anonymoose 11:11 AM  

When you combine all the nits of the commentariat, this is a pretty bad puzzle. In addition to those bad clues already mentioned, I would add: 51A, We said the same thing/JINX. AT THE SAME TIME is key to the concept of JINX and is absent. Though it's been mentioned, it can't be said too many times how bad UNPACK is. It's stupid cutesy slang that adds nothing to the language.

Thanks @Z for the accurate assessment of the puzzle.

burtonkd 11:11 AM  

@LMS, did you also have a "double jinx" ready to go in case you called jinx at the same time?

Why so much hate for LAICAL? Completely solid word, and actually used if you are around churches on a regular basis.

Started with BURNT and was remembering UMBER and OCHRE from the classic oil paints. Ooh, I can hear it in Bob Ross' soothing baritone. Figured those had to be too classy for a football uniform, so waited for ORANGE to come into focus.

Keep thinking I'm seeing BURTON RANGE - could be a chain of mountains in western Canada, or the wide sweep of topics I choose to comment on.

I'm expecting cheers from Nancy that ANI wasn't given a Star Wars clue:)

Started with BORNE since it fit FASHIONIcon. ISTA begat BEGAT

Thank you Z for keeping the spirit of Rex alive today. (Today's post can reinvigorate the argument that you are Rex:) Point taken on the PPP, although it mostly aligned with my wheelhouse.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

And, for anyone still thinking that "it's just a problem in those Sodom and Gomorrah cities on the coasts!!". Think again. Here's the map of infection: click on the map image, and you'll get the full size one. As of this morning, there are 2,888 recorded 'counties' infected. Depending on who's counting with what definition, the topo folks and the wiki, there are about 3,071 counties/parishes in this USofA. 2,888/3,071 is 94% coverage. Yeah, it's just a Blue State problem. Which, on the East Coast, came from Europe without any restrictions from Trump until it was way, way too late. And, again, many (if not most) of the Red States hell bent on re-opening, are still on the climb side of the curve, in flagrant contravention of the WH's own rules. So, yeah, fine time to relax with the good buddies at the Dew Drop Inn.

Nancy 11:15 AM  

The comments today eloquently explain why I always write my first comment before I read the blog. Absolutely everything I had to say about TEENTSY and JITTER and UNPACK had already been said by the time I got there. And by quite a number of people. And said very well. @Frantic Sloth -- I love your comment that it must have been JEAN who had the JITTER. @Quasi had the exact same reaction to UNPACK that I did, only four hours earlier. If I read before posting, I would often be left with nothing at all to say -- especially living on the east coast, solving in the paper rather than online and thus always getting to the blog late by blog standards -- even if it's very early in the morning for me.

There were some trenchant other comments too. About SONARS -- which, btw, I meant to mention but forgot to. I'm thinking that SONARS should have offered JITTER its "S". And I really liked @George NYC's observation that batters don't "stand on deck", they're simply "on deck." In fact, I liked George's entire post. Have we seen you before, George? We must have, but I don't remember.

KnittyContessa 11:18 AM  

Enjoyable Friday puzzle (with the exception of TEENTSY) and write up - thanks Rachel! Just finished your USA Puzzle. LOTSA fun!

RooMonster 11:22 AM  

Hey All !
Tough side FriPuz for me. That TEENTSY threw me off for a while, at one point had FASHIONeSse, owing to BEGAT as BEGeT and that extra T. Just now seeing RESTRICTIVE as one word. I kept thinking REST RICTIVE? Must be Latin. Wanted REST ReCeIVE for a while. And TACTILY clued as is is a Huh?

But, cleaned all that up, and still got the Almost There! message. Argh! Turns out I had teNTA for JUNTA, as tITTER and FeNHOUSE. What do I know of Musicals? A FEN HOUSE could be something, right?

Writeovers, Beready-BATNEXT, JeAN-JUAN, IMsOlOw-IMNOTOK, mma-UFC, tat-INK, BEset-BEGeT-BEGAT.

BURNT ORANGE? Why not just ORANGE, I mean really. And plural SONARS? Hurts the ears a bit. Agree with the D Natick in NW.

