Item in toxic internet challenge / SUN 5-10-20 / Theater impresario Ziegfeld / Half of ice cream brand with fake Danish name / Proboscis informally / Ancho pepper before drying / Black pie crust component / Wellsian race of future / Fruit with obovate shape / Vaper's device informally / 60s dance craze that evolved from Chicken / Classic computer game set on abandoned island

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Constructor: Adam Fromm

Relative difficulty: Medium (11:37)

THEME: "Border Crossings" — two countries that abut one another (I think), and then there's some word that "crosses" (i.e. spans) the "border" between the two countries (when their names are pushed together)—it's the "border-crossing" word that is clued:

Theme answers:
  • CHADLIBYA (23A: Wing it [Africa])
  • LAOSCAMBODIA (28A: Complete rip-off [Asia]
  • GUATEMALABELIZE (41A: Record company [Central America])
  • BULGARIAGREECE (58A: What subjects and verbs must do [Europe])
  • AUSTRIAGERMANY (66A: Sort by urgency of need [Europe])
  • BRAZILARGENTINA (86A: T-shirt size [South America])
  • MYANMARCHINA (99A: First month of the year without a U.S. federal holiday [Asia])
  • CHILEPERU (108A: Biblical outcast [South America])
Word of the Day: FLORENZ Ziegfeld, Jr. (54D: Theater impresario Ziegfeld) —
Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr. (March 21, 1867 – July 22, 1932) was an American Broadwayimpresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat. He was known as the "glorifier of the American girl". Ziegfeld is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame. (wikipedia)
• • •

First, the title should've been a revealer. Second, even that wouldn't have helped much, because this is dull as hell. Countries are pushed together. Random words get clued. Clued words have nothing in common. Why? The whole thing is ... I mean, it's far far far more "oh, huh" than "wow." Like, you might observe that this theme is *possible*, but ... like, why? For "leper"? Seriously, why? It felt like some very last-century wordplay. And the fill, well, that was the tell. That was how you knew the whole thing is really not up to date. There's very little of interest, and a whole lot of GUANO and TRIPE. Even the longer stuff is quaint and/or tedious. No idea what TORRES (57D: ___ Strait, separator of Australia and Papua New Guinea) or FLORENZ were, and SWORD DANCE is some ye olde quainte stuff (68D: Scottish tradition before battle). "FLEABAG" and "STICK 'EM UP!" are both fun, but that's it. Fun, over. Aside from having to endure TED f***ing CRUZ, the whole NE is a disaster, and ELOI NANA AEIOU (w/ cutesy clue!) HAAGEN AREOLA A-ONE disaster. COCOA and CACAO really shouldn't be in the same grid at all—too close, sound- and sense-wise. A proboscis is a SNOUT. A SNOOT is a conceited person. ARYA is not a winner—dipping your ladle into the "Random GOT Names" pot does not count as creative grid-building.

DAU is one of the absolute worst abbrs. I've ever seen in a grid. I had DA- and ... no idea. I take it DAU is short for "daughter." Yeah, thanks, I hate it. But I don't hate it as much as the definite-article version of THE NEA. That ... is terrible. NEA appears all the time in the grid, no problem big union, seen it, fine, next! But *THE* NEA!? You really have to earn your definite article and the NEA just does not. Not. I have that answer circled with "AWFUL" written underneath it. See, here's the thing: when your theme is a drag, all of a sudden every single flaw and weakness in your grid starts becoming more and more prominent, more and more screechy. You gotta give the people something to love. Barring a genuinely interesting theme, some winning fill, because absent both ... yikes. Also, who f***ing microwaves POPTARTs? They "pop" up ... from a toaster. What is wrong with this puzzle?

TIDE POD is the narc-iest answer (89D: Item in a toxic internet "challenge"). It reeks of "hello, fellow youths! Anyone down for some word-crossing? Radical!" It's already a stale-as-hell fad / joke / whatever it was. Also, your age is showing with that FRUG nonsense (104D: '60s dance craze that evolved from the Chicken). Make it FRET and all of a sudden you've got a more accessible and more interestingly cluable grid. Bam bam. But sure, FRUG, knock yourself out. Who doesn't love the FRUG especially when it gets you ... DOGE? I'm just BEMUSED by allll of this. I never, not once, felt "well this is fun" while solving this. By contrast, that's what I felt *most* of the time I was solving Saturday's puzzle. Themes should be better and more interesting and more surprising than a grade-schooler's magic trick or riddle. Also, the clues for the "border" words were themselves So Dull. I guess if you are reallllly into Geography (like, remedial geography) then this puzzle might be a treat. But "discovering" that AUSTRIA and GERMANY abut and also contain (together) a word only slightly more pleasant than "leper" (see 108A) ... yeah, that was not a treat for me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


kitshef 12:04 AM  

Wait … supple leather isn’t made from TOESKIN?

My first impression was that the theme seemed quite weak, and that there would be hundreds of these. Then I realized that the real-life countries border each other. So, no Madagascar/Eswatini = CARES, for example.

That extra level makes the theme impressive.

Nits: DAU … SRSLY!?!? YEN used as a verb – technically OK, but not something any English speaker does. SO CUTE as a cheek pincher exclamation. No.

Timor Leste/Indonesia – STEIN

Tom R 12:16 AM  

Agree with Rex on this one. Also, once you suss out one country its too easy to get the second country even without the circled real clue letters. Doesn't actually work well as an idea.

James 2:02 AM  

I was going to defend the dated FRUG
based on its late 90s indie rock angle, but I guess even that is stale by a couple of decades. Anyway, I felt compelled to post the
Rilo Kiley video. Enjoy!

chefwen 2:44 AM  

I rather liked this one. My first fill was OLD COOT, that was what my brother, semi lovingly called our father in his later years, mainly because he was a Cranky codger, but I sure do miss him.

Got the theme pretty early with ADLIB and that’s how I worked the rest of it, figuring out the clue answers and then searching for the right countries.

Do people still eat Pop Tarts? Yuk!

I make my famous Mango Cheesecake with an OREO crust and a Passion Fruit glaze.

Fun Sunday puzzle from my almost namesake.