Those nitty nits aside, it was a good themeless. No AAMILNE finally! 😋

Two F's

TJS 11:24 AM  

Well, awarding POTW is a no brainer, but I'm putting this one in the running for POTM as well. Started thinking I was going to hate this after checking both Northern areas, and then slowly began enjoying it more and more. Had I been solving with pen on paper, or pencil on paper, my completed grid would have been unreadable or torn to shreads. I cannot remember when I had so many take out and replace situations : Eminem, priors,spynet,coop,cabal,
beercap. Not crazy about "teentsy" but it sounds exactly like "antsy" to me, so I can live with it.

Would have liked to see OFL's take on this one, but absolutely loved Rachel's insightful comments, and @Lewis, totally in agreement with your description of the solving experience. And we have @Z bravely filling in for OFL with a over-the-top rant of Rexian proportions. Yeah, Z, "fashionista" is "vaguely insulting". So vague that someone would have to be bending over backwards to find the word troublesome. Maybe a hangover from all that angst caused by "lady" yesterday? But really, your rage was good for a laugh, so thanks.

Adam 11:28 AM  

I finished really quickly for a Friday; the 11s across and down really gave me no trouble. I had TEENSIE, thinking maybe it could be TEENSEY - what's with TEENTSY? There's no second T in that word. But that was really the only thing that gave me trouble - everything else was either reasonably gettable or gettable from crosses. LSATS, SONARS, JITTER - agree with the criticisms there. I also didn't put in the 4th letter in LOTSA (thinking it could be LOTTA) until I saw the SPARE across.

Overall an enjoyable Friday puzzle, but it was over too quickly.

Whatsername 11:30 AM  

Not easy for me as some have said but not too tough either. I agree with Rachel that it’s an appealing blank grid, which is some thing I always make it a point to study before I begin. I love looking at that all that white space and anticipating the challenge it’s going to be to fill it in. This puzzle had a nice variety - something for sports fans, social climbers, movie lovers, geography buffs. Nicely balanced.

I had ATS but didn’t get it until I came here. That one is right up there with EGS as far as I’m concerned. I’m over 60 but rarely say TONIER and even more rarely do I have a need to UNPACK my feelings, thank God. Actually I’d never even heard that before but it strikes me as something a narcissist would say. Kind of like what Trump does when he goes on his Twitter rants.

@Rachel: Thanks for a refreshing and candid review. Congrats on your USA Today publication! You really are Crossword Queen for the day.

egsforbreakfast 11:33 AM  

I liked the puzzle and I think the nits being pointed out are about as few and as minor as there have been for any puzzle in a long while, other than those by @Z/Rex.

After finishing, I found myself staring at IMNOTOK and thinking about it as a possible Aleut word with stress on the first syllable. Then I thought “what if it’s really IM NO TOK?” Googling “tok”, I find that it’s a dancehall reggae group from Jamaica. So maybe the point is LILKIM is not a dancehall reggae group.

I better go to SB before I melt down any farther in front of you all.

Carola 11:35 AM  

@Rachel, thank you for the cheery review, the perfect chaser for a fun solve.
@bulgie 4:45, thanks for pointing out PANTS ON FIRE x BURNT ORANGE.
@webwinger 8:36, thanks for the Annals reference.
@Mike 8:29 and @Joaquin 8:37, thanks for asking about and clarifying ATS.
@Nancy 8:47 - How about in the exchange: "You must have been a bundle of nerves!" "Well, I did feel a JITTER or two."

mathgent 11:40 AM  

In her critique, Ms. Fabi mentioned that she did today’s USA Today crossword. I just finished it. Nice puzzle but not as sparkly as her critique. Wednesday difficulty. She had a different clue for ONO. Her clue for 8A was “It returns a result from 0 to 14,” six letters. I got the answer from the crosses but I don’t know what it is.