MommaJ 6:01 AM  

I also thought this was boring but rated it stupid easy--my term for a puzzle that offers zero challenge and not an iota of cleverness. I finished it in record time and didn't enjoy a second of it.

Evan 6:07 AM  

This is what happens when you decide to turn your idea for a Sporcle quiz into a crossword puzzle theme.

Anonymous 6:09 AM  

Well, I thought the "Border Crossings" was clever - who knew one could take two countries that are neighbors, place their names side-by-side and come up with so many words at their "borders"? Even just noting this "geographical curiosity" took some observational skills and imagination. Also, I appreciated a theme that is relevant to our current geopolitical situation. Nice job, Adam!

Not a great time for me... A little over an hour. I agree with Rex about some of the fill. I also got hung up near the SW (do you look "in hands"? "at hands"? "to hands"? kept thinking "hands"...); and up at "like tap water in a restaurant" (waiters ask me "sparkling or flat"... and I was thinking, oh, "FLAT" is crossing "FLAT"... but no). I don't get "dishearten"="UNMAN" - have never heard this used, although I looked it up afterwards and yes, there it is.

Smile-evokers: "POPE" for the "smoke" clue recalled the movie, Shoes of the Fisherman; "DIECAST" recalled my large (>500) collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, all red; and "Org. behind the New Horizons project" recalled the Pluto fly-by, which I followed.

Be well and stay safe -


Lewis 6:36 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mmorgan 6:36 AM  

Pretty much agree with Rex, but FLORENZ was a gimme for me.

Lewis 6:40 AM  

I like this theme. Crosswords are about crossing words and this theme is about border-crossing words. Clever idea. I found the theme answers, however, to be a bit too easy for Sunday. I would have liked the clues for the words in the circles to be one level tougher, and for the theme clues not to include the bracketed continent. Then there would have been a steeper mountain to climb, and maybe a SWORD DANCE at the end.

But I still enjoyed touring through this. I learned a few things. A dolphin has five fins. A Pop Tart takes three seconds to microwave. And speaking of the Scottish SWORD DANCE, if you want to picture it more clearly, here's this from Wikipedia: "The earliest reference also mentioned that the dance is often accompanied with the music of bagpipes. The basic rule requires the dancer to cross two swords on the ground in an "X" or "+" shape and to dance around and within the four quarters of it."

The the minimum length for circled words here is five letters, and I wondered if there were more theme possibilities, so I looked at Africa and South America, and found several four-letter border crossers (such as that for Morocco and Algeria), but no fives, although there was a wannabe five with Panama and Venezuels, except, darn it all, for Columbia separating the two. And if you thought LEPER was a bit of a downer, at least Adam didn't include the abutting Botswana and Zimbabwe.

I adored the clue for POPE -- [One whose job prospects go up in smoke?] -- highly original (found nothing like it searching clue databases), funny, and tough. And, outside the theme answers, there was enough bite for a good BRAINY workout. So all this abutting engendered abiding praise from me, and thank you, Adam!

webwinger 6:56 AM  

About par for Sunday. Geographically sound theme did not delight, but it worked; TRIAGE helped me get unstuck in the NorCal area. Resorted to Reveal to fix DNF at cross of ARYA (seems obscure even by GoT standards) and TORE (I guess Rent is the past tense of Rend?) because I didn’t care enough to spend precious nanoseconds protecting a 1-week streak.

Pretty much in agreement with @RP’s specific complaints, except for finding FLORENZ a gimme. In 40 years of practicing ophthalmology never recall hearing the term AREOLA in reference to the Iris. At first entered Stamen, thinking the clue must be a flower reference.

Smitty 6:57 AM  

Noticed Kylo REN and his mother LEIA in time for Mothers day. Also force DYAD tied in but maybe not intentionally. Sundays are always a slog for me so I have to look hard for clever.

Z 7:05 AM  

I disliked this less than Rex. Sussed out the theme immediately and then it was just a matter of slogging through. I never did figure out what DAU was, nor did I care enough to waste even one nanosecond figuring it out. I had totally forgotten about it until Rex mentioned it. Do we think it is new ese to learn? i hope not. But, yeah, geography theme, Meh. The thing is, real geography fascinates me. Even something barebones like the CIA’s The World Factbook has lots of info worth thinking about. But in crossword puzzles it is only the boring stuff, capitals and rivers mostly. Today, which country’s abut. I never, not once, felt "well this is fun" while solving this. Yep.

Which speaks to something @JC66 said yesterday. I think you’re right about Rex choosing not to eviscerate yesterday what he would have in some other puzzle. But I think it comes back to that “fun” factor. If one is enjoying the solve a puzzle’s peccadilloes are forgiven or even missed. But be boring and the slightest flaw becomes The Worst Thing Ever. And that ain’t just Rex.

@Evan - Thanks for that clip.

@chefwen - yummy.

JJ 7:13 AM  

Who notices things like this? I agree with Lewis that the clues for the circled answers were Mondayish, but still enjoyed the solve.
Can you imagine someone’s head exploding if the answer to “Put on a show” ended in R?
I don’t mind the gimme crosswordese, it always gets the puzzle going, and anytime I’m reminded of Casablanca it just makes me smile.

Diver 7:17 AM  

Really wanted STAG for HART, and thought maybe CHAD LIBYA was some kind of rap singer. OLD COOT was a gimme, since I am one. Straightforward, not terribly entertaining Sunday puzzle. Half a cup of coffee; I actually beat Rex's time on this one by a few seconds.

Lance 7:21 AM  

As someone using quarantine time to catch up on some pop culture, I wish they would have clued Arya in a less spoiler-y way. I’ve done a good job avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers, only to walk into it in a pretty bad crossword.

pmdm 7:24 AM  

The review here is pretty much a pan.For Jeff, the puzzle was POW worthy. My reaction is somewhere in between. Yes, the theme was a bit easy to figure out and helped a lot in solving the gird, but I don't consider the difficulty of the theme answers indicative of the worth of the puzzle. For me, the relationship of a challenging crossword to a fun crossword is nebulous. Either can win the day for me.

The puzzle is not dull. Not for me, No way. Does composing a critique that seems to call me stupid a good thing to do? It's OK to be bored by a puaale, but that doesn't mean the puzzle is dull. It just means you responded it in a certain way. I do not like statements that are expressed in a manner that turns one's subjective judgment into an infallible fact. Enough on that.