Richard 11:43 AM  

Interesting how simultaneously saying a word evoked different JINX responses from different folks: @LMS the fingers-together-and-counting thing. Growing up in Albuquerque, our's was (like @GILL I) "Jinx, you owe me a coke." And coke was always small "c" because the word had taken on a generic connotation (kinda like kleenex or xerox or q tip). But in my home town, coke didn't just refer to any cola (viz., Coca Cola, or Pepsi, or RC); it could be any soft drink. So, for example, a Fanta might be called an "orange coke," or an A&W might be a "root beer coke" and (strangely) a 7-Up was a "7-Up coke." And, by the way, we never, EVER, used the term "soda," which, to our minds, was an eastern thing, the east being anything between Texas and New York (wherever THAT was). Ah, regionalisms; gotta love 'em.

Staggered to the finish line on this one. My first entry was MAMIE. (For some reason I keep thinking there's a "y" somewhere in her name). Got on a bit of a roll in the SE with gimmes JINX, EVACUATE, ETHANOL, SONARS, ARIANA, PIXELS and LSATS, which gave me a toehold for the central section, which in turn enabled me to grok the remaining corners. Clung too long to tat for INK (body art), which slowed down the SW.

Overall, a typical Friday experience: initial frustration followed by a bit of traction, then a grind to the finish. Not complaining. It's what I expect - and appreciate - for a Friday. Saturday, too, so bring it on.

Jstarrracewalker 11:47 AM  

Can you imagine a 91 year-old trying to do this puzzle? Neither can I. Maybe tomorrow.

QuasiMojo 11:49 AM  

@Nancy, I'm amazed you've never heard of this use of JINX. When I was a kid, you'd say Jinx when you both blurted out the same word or thought, and then icing on the cake, whoever said "Buy me a Coke" immediately afterward would be entitled to one. I usually said it first, but rarely got it. I was probably drinking TAB already anyway.

Did you really sit in a hot tub last night? Like in Jacuzzi? Or was it just a hot bath?

So many good comments today from the crosswordistas today. Gill, JohnX, and Frantic. Et alii!

Lorelei Lee 11:50 AM  

@Roo, I love burnt orange. Turns out though that it's somewhat controversial amongst those who actually think about this kind of thing. I'm one of them because my job has involved design, but this I didn't know:

"Burnt orange is a medium dark orange that evokes visions of flames. Though officially named in 1915, burnt orange can be polarizing because it is defined in different ways by different organizations. For example, burnt orange in Auburn University has a little blue but has none in the University of Texas. Pantone, though, does add a little blue to the mix. The hex code for burnt orange is #CC5500."

Grace 11:51 AM  

Loved the puzzle. One gripe: could be entirely wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the LSAT is five sections, not six. Not the end of the world, but it feels like a very correctible oversight.

Newboy 11:52 AM  

Thanks for the balanced response Rachel and congrats on your BIG puzzle day. The suggested links are a small chunk of manna in these days of isolation. Great start for this Friday though I also “could have sworn PolitiFact used "Pinocchios" and that was a large toe stobber on my path to success. LOTSA names from MAMIE to LIL KIM, but fair crosses. Loved the cluing that requires a second or third look: 7A & 10 D for example became MEAN STREETS when they intersected. Nice job Mr. Adams, hope others liked this effort as much as I did. Off to see what y’all think 🤔

Z 12:07 PM  

@TJS - Urban Dictionary does a pretty good job of capturing the “it is fine if I call myself one but an insult if you call someone else one” vibe of FASHIONISTA. @LMS also does a nice job.

Bax'N'Nex 12:11 PM  

Golf references (LIE) are gratuitous, but baseball (BAT NEXT) are fine?
SMH. Don't get me wrong, I love both. Almost broke 90 yesterday. (sorry, gratuitous golf reference)

Loved this puzzle. very fun

Frantic Sloth 12:16 PM  

@TJS 1124am I get your thought about TEENTSY sounding like antsy, but the term "antsy" comes from having ants in one's pants.

What might having TEENTS in there mean? Some of you, get your minds out of the gutter. 😱

lokischef 12:29 PM  

I am bitterly disappointed that LONGHORANGE is not a thing.

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

How do you know how many points you need to get the QB? I didn't think that NYT/Sam released that info.