And to the question of WHY. While there is no inherent law that every question has an answer, one can certainly justify a theme based on the fact it resulted in the puzzle being published and the constructor being paid for the effort of assembly a printable puzzle, good or bad. THAT brings me to a WHY question that seems to me to have no answer.

pmdm 7:37 AM  

Z: About my comment yesterday. I was not damning Eric, although it may I seemed that way. I was just expressing my normal reaction to his efforts, which seemed at odds with the general consensus. As it turns out, I ultimately enjoyed the challenge of solving the puzzle. Perhaps what I wrote sounded stringer than I meant my observation to be. I certainly did not mean my comment to stir up the type of reaction you refer to.

I've been picked on before. I normally do not feel anyone is picking on me here intentionally, even if they disagree with me. And I don't feel you were picking on me. It is useful to understand how what one writes comes off to others, and find the feedback positive. I just hope my comment for today's puzzle does not come off too strong. That's one of the problems of posting a comment early in the morning.

Hungry Mother 7:42 AM  

A rather quick slog this morning. I loved the theme and working it out, but I felt overwhelmed by names. I’ll take the W.

Suzie Q 7:53 AM  

Easy but fun. I enjoy geography so this was up my alley.
Agree that the clue for pope was the most memorable.
I guess there are only two cities in Iowa, at least in crossworld.

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

As a newcomer to NYT puzzles, I agree with pmdm.
Wow- many comments seem elitist and nasty.

Twangster 8:06 AM  

A very high-sugar puzzle ... we've got the aforementioned Poptarts, smores, and a plug for Lara Bars, which like most bars, has multiple sources of sugar (brown rice syrup, cane syrup, chicory fiber syrup, plus maltodextrin) and is not a healthy food choice (whatever "nutritional snack" is supposed to mean ... is that a hint that it's not nutritious?).

Nancy 8:12 AM  

What a cool, fun-to-solve puzzle! And that's because it was done this way, rather than the boring way most embedded tiny little circle puzzles are done. The boring ones clue the long word(s), after which you may (or may not) notice that there's an embedded word in the tiny little circles. Since you didn't need the embedded word to solve, that word is really superfluous.

This takes the opposite approach. It clues the embedded word but nothing else. It's up to you the solver to figure out the much longer fill that surrounds it. It makes the embedded word the key element and much more interesting. It gives you, the solver, much more to do, thinking-wise. And while the theme answers were pretty easy to figure out once you had found the embedded "glue", the surrounding fill was challenging enough that I, for one, relied on the theme answers to help me complete the puzzle.

I think this is a beautiful example of what to me is the cardinal rule of choosing a good theme: Give solvers as much to figure out as you can. They'll thank you for it. At least most of them will.

charlesr55 8:15 AM  

Please explain “AEIOU”

JillDNY 8:18 AM  

I still don’t understand how rent = tore and dishearten = unman. Maybe I’m having a slow Sunday but could someone help me out?

Lance 8:29 AM  

GAthErIng clOUds

Adam Lipkin 8:35 AM  

RENT -- past tense of "rend"
UNMAN -- old word meaning to dishearten
AEIOU -- vowels literally found in "Gathering Clouds"

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

DOGE crossing FRUG? No. Game over. Try again next week.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

@Charles, The vowels in the clue in order.

Adam Lipkin 8:37 AM  

Personally, I loved the theme, and much for the same reason Nancy did - I normally hate "here are some circles" puzzles, but here, they were clues in themselves, and gave me two ways to work each themed answer.

Not upset about POPTART -- I've seen the info on microwaving them on the box, and made fun of it many a time with friends. No, they shouldn't be nuked, but Kelloggs still gives us instructions on how to do it.

Joaquin 8:39 AM  

@Lewis (6:40) has provided us with additional information about the Scottish sword dance. I will add a Scottish word I just learned as it seems to apply to someone currently in the news (though I doubt we will see it in a NYT xword any time soon):

COCKWOMBLE (noun) A person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behavior while generally having a very high opinion of their own wisdom and importance.

Small Town Blogger 8:39 AM  

Those vowels are listed in order in the words “gathering clouds”

Small Town Blogger 8:40 AM  

Rent is past tense of rend, I.e. tear

Teedmn 8:41 AM  

STICK 'EM UP is interesting to see in a puzzle. GUANO and QUALM, POPTART, the odd clue for AEIOU, FRUG, RESCIND.

The theme left me BEMUSED for a while until LAOS/CAMBODIA filled in enough to be obvious and that realization shortened the solve quite nicely.

I liked the 70A clue, "Food chain link" = PREY.

Some nice stuff here, thanks, Adam Fromm.

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

@pmdm alleges that Rex’s critique “seems to call [@pmdm] stupid” because Rex “turns his subjective judgement into an infallible fact.” I think that’s mostly unfair.

Rex is emphatic in his opinions to be sure. But it seems to me that he does not berate those who don’t share his opinions. Look at what he wrote below and count all the I’s and me’s. (Will concede that the remedial geography snark was intemperate.)

“I never, not once, felt "well this is fun" while solving this. By contrast, that's what I felt *most* of the time I was solving Saturday's puzzle. Themes should be better and more interesting and more surprising than a grade-schooler's magic trick or riddle. Also, the clues for the "border" words were themselves So Dull. I guess if you are reallllly into Geography (like, remedial geography) then this puzzle might be a treat. But "discovering" that AUSTRIA and GERMANY abut and also contain (together) a word only slightly more pleasant than "leper" (see 108A) ... yeah, that was not a treat for me.”

chuck w 8:45 AM  

charlesr55: All those vowels appear in order in the phrase "gathering clouds." JillDNY: rent is the past of "rend" or "tear"

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Rex probably hated it early as the Ted Cruz answer was at 12 down. Finding bordering countries that have a word that spans them is pretty impressive to me. I liked the puzzle because I finished it with almost no help. Rex is getting crustier and crustier each week. Maybe if Trump loses in November, we'll see some joy from Rex.

JR 8:49 AM  

JILL DNY dishearten, maybe to take out the heart means no longer a man. maybe for rent and tore, the word rend means to tear, so he is using the past tenses.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Rent is past tense of rend, meaning to tear. Unman is a perhaps out-of-date usage. To unman is to intimidate or emasculate, thus to dishearten.

Onthelam 8:52 AM  

Charlesr55 - The sentence runs the vowels in order

JillDNY - the past tense of tearing or to rend something - it's rent. I know - it's a stretch.

Unman - I'm with you!

Easy, kind of dull. Record Sunday time for me when just when I want more of a challenge,

pabloinnh 8:55 AM  

This was a fun enough and useful Sunday to still keep me indoors, as outside, where the chores are, it's still plenty chilly (2" of snow yesterday). Getting the theme early meant I could try to guess the answer in the circles or discern the two countries. I ended up alternating which permitted variety, ergo, more interest.

Could have clued TORRES as "Spanish soccer star Fernando", but since the theme was geographical, I guess it's OK the way it is, although unknown to me.

We thought we could sit forever INFUN,
When our chances really, they was a million to one.

How true was that?

Almost sabotaged myself with the MYST/YENFOR cross at the end, one WTF crossing an unusual usage. Finally just wrote it in and came here to see if I guessed right.

Not bad, AF. Falls squarely in the Sundecito category. Thanks for the diversion.

LeaveItToYourGoat 8:59 AM  

The letters AEIOU all show up alphabetically in the phrase "gathering clouds" and are the only vowels in that phrase.

The title IS a revealer. The clued words (AD LIB, SCAM, LABEL, et al) literally cross the border of the two countries for each of the theme answers in the grid. I think you were just too eager to bash this one. Have to agree with you about the SE corner... OENO/FRUG crossing DOGE is criminally unnecessary.

albatross shell 9:06 AM  

SCAM is 4 letters.
Speaking of 4 letter overlaps, checkout Des Moines and AMES.

SNOOT's primray definition is nose. My guess is it evolved in to snooty and snoot as snobby and snob because snobs looks down their snoots at others.

I thought there were enough pluses to balance out some of Rex's minuses. I did not know the ice cream company name was fake. And if anybody remembers my rant against strawberry ice cream that company has the strawberry hunks sliced so thin they are an exception. SWORDDANCE QUALM WRITEOFF RESCIND HARTS CROESUS POPE POBOY all have something I learned or good clues or words I enjoy seeing in puzzles. ARYA was one of my faves in Got. The theme was wonderful as an aid for working the puzzle. And jeez, Rex, you wanted to run adjacent countries together to find words, and then have all those words to have a common thread. Is that realistic or a straw man argument? But you are right, there is some bad stuff. Not a pile of sparkle. But it is Sunday and it was less soggy than many. At least for me.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

As distinguished from the vowels that are metaphorically found in Gathering clouds.

albatross shell 9:14 AM  

You nailed why the theme made the puzzle fun. Thanks.

@mericans in Paris 9:34 AM  

Happy Mothers' Day to those who are celebrating it, especially Grams! I hope you are all keeping well.

Like @chefwen, Mrs. 'Mericans and I liked today's puzzle, but found it easy rather than medium. Perhaps it's because we're up on our geography. During the first half of February, for example, we spent 2 weeks in south-east Asia, mainly in LAOS, but starting at the capital and working our way north along the Mekong, ultimately ending near the MYANMAR-CHINA border. In 2015 we visited the Iguacu Falls, which is located on the rather narrow BRAZIL-ARGENTINA border. Have also visited AUSTRIA, GERMANY, GREECE, and PERU, but not yet the other ones on the list.

We were also BEMUSED by seeing ROB and STICK 'EM UP in the same puzzle. QUALM's a good word. (Had "doubt" first.) Only tough spot was ELOI crossing RAIL ON. (We had RAIL at for the longest time and wondered whether the answer to "Gram" was NotA.)

Perhaps not a BRAINY puzzle, but all IN GOOD FUN.



Lewis 9:39 AM  

@albatross shell -- Good catch on SCAM! Maybe Adam ran out of fives.

Paul Harrington 9:47 AM  

Boot in the snoot

Ethan Taliesin 9:55 AM  

Good luck constructing a puzzle where geographically sorted country names join to create new words in the middle that have something in common. That's an impossible ask. If that's the standard we'd have much fewer gimmicks passing muster.

At least the gimmick answers were extra speedy solves, which pushed it forward.

FLEABAG was nice to see, and I also liked TIDEPOD, and STICKEMUP looked good in the grid. A lot of bad fill though, undoubtedly due to having to work into those long country answers.

I agree the theme should not compromise the fill, but as sure as the sun rises in the east...

RooMonster 10:01 AM  

Hey All !

Interesting theme. @Lewis, there is a four-letterer themer, SCAM, with your acute puz observations I'm quite frankly astonished you missed that. So that opens up your other possibilities. (That was sincere, BTW, not a slight. You always catch stuff I'd never have seen.)

That SW corner looks like it must've been tough to fill for Adam, as the three Acrosses are multi-worders, crossed by INFUN and DCAREA. Agree with Rex on changing the SE FRUG. Wondering if Adam Did originally have FRET.

Liked the fact of the Countries' real life borderings.

DNF on four letters, that ARYA/TORE cross, had an N, had SnORDDANCE/INnARDS, (har) because SNORD sounded like something Scots-ish, and INnARDS are insides, yes? cHAD/cRIPE, cRIPEs! And now, can't remember the fourth!

So an overall nice SunPuz. Off to the Bee.

Seven F's - Super!

paige worthy 10:03 AM  

Man, you are the CRABBIEST!! Just came here to say that ARYA is a shitty GoT spoiler but not exactly dipping the ladle into a random pot of characters.

KnittyContessa 10:13 AM  

I love a fun Sunday puzzle. I guess I'll have to wait for next week because I thought today's was boring. I guess I did learn that RENT is the past tense of rend. HAAGEN Daz made me YENFOR ice cream which made me sad because there's at least a 2 week wait for Peapod deliveries.

I haven't thought of POPTARTS in years. Watched Jerry Seinfeld's latest special on Netflix last night he mentioned POPTARTS. This morning the CBS weather guy mentioned POPTARTS. Now the puzzle. It's a POPTART trifecta! I agree with Rex on this. You toast them, never microwave them.