@gregg - SB = NYTSNYT Bee, QB = Queen Bee, meaning that you found all the words for that day.

jberg 12:36 PM  

Loved the puzzle, loved the writeup, everything has been said, so just two points:

First, @Z, to me FASHIONISTA means an arbiter of fashion, not just someone who's obsessed with it-- so applying it to the editor of Vogue is not derogatory at all.

Second, I'm with @burtonkd on LAICAL--fairly common term in church circles. However, it doesn't mean "secular." Lay people are church members who are not clergy; secular people are those who are not religious.

No more time, my sewer is backing up, have to figure out how to get it fixed while maintaining septuagenarian isolation.

Jinx the Cat 12:39 PM  

Count me in with the “Jinx you owe me a Coke” crowd, but ours was capital C. In the Midwest I believed we used both terms...soda and pop. For some reason, THAT reminded me of the SNL Olympia Diner skits where Belushi would say: No Coke. Pepsi. Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!
Also count me in for enjoying the puzzle although the NW corner gave me fits. Started with MAMIE leading me to INSEAM but unfortunately my wrong guess of EMINEM at first had me in the wrong direction for awhile. Once I took it on faith that LAICAL was a word, I decided that it must be a LIL rapper, and it finally fell into place. And, to top it off I could feel “oh so clever” on the ATS=@. A good puzzle day for me!

webwinger 12:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
webwinger 12:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ernonymous 12:46 PM  

@webwinger it is too soon to tell if the reopenings caused a rise or fall as the data entry lags a lot. The Wall Street Journal published an article that Georgia's rates dramatically dropped after reopening. Turns out they read the graph wrong, and recent data was not entered. That was a true example if fake news by a right wing paper. No rapid decline, it is the same as it was. And still the same number of daily deaths as there were. NY is dropping not Georgia. Also places like Georgia were never really closed, if you look at places like Italy that were much more strict and were actually closed. They had police checkpoints, you couldn't go to the garden center and park. Here all the Home Depots were open, packed with people during the "shut down". Our Atlanta beltline was wall to wall people, parks were packed. Restaurants still are not doing inside dining so the opening didn't change much, and the numbers are the same. Still you need to wait a few more weeks to decide if the openings had an effect. Still at least 2000 loved ones in US are dying alone, gasping for air, day after day. As long as 21% of our citizens think its okay to go into crowded places, this is not going to decrease at all.

EV 12:47 PM  

Is 37 D a Singular of Convenience. As in if you run out of squares, put a SOC in it!?


bauskern 12:54 PM  

Wow, just wow. Rachel has revived my faith in XWORD reviews. Here's hoping Rex takes a nice, long, deserved break, with others to fill in for him. A perfect mix of admiration, compliments, and gentle critiques. I like the stacking of MEANSTREETS, BURNTORANGE and FASHIONISTA. But I agree that JITTER in the singular, and LSATS in the plural are a little rough. Didn't "get" ATS until someone here on the boards explained. That was my AHA moment. Never heard any music by ARIANA Grande, but she sure shows up a lot in the puzzles. She and ETTA James should form a duo. (I'm listening to her now on Alexa, and I've got to say, Not a fan.)

Joe Dipinto 1:07 PM  

@John X – don't forget Awakenings.

I like this puzzle muchly but wish the clues had made it more difficult. It seems like the weekend puzzles just get less and less challenging. Did that "Wheel of Fortune" clue (dumb to begin with) really have to give away that "I" was the letter in question?

webwinger 1:13 PM  

@OffTheGrid 10:49: About that 20,000 figure: I mentioned this was a wager with my wife, made on April 2, nearly 6 weeks ago. At that time the death toll was about 7,000. I was wrong. Dr. Fauci was also wrong when on April 9 (with total mortality to date then at about 19,000) he predicted 60,000 deaths by August—so I assume you no longer listen to him either? What happened? I erred in thinking we had reached a peak before that actually occurred for the US as a whole in the second week of April. Fauci (and I and almost everyone else) also erred in failing to anticipate that US new cases and deaths would remain near peak levels for weeks in many places, rather than descending as quickly as they rose, similar to China. The reasons for this are anything but clear.