Blue Stater 10:35 AM  

Right up there in the WOAT sweepstakes. I do not understand why WS accepted this puzzle. I do not understand why the NYT published it. But then there's a lot I don't understand about the dreadful fate of NYTXW over the last quarter century....

Anonymoose 10:42 AM  

The idea of a spoiler alert has come up at least twice regarding GOT and ARYA slaying the Night King. That was a year ago. Is there a statute of limitations on spoiler alerts? A year seems long enough.

Lorelei Lee 10:48 AM  

My former husband once said, "You aren't as smart as people think you are." This puzzle is a example of what he was talking about. It's evidenced in a situation that demands more concentration than my brain cares to give, and my brain shuts down.

Three themers on a Thursday, I might've soldiered on. But then there was all the fill a Sunday demands, and having to think of things like the name of a former Mississippi senator gummed up the works and the gears stopped.

Great puzzle. Resistant brain.

@Nancy, Thank you for the kind words! I'm too much of a Luddite to have a profile. I purposely go through my google news feed (which I can't figure out how to shut off) selecting "Not Interested," all the while mumbling "none of your business" when it asks why.

But here's the rap sheet. Thirty years in business development for lawyers and engineers (brand development and management, don't say that to potential clients, say this, blah blah blah). It's basically taking their 50-word sentences and breaking them into 3-sentence paragraphs so that actual human beings can understand what they're talking about. My BA in journal (a lot of BS) paid off.

On Corona furlough in what was to be my last year before retirement and may be in retirement and just not realize it. Using my time to pray that I’m dreaming and will wake up in country with a functioning constitution. Reading the bible.

Pamela 10:49 AM  

I’m a traveler in normal times, so I found the geography lessons mildly interesting. Curious how many times I had to wait for crosses to get a country, most notably in South America and Asia, which I’ve seen less of. A mini travelogue, evoking memories and unfulfilled desires.

Flo Zeigfield was legendary. His water ballets were magical and exciting to see. When I was in my 20’s, my roommate and I watched as many of his old movies as we could find on TV, and I’ve never forgotten them.

So yes, a slog In some ways, but also diverting. I liked it.

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Do people still eat Pop Tarts?

Ah... mine is Hostess Fruit Pies!

can someone help me reconcile OFL's knee jerk reaction to anything Nazi, and his apparent ignorance that Austria and Germany border each other???? does he think they evolved over the innterTubes??? talk about failing liberal education!!

Taffy-Kun 10:54 AM  

Google “cockwomble emoji” for a dive down the rabbit hole of emoji swearing

David 10:58 AM  

When one can get all the theme answers from a few crosses without bothering to even look at the clues it's a boring puzzle.

When a puzzle is boring and has little to no sparkle, well... just not for me.

Pamela 11:00 AM  

@Joaquin 8:39- Word of the day: COCKWOMBLE. Brilliant. Thank you!

Sean Sexton 11:14 AM  


Sean Sexton 11:14 AM  


Mo-T 11:18 AM  

Cripe, 98D, you guys are cranky today.

I'm old, so FRUG 104D is in my wheelhouse. I wore Go-Go boots. And I live with a COOT 4D.

I've been to Venice so DOGE 116A was easy. I've also read history books.

Ever see Funny Girl? If so, 40D Composer and 54D Ziegfeld are easy.

I'm a member of THE NEA (Ret.), so 113A didn't bother me. I've never said, "I am a member of NEA."

I first had KIDSKIN for DOESKIN 55A. It reminded me of always wanting to hold my mother's hand when she was wearing her kidskin gloves. Makes me a little sick now to think of that, baby animals and all.

I like that ranger in 91A was a verb rather than a noun. Clever.

Love "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and host AISHA Tyler 66D. Also liked her in her role on Criminal Minds. She's a versatile dramatic and funny actor, for sure.

I thought it was a little weird that SIERRA LEONE poked its head up as a borderless answer.

I do puzzles for fun and diversion, and this one gave me both. Thank you, Adam Fromm.

TJS 11:23 AM  

@pmdm : ". I do not like statements that are expressed in a manner that turns one's subjective judgment into an infallible fact." Man Oh Man, are you ever in the wrong place !! I was thinking of listing those of us, besides Rex, that do that on a daily basis, but I would have to go back and start researching comment names, which would be work, and then some would be offended if left off the list.

The puzzle. My Sunday bar is set so low that I was pleasantly surprised by this one. 40 plus minutes, Hurray. And cluing that did not go out of its way to show how smart and off-the-wall it could be, unlike yesterday. I'll take it.

Everyone call their Mothers, if possible. And Happy Mothers Day to all of you out there.

Foldyfish 11:25 AM  

If FRUG and/or DOGE never appear in another puzzle, it will be too soon for me. Blech.

David 11:29 AM  

I forgot to ask, what's so difficult about knowing when to use the objective case?

puzzlehoarder 11:33 AM  

An average Sunday. I was too tired after watching SNL to finish it and knocked it off this morning.

Realizing that all the countries actually bordered each other raised my appreciation of it. If one of the countries (AUSTRIA for example) was slow showing up at least the circled letters came through consistently.

@KnittyContessa, I recently watched that Seinfeld performance and was also reminded of his take on the nature of POPTARTs.

FRUG showing up on the puzzle is proof of why anyone who solves puzzles should be doing the daily SB as well. It was on one of the recent lists. I only remembered it from its pronunciation. Based on that it ought to be spelled FRooG but I tried FRUG for the hell of it and it stuck.

Speaking of the SB I missed yesterday's QB by one 5 letter word. It was one of those slightly archaic terms. Today it looks like I've got two more 4 letter words to go.

egsforbreakfast 11:36 AM  

I liked this puzzle in the same way that @Nancy did. Plus, I just love noticing oddball coincidences that might be expanded by finding other examples. Admittedly, once I grokked the theme, things got pretty easy because of the large numbers of squares that were always almost filling themselves. But still, a fun cup o’ Joe for me.