We are certainly not home free, but there have been no signs that current reopening is going to be catastrophic in terms of disease and death, as many still predict. Every day, on the other hand, there is evidence of growing economic catastrophe, which will surely have major impact on health if it continues, almost entirely the result of stay-home orders.

@Anonymous 10:56: Oh, you devil, Anonymous! I am aware of zero—Zip—NIL data to support your claim about rural hospitals. Care to provide some? The real disaster for many of these medical centers is the disappearance of elective procedures, mainly the result of stay-home orders. Some will be bankrupted as a result, causing serious damage to the health of their communities. The University of Chicago Medical Center, in the midst of a major urban hot spot, in a city and state that still may not have maxed out despite maintaining one of the strictest lockdowns in the country, has ample reserve capacity of ICU beds and ventilators, and is seeing its COVID census in decline for nearly two weeks.

A common ploy in arguing is to make one’s opponent appear heartless because they appear to accept a certain level of harm resulting from the course they advocate. Ya gotta balance that against the harmful effects of the alternatives…

TJS 1:15 PM  

Urban Dictionary...Is that the one that claims that every word in the English language can be used in a derogatory, sexist, racist, anti-LGBQT etc.,etc. manner? Not sure I would be using that source to defend a position, but maybe I'm wrong.

Whatsername 1:16 PM  

@mathgent (9:38) True, the character in The Devil Wears Prada was widely believed to be based on Anna Wintour. In fact, Lauren Weisberger, author of the novel of the same name, had worked at Vogue as her personal assistant for before penning the “fictional” tale. Anne Hathaway had a great supporting cast with Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci, and of course Meryl Streep was perfection as the demanding domineering diva of FASHION.

@Richard (11:43) Where I grew up, the term was “pop.” So if someone asked if you wanted a bottle of pop, it could be anything from Grape Nehi to Double Cola. My personal preference was a Strawberry Nehi or RC Cola with peanuts. And absolutely with you on the use of “soda.” That was a term used only by snooty people from the city.

Chip Hilton 1:58 PM  

LAICAL, JITTER, and TEENSTY ruined my Friday. Also, I once again showed an appalling lack of rap knowledge. I went with wILiaM for the longest time and eventually admitted defeat in the NW. First fill in: BURNTORANGE, although it brought no joy, being an Aggies fan from way back. One of the absolute worst results of college conference realignment is that UT and TAMU no longer meet on Thanksgiving weekend. Then there’s Kansas/Missouri, Oklahoma/Nebraska, Pitt/West Virginia, and on and on. Sigh . . .

Joe Dipinto 2:08 PM  

Fashionista is not an insult, unless you feel contempt for someone who pays attention to fashion more so than the average person. But that's on you. I'd say Wintour qualifies, without it being a putdown.

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

The info is not hard to find. Just let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Googles. Oh, and start watching MSNBC and take the Fox needle out of your vein.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Ya gotta balance that against the harmful effects of the alternatives…

And what's the death rate of stay-at-home orders? I mean, they could all dose up on HCQ, wander around the Dew Drop Inn, and be fine. Right? The amusing aspect is: Trump says he "loves the poorly educated"; of course they're disproportionately affected. Black and brown folk more so, but that's OK. Right?

albatross shell 2:56 PM  

I was really hoping the Texas Longhorns might have copyrighted their team color hoRNy ORANGE. I guess their sportsplay is better than their wordplay.

ATS seems like a fair plural to me. Certainly the clue indicates plural.

If you can have a shiver, I guess you can have a jitter. Does a jitter imply nervousness? Not necessarily, but it sure could be a nervous jitter, fwiw.

TEENTSY. I like the variation. The second T sound is good. I hear it and say it on occasion. Seems to be in the dictionaries too. Adds a bit of impy playfulness and emphasis. You folks know less than you think sometimes. Or is that more?

JINX. Never knew. I asked MyK and she said right away "JINX. JINX on a coke! You never heard that?" I had a deprived childhood. My only cheat of the day, but to me it's partnership.