I liked @Joaquin’s revelation of cockwomble so much that I ended up reading an Esquire article titled There is a Crisis in British Swearing. Turns out it is “one of many faux-archaic compound insults” being used in relation to Trump, Brexit and other controversial topics de jour. some of the other insults are wankpuffin, no socket, shitflute and spunktrumpet. All good stuff,

Gotta go make the requested Dungeness Crab omelette for Mother’s Day breakfast.

dadnoa 11:45 AM  

+1 for the sis’s comment. My daughter (Who performed in a fifth grade sword dance and was thrilled to see THAT answer) and I came up,with a new geography trivia game while few letters do you need to figure out BOTH countries? Oh, wait, there were circles? ZZZZZZ....

Lance 11:48 AM  

A year is long enough, I’m just saying you can clue Arya a ton of ways without using a giant plot point.

thefogman 12:14 PM  

I liked this one a lot but Rex did not. Oh well, life goes on...

sixtyni yogini 12:15 PM  

What Rex sad but haha with more indifference.

jberg 12:35 PM  

I'm with @Lewis and @Nancy -- the theme was fun. But I'm more with Lewis-- Nancy, I know you probably commented before you read anyone else, but as he points out the constructor does not actually "give solvers as much to figure out as [one] can." And it doesn't clue only the embedded words -- it clues the region in which the two countries are found. So once you get one theme answer -- in my case, AD LIB, it's way too easy to get them all. Figure out the circled word from the clue, look for a country in the specified region that will put a few letters into the circles, but not overrun them, then you know exactly the number of letters in the second country. Unfortunately for me, I didn't notice until I was finished that all the country pairs actually shared a border, so I went with Panama before BELIZE. I figured LA PAN was a California-based company specializing in steel bands.

Like Lewis, also, I learned so much! Not only how many FINs a dolphin has, but how many LAS per verse are in Deck the Halls. (Unless you're Walt Kelly!) And apparently St. Patrick's Day is not a federal holiday? You'd never know that here in Massachusetts!

Minor flaw: the plural AGARS. More significant flaw: cluing LEONE as part of a country when all the other countries are in the theme answers. I'm pretty sure there are some famous-to-crossword people named LEONE, so that could have been avoided.

Sad story: the female DEER meets the HART of her dreams, but ends up as DOESKIN leather.

Also, I know about PEA shooters and PEA tendrils, but I've never heard of PEA shoots as a salad ingredient. But with a 3-letter word, what else could it be? (rye or oat, I guess), so not too serious.

Well, enough of that. I have to go don my gay apparel (or archaic barrel, whichever you prefer.)

John R 12:38 PM  

I had QUALMs about this puzzle when I saw it had a geography theme. That is an area of weakness for me. If the clues had been "Country bordering China" and "Country bordering Bulgaria" I would have been lost. Luckily the circled words made filling in the countries much easier for someone like me.

Using EAR candy instead of eye candy or ear worm was a nice change for me.

I am feeling SUPER BRAINY because I finally got to the QB yesterday. Sweet vic-torii!

Frantic Sloth 12:46 PM  

I don't have a lot to say except that I couldn't quite put my finger on whether I liked this puzzle or not.
Reading the comments often helps me tease out some reason why that is and today it came in the form of two comments:

@Lewis 640am "I would have liked the clues for the words in the circles to be one level tougher, and for the theme clues not to include the bracketed continent."
Exactly. Given the easy clues and the circles, having no bracket hints would have Emerilized* it. And less obvious clues would have added some crunch. As written, there was hardly a thought given before I filled in the answer - and that's saying something for me!


@Nancy 812am I didn't even notice that the whole circles first approach was the opposite of what is customary and that little nuance made a significant improvement in the fun factor. For me, more time sussing is always preferable to "zzzzzzzzzzzz."

Combining these two alternatives would have made for a near-perfect puzzle with some "oomph!"
The fill is the fill is the fill is inconsequential to me when there's a good, solid theme in the mix.

My final vote is in the "like" column, with the aforementioned caveats.

Oh, yeah - and that whole thing about dreaming up this theme, the bordering countries, and making it all fit is just the type of genius that keeps me in awe of every single constructor out there - despite any silly nits that happen to pour out of my gob.

Come to think of it, I should make that (or something like it) a "sticky note" at the beginning of all my critiques.

Rambling today - sorry. I guess "I don't have a lot to say" will always be a lie.

Good day.

*kicked it up a notch

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Joaquin, love that! Thanks for making my day!

tkincher 12:48 PM  

@James 2:02 - Love that Rilo Kiley song, that's always my first frug-related thought.

I liked this theme, personally, I thought it was a pretty snappy Sunday, as Sunday puzzles go.

Rug Crazy 12:49 PM  

I had fun. The theme was helpful. Hope all you x-worders are well. Happy Sunday

jp flanigan 12:51 PM  

GOT was one of the most popular TV shows of the last 20 years. I don't see why using the name of one of the main characters in the show (and one of the POV characters in he books) is out of bounds. If you can't use ARYA, then you can't use any TV character that what REX is saying?

Crimson Devil 12:54 PM  

I’m with Rex on this one: not my cuppa.
POPE good, thassall.
As Bear Bryant memorably said, in commercial for phone co, “Boys (kids), call yo’ Mommas; I wish I could call mine.”

CaryinBoulder 1:01 PM  

Cleverest thing by far today was @kitshef’s TOESKIN. For once I generally agree with @Rex. I never saw the title for the puzzle, but the themes were all dead easy after the first one. Finished in 2/3 my average Sunday time. Then again, any sense of accomplishment is welcome in these bizarre times. Not so much are GoT, Harry Potter or Star Wars clues — all series that I’ve seen the first episode of and thought “One is enough.” (Yeah, I realize I’m in a curmudgeonly minority.)

Laughed at GUANO only because it was a word that appeared today in my wife’s favorite and world’s slowest-moving action comic strip, Prince Valiant. If you’ve seen Steve Buscemi in TNT’s “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” you’ll get a laugh at the thought of Prince Val Shitshoveler.

I wanted 104D to be what O.V. Wright sings about as “that new dance that they call the FROG” in a song that only classic R&B lovers will familiar with, I Don’t Want to Sit Down . Check it out. It’ll definitely make you shake that butt you’ve been sitting on for the last two months.

CDilly52 1:04 PM  

I find @Rex so consistent in his inconsistency. His constructor bias seems to be showing again. Today the “find the letters to the answer in the clue itself” clue for AEIOU is no good but the same thing yesterday (last letter of first name, first two letters of last name to spell EGO) was just admirable. What?

And c’mon, @Rex, have you truly never heard of the Ziegfeld girls? Ever seen “Funny Girl?”

As for GOT, yep, it is really popular now. But at least by now we all know ARYA.

On Pop Tarts and the microwave. Nearly every weekday morning (or those mornings before COVID-19) as I pass by my favorite C store for coffee and possibly fuel, three construction workers come in almost the same time I do at least three or four times a week. We greet each other as we get our coffee and then these three gentlemen, also about 40, grab a two pack of pop tarts (specially packaged for C store sale) and they nuke them. Go figure. In fact the way I got to know these guys is I commented to them the first time I saw them nuke the tarts that “surely there must be a toaster here.” No. I have asked the manager several times whether that wouldn’t be possible and she says (snarkily) not just for their Pop Tarts. Hmmmm. Since then, I have noticed that the “new” and very competitive C store franchise popping up (pun intended) in my neck of the woods does indeed have toasters. And one is being built just half mile down the road from my usual haunt. I’ll tell the guys when next I see them, should we all ever get back to the workplace.

OLD COOT was one of my very first “sure thing” entries. Hi, @chedwen. That phrase immediately evokes the scene from “On Golden Pond” in which following an argument, Hepburn makes up with Fonda, kisses him and calls him an OLD COOT. That phrase along with “But you’re my curmudgeon” (Mrs. Hughes to Carson, Downton Abbey) became two of our frequent comments as the hubs and I aged into our later decades of marriage.

On the “nits” front (thank you @kitshef for such a measured word), my one and only true nit is dishearten first UNMAN. Barely fits but really just a “I choose this clue to misdirect and I know it isn’t clever” type clue. Editor??

Best clue without a doubt was the one for POPE. Stupidest mistake? For a hot second, I thought it referred to firefighters because they are on my mind after a devastating couple of fires on the OU campus Friday night. First fire a mere two blocks from my house. So, I thought the poLe the firefighters slide down? It’s prospects for usage go “up” when there’s smoke in the air? If that was a deliberate misdirect, well done Mr. Fromm! Then, I remembered the white smoke and the POPE!! Oh THAT up in smoke!!! Sheesh!

SWORD DANCE alert. Although High Laing acted the role of Harry Beaton, a young Edward Villella did a beautifully choreographed sword dance in the 1954 Gene Kelly/Van Johnson classic “Brigadoon.” It has many authentic steps, but also demonstrates his beautiful technique that made him one of the 20th century’s best danseurs premieres. Also led him to extraordinary worldwide success as an Artistic Director for Miami City Ballet. If only I knew how to embed a link, I would send you to the YouTube clip. If you love ballet, take a look. And Eddie wasn’t hard on the eye either!

I really enjoyed this Sunday despite my moment of disappointment that we did not have a woman constructor today. One of you in the neighborhood brain trust commented on the “Fact of the theme” being more interesting than the actual experience. An excellent description that acknowledges the time and effort it took to identify neighboring countries with “acceptable” (Hi @Lewis with Botswana and Zimbabwe) embedded words.

Sunday worthy and enjoyable without being a slog or painful. Slowed because until the very end, I read 74A as mediAtors not mediTAtors. Yeah.

Happiest of days to all who provide “mothering” to humans, animals and our planet. But especially to Moms and Grans of all kinds.

CDilly52 1:06 PM  

@chefwen. The description of your luscious cheesecake made me YEN FOR a slice for brunch. Tropical fruit flavors are my favorites.

jae 1:08 PM  

Medium. Thought the theme was interesting, especially given the bordering constraint. Liked it more than Rex did.

Xcentric 1:09 PM  

Tackled NW corner first, so I got the theme at ad lib. From then on countries dropped in easily once I got the overlap word. Tee shirt size was a gimme. I guess the only nod to Mothers Day was DAU and NANA, but really DAU? Thought grammy have been a better clue for NANA, in more than one sense.
All in all a fun, easy solve.

CDilly52 1:10 PM  

I ran really long this morning and had to cut out a bunch, but decided to come back to register my disappointment that we did not at least have a woman constructor today or heaven forfend some nod to all those of any stripe who nurture the world’s young or the planet herself. Surely Mr. Shortz has a submission or two that would be Sunday worthy? Or did nobody notice that both Mother’s and Father’s Days always fall on Sunday so there were no possibilities? I shall watch Dad’s Day with great interest.

Patricia Hughes 1:12 PM  

Frug was easy (disclosure: I danced it in the 60s). Snoot not so much since I could not remember how to spell schnoz and worked really hard on 5 letter combinations for a while. Otherwise a pleasant rainy Sunday diversion.

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Mohair Sam 1:20 PM  

@anon(10:42) - Yeah, we who are impatiently awaiting the sixth book Martin may never write need a spoiler alert on the ARYA clue.

Carola 1:24 PM  

I'm with @Colin 6:09 in his first paragraph. I admired the constructor's creativity and enjoyed seeing what he'd come up with next.
Rocky start up top with HOT Cider, fishES instead of LOAVES, and mAO as the beginning of my "I have no idea what's going on" Asia entry. Finally got oriented at GUATEMALA and coasted through the rest of the map.
@Smitty 6:57 - Thank you for pointing out the Star Wars Mother's Day tribute.

webwinger 1:30 PM  

@Lorelei Lee: Enjoy your comments (and your nom-de-blog’s reminder of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, perhaps her greatest performance). If you email me I will try to walk you through the go blue process—start by clicking on the blue name above this post, then on the profile page that appears, click on Email in blue below the avatar image. (Helps if you have a free Google/gmail account to start, but straightforward to remedy that.)

Randy (Boulder) 1:34 PM  

I was solving this on my phone last night with my 10yo and 6yo sons. It's become a bit of a "tradition" during our COVID times. In a typical Sunday, there are enough PPP that they'll know, like Harry Potter and Star Wars, etc.