Some hints of JOHNX humor at last, but I am worried. No JUNTAS, no drug deals, no gun running. Sitting around collecting cash, doing puzzles. If you are as boring as the rest of us, who will fuel our fantasies? Certainly not the triathletes, runners, disc chasers, dog owners, cooks, or SBers.

@Z Nice roughage. Your real opinion and tongue in cheek welded together. All PPP is not created equal. Nice balance of stumbling block and lifesaver in this puzzle for me.

LAICAL: M-W defines it as secular.
Ugly words are words, ugly people are people.

SONARS also perfectly fine plural.

2 PoCs, 1 SoC. Nice triad.

2D could be clued as: One singular crossword master of wee words. Kinda. Seems something like that was mentioned a while ago, and done better.

You may need to UNPACK, you may not be OK, just remember you can always throw the suitcase away.

Greg 3:12 PM  

Finished NW last due to LILKIM, MAMIE, AMANDA, and LAICAL all in the same corner.

Z 3:16 PM  

@jberg, @Joe Dipinto, & @TJS - Gee fellas, I already mentioned that it might be used in a non-pejorative way. And, yeah, @Joe Dipinto, that’s hopefully the way the clue is intended. BUTT*, just like lots a LOTSA other terms, it is often used to indicate someone not just concerned about fashion, but judgmental of others’ taste. I also can’t help by wonder why you aren’t taking @LMS to task for writing That suffix makes it feel bossy and judgmental. Like not only do they dress to the nines, but they, not TACITLY, point out clothes fails once you’re at the damn party and can’t do anything about it.
@TJS - Do you think the contributors and evaluators at Urban Dictionary are lying? The more prosaic Online Slang Dictionary gives a far less nuanced definition. I don’t know about you, but calling a FASHIONISTA “obsessed” seems more negative than my “vaguely pejorative.”


Z 3:21 PM  

@albatross shell - I just needed to UNPACK my feelings...

Anoa Bob 4:18 PM  

I've seen LAIC in grids numerous times over the years, so LAICAL came easy at 1 Across, but that put a damper on my enthusiasm for the rest of the puzzle.

I was a SONAR Technician in the Navy. The Guided Missle Destroyer (DDG) that I was on had a system designed for high-power, long range detection. A Minesweeper (MCM) would have a different system, one designed for close-range, high-def detection. So, yes, there are different SONARS out there.

What I notice about that single pluralizing S is that it allows two five-letter words, SONAR and PIXEL, to fill two six-letter slots. How easy is that? There's another example of a two-POCs-for-one-S just to the left where ACRE and RETAG get that short cut, grid-fill ploy.

JITTER didn't sound right to me, so I also suspected a SOC. When I opened my trusty hardcover Random House Dictionary, however, JITTER was the entry. As a noun, it can also be JITTERS, but as an intransitive verb---to behave nervously---it is only JITTER, no S added. Also learned it is a variation of chitter, that in Middle English meant "to shiver", itself a gradational variation of "chatter". So this old word-nerd learned something there. Nice.

sara 4:32 PM  

about the SB: condolences for anyone up to the Genius level but still knocking head against wall looking for those last few points! I was doing that for awhile but realized it wasnt any fun - AT ALL -- so now i drop out when the frustration outdoes the creative-exploration factor...usually somewhere from Amazing on up... i check out the answers and it's All Over for the Day, making me much happier...

Anonymous 5:24 PM  


pabloinnh 5:31 PM  


That's exactly my approach, I stop at Genius. I've taken to checking the NYTBee to see how many words are on their word list, and I'll go back off and on to see if anything new leaps out at me (unusual), and I don't look at the answers until the next day. Usually I find one or two that I missed that I should have known and several that I've never seen, so I suspect their legitimacy. Totally agree that it should be for fun.

Nancy 5:41 PM  

@Quasi -- No, not a Jacuzzi. Just an ordinary hot bath in a perfectly ordinary bathtub. If you make the water hot enough, it's just like being in a Jacuzzi -- minus the chlorine (a big plus) and minus the jets (a teensy bit of a minus).

It went up 20 degrees today in NY -- over 80! -- so today I'm not taking a hot bath. Today I'm taking a tepid bath. I've been so much happier the last few days: 55-70 and sunny and dry is for me the ideal, I much prefer it to 80 and sunny. And certainly more than 85 which I hate. Unless I'm completely under water.

Crimson Devil 5:50 PM  

Sara & Pabloinnh
Re: SB
My approach precisely. Life is too short.

CaryinBoulder 6:31 PM  

About 2/3 of the way through I left for a Zoom-based morning Spanish class, and then I just had to go for a ride because my bike’s been in the shop for two weeks and I need to burn off all the carbs I’ve been eating. So by the time I finally cleaned up all those feminameses in the NW and came here everything I would’ve wanted to say had been said. Except for the JINX thing, which was new to me. I always thought of it as being hexed with bad luck, per the song by Son House: Jinx Blues. Also, thought that ATS referred to @s.

But really, I’m just wanting to post because @JBerg66 told me that I don’t have to deal with the damn captcha no mo’. Thanks, Jerry.

JC66 6:44 PM  


You're welcome.

Jofried 6:50 PM  

I thought this was a very nice and enjoyable puzzle minus a certain extra T shoved into a certain answer. Then I decided to try the New Yorker puzzle, but I cannot figure out why if I take a break and come back it keeps erasing my progress! That’s really annoying! Anyone know why it does that?

Lorelei Lee 7:15 PM  

There's nothing pejorative about Fashionista. There just isn't. Women have bigger battles to fight than a word like that - physical abuse, discrimination, and bullying, to name a few. Been there on the bullying and discrimination thing. Trust me, Fashionista is a zero on the contract.

burtonkd 8:58 PM  

This is fun to watch everyone here discovering SB and mimic my experience from several months back. After Genius, the word list seems so arbitrary that I don't have the patience to hack away. I eventually starting using online anagram solvers entering the 7 letters 4 times each to see all the possibilities. All kinds of words in the dictionary that aren't accepted and other words that don't show up. Getting the word list at NYTXW is a nice hint in that you know you need 2 5 letter words starting with S to get there. It helps to check answers in that you eventually get a sense for the word list that is accepted. RATATAT!

Can't a man be a Fashionista? Thinking of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

TAB2TAB 9:08 PM  

Great puzzle, and an easier Friday for me with the notable exception of the NW. LILKIM/AMANDA crossing IDA/MAMIE was a bit PPP-heavy and LAICAL certainly didn't help. IMNOTOKAY with four-way NATICKS. Other than that, it was a great lead into the weekend.

Joe Dipinto 9:30 PM  

A little light verse to wind down the evening:

There's Hemsworth and Pratt, plus Evans and Pine
As matinée idols they're top of the line
To be a guy all the girls want to kiss
Your chances improve if your first name is Chris

Sorry. @Nancy could probably do much better.

jae 10:05 PM  

@sara - re SB - good advice

@pabloinnh & Crimson Devil - my approach also.

albatross shell 10:29 PM  

@joe 9e0pm
My name is Chris. No help at all.

Z 10:37 PM  

17 of 68 in the New Yorker today. But not everyone can be Patrick Berry. 31D made me laugh.

JC66 11:15 PM  


Me, too.

Joe Dipinto 11:37 PM  

@albatross shell – maybe you can be waitlisted?

webwinger 10:06 PM  

@Anon 2:28 (and I guess 2:35):

“The info is not hard to find. Just let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Googles. Oh, and start watching MSNBC and take the Fox needle out of your vein.”

I read all of your references. Here are my responses:

Blaine County ID was a very hot spot in March, with a sizable outbreak that originated from a single source. There have to date been about 500 cases and 5 deaths there. No evidence of losses because of inadequate healthcare.

No denying this has happened in a growing number, but still a small minority of rural counties. The overall numbers for Idaho are very modest; it ranks 43rd among states in per capita cases and 42nd in deaths, with new cases steady around 30 per day for the past month, and deaths trending downward.

This one supports my point, not yours: It’s the lockdown, and disappearance of elective surgeries, that are pushing rural hospitals toward the edge.

Yes, COVID is a thing in rural America. Never said it wasn’t.

More of the same.

This one is entirely about what could go wrong, not what has gone wrong.

COVID peaked later in rural areas than in cities. Otherwise more of the same.

This article appeared in the NYT on April 16. It describes events that occurred in mid-March, when the hospital featured in the report was under stress, but not overwhelmed per the description; goes on to state its “inpatient population … has dropped back to normal since then”.

Basically all of this reportage is hyping fear and worst-case expectations that have not come to pass. Could still happen, but it is conjecture, not fact, and trendlines do not in any way make it seem likely in the near future. Your other comments are simply the ramblings of the troll that you are, leftish but a troll nonetheless...

BTW, I haven’t watched an hour of Fox in my life. And if you are interested, I just completed a 10,000 word essay, loaded with data in support of various points and claims I’ve made here. I will be happy to share it with you if you email me a request.

spacecraft 11:41 AM  

There it is again-- "easy-medium--" and it isn't even OFC!! I fought with this for over an hour, accumulating LOTSA triumph points: challenging all the way.

Of course, when you hit me with a rapper at 1d, I'm not off to the best of starts. And 1a? I "knew" it couldn't be LAIC, because LAIC is two letters too short. That's the word. LAICAL to me is some lay person named AL. This word is actually listed, but it's absurdly redundant. Boo-hiss.

Despite gimme MAMIE, as in DOD Van Doren, these difficulties once again kept the NW from me till the very LASTSTEP. Other troubles stalled me in the middle; I forgot all about MEANSTREETS and tried to stretch Taxi Driver one extra space. Must've counted that three times. STREETS was ahead of its time, and so not as widely popular as it should have been.

And that clue for UNPACK! Is that a thing? What has happened to our language? Oh George, your prediction was thirty-some years too early: Newspeak is here! And then, of all the JUANs in the world, you pick one that might be known by solvers--both of them! If you never lived there you're toast. Add to that a musical I never heard of until today. And you call this easy-medium. IMNOTOK with that.

The fact that I did manage to finish correctly is enough for a birdie.

Burma Shave 2:26 PM  


with who’ll STEP up to BATNEXT,


rondo 2:49 PM  

SPARE me CHRIS, you put your own name in the puz. I get to say that because I’ve met the fellow, I think I’ve had my picture taken with him, and others; seems like a nice guy, and this is a pretty nice puz. But IMUST question TEENTSY a TEENTSY bit. BANKONIT, ARIANA Grande as yeah baby. Nice puz CHRIS.

rainforest 4:30 PM  

Despite some difficulty in the NW, I found this puzzle to be medium (more or less). I had the same problem with LAIC and LAICAL as @Spacey, but it was the side-by-side LIL KIM and AMANDA were daunting. Thanks to MAMIE and KNEE, it was do-able.

The rest of the puzzle was just a lot of fun and I loved the way the wide-open centre just fell together.

I did wonder if one can have a single JITTER, but the other 'J' word gave no problems as I have swum, fished and sailed in the JUAN de Fuca strait. Nice to have that gimme. UNPACK can be used in a lot of ways, so even if it is annoying, it is with us, and it is versatile. No problem.

This was an excellent Friday puzzle.

Diana, LIW 4:53 PM  

Despite an infinite number of PPP entries, I was able to finish this. Persistence points abound.

I'll never forget LILKIM, as I thought this rapper was a guy the last time we met in a puz. I was schooled by a fellow SyndieCat. And I immediately knew some kind of "lait…." would be the first answer.

JINX was new to me in this particular context - could easily have Jinxed the whole solve.

And now, oops, I see I did have one letter off in my grid. Just a TEENTSY error.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting with the sun a'shining

leftcoaster 5:13 PM  

Some sort of "error" wiped out my comments. (Argh.)

Guest reviewer Rachel Fabi said it all very well.

Anonymous 11:27 PM  

Very tough puzzle for me especially with a limited amount of time.

Laical needs to go onto the trash heap, but otherwise seems to be a fair puzzle.

Liked the contemporary nature of many of the clues/answers.

Wish we could get back to more laissez-faire,and dump the restrictive measures.

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