So, sure enough, Kylo REN. Then we get to his mother, _EIA. My 10yo's gaze was drawn by the circled crossing, _ARGE. So he blurted out, "MARGE!" So, now we have a new family Star Wars character named MARGE REN. Pronouned like margarine, the boys decided!

JC66 1:35 PM  


I emailed you an Embedding Cheat Sheet.

Hope it helps.

egsforbreakfast 1:42 PM  

China + Mongolia = AMONG

Teedmn 1:48 PM  

@Mohair Sam, I, too, await book VI of GoT. But I also saw all of the seasons of the HBO production. I'm hoping mightily that the books do not follow the arc of the show - they certainly didn't take into account the snippets that GRRM has published on his website.

OTOH, perhaps what is holding up vol. VI is his need to re-write to match the show - I hope not.

Some wag, early in the COVID-19 crisis, suggested it had been created in order to make Mr. Martin stay home and write. Dark, but more likely than any of the other conspiracy theories I've heard...

What? 1:52 PM  

Why no Mother’s Day theme?

Anonymous 1:57 PM  


Years ago, while living in Boston, my instructor took the group to a demonstration by a, then well known, tai-chi master, T.T. Liang, since passed on. At the time, he was in his 70s, still quite short (he lived to 102, by the way). The most impressive part of his demonstration was a sword form, using a scimitar nearly as tall as he was. There are likely youtube videos of tai-chi sword forms, never considered looking. Of course, not much use against Indiana Jones with a pistol, naturally. Just don't eat the figs.

Unknown 2:11 PM  

dull is a compliment quit after Chad Libya from now on quitting puzzles that stink from the get go...

better things to do than torture myself during a pandemic no less!

PhilipArtGlass 2:18 PM  

Do many of us also do the Crostic? Do any bloggers Rex it?

Pamela 2:21 PM  

@egsforbreakfast- You win. Shitflute! Spunktrumpet! Wow!

ghthree 2:26 PM  

Four observations:
1: Rex asks "Who (unnecessary expletive) microwaves pop tarts? They pop up from a toaster." As it happens, where my wife and I are currently trapped by the shutdown, we have access to a microwave, but no toaster. Not that it matters. Neither of us eats pop tarts.
2: Like many of today's posters, I wondered about 15 Down. I actually had three post-solve "aha" moments. First, when I realized that all vowels were included in the phrase "gathering clouds." Second, when I realized that they were in alphabetical order. Third, that each appeared exactly once. A trifecta!
3: In the classic book "Software Tools" Kernighan and Plauger of Bell Labs described the algorithm that led to the UNIX program GREP, and ultimately to Google's search engine. They gave two examples of *single words* that contained all five vowels in order, and even managed to include the sixth "sometimes" vowel, by turning them into adverbs: "abstemiously" and "facetiously."
4: Like Diver at 7:17, I had "stags" instead of "harts" and never looked back, messing up a bunch of entries. Also had "THEM" instead of "whom" for 102 Down, and never heard of "Tide Pod challenge." So several DNFs, but enjoyed it anyway. Stay safe, everybody.

John R 2:45 PM  

@jberg -thanks for the Walt Kelly reference! You got me trying to remember the lyrics, so I looked them up. Here is a link:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie

Along those lines, here is "No Corona" by Daniel Emmet

No, Corona

Z 2:51 PM  

@pmdm - I quite literally meant “not to pick on you.” I probably should have written, “Not to pick on you but to pick on a bunch of people from yesterday.” I’m also with @anon8:44. Rex states his opinions and he states them strongly. I have often argued that constructors should put on their big boy panties and read Rex and take his advice. Not any easy thing to do, but it would make them better at making crosswords. That does not mean everything he writes is immutable. Just like my saying MJ is over-rated isn’t immutable.... Oh, wait, that is an immutable fact.* Anyway, having to constantly point out that one’s opinion is just an opinion is a little tedious and not exactly entertaining writing.

@anon8:44 - Yep. I’d have preferred “basic” to “remedial.”

UNMAN is related to “man up.” I’m pretty sure @The Bard could post an illuminating scene or two. I’m a little surprised so many are new to the phrase, but maybe the weird manliness=bravery culture thing is going away.

@Joaquin - Who could you be thinking of?

@Twangster - I made a similar observation about granola bars in 1982. Man, you’d a thunk I insulted Dylan or MJ. If anything it has gotten worse in the ensuing years. Granted, some of them are marketed as quick energy bars, which I suppose is accurate, But the difference between them and Snickers is often negligible.

@jp flanigan - I tend to be more rigid about PPP than Rex, so I don’t think Rex is going quite as far as you suggest. I read it as more that GoT has lots and lots of characters, so delving into that horde of PPP isn’t actually creative or new. He never complains about obscure Simpsons characters though. It’s easy to rail against PPP you don’t know, I try to make a point of railing against PPP I do know if I feel it skews obscure. However crossworthy ARYA is to fans, some of us never got past chapter one of the books and never watched the show, so it is just as random as LEO X to us.

Since I know some of you were waiting with bated breath, Mrs. Z loves her FitBit. We also played Scrabble (she won by 1 - god how I hate Scrabble), walked the dogs, and did an emergency tick removal on the puppy. Yes, I know how to show her a good time.


Frantic Sloth 2:53 PM  

@Pamela 1049am I'm not aware of any water ballets (and hardly any films) Ziegfeld was involved with.
Are you perhaps thinking of Busby Berkeley?
Or were you making a joke that went sailing over my thick-skulled head? Because I admit that that would be more likely.

Masked and Anonymous 2:58 PM  

OK. Sooo … At first I thought this was a neat theme idea, but that it was kinda long-winded and not humorous enough for SunPuz fare. Then I hit the CHILE-PERU LEPER, laughed out loud, and all was forgiven.

Thenea sounded like it had to be a goddess name, just by default … but, nope. The Thenea *was* a French ship that got wrecked in Clonea Bay, 26 Dec 1848, tho. [They've got a whole gigantic Wiki-Pedium page just for December 1848 Shipwrecks -- intriguin … musta been a real bad month/year for shippin under the influence, or somesuch?]

Didn't know PABLANO/TARRES and LUNABAR. But guessed or deduced everything right, so no pablano.

Neat AEIOU clue. It just plumb kicked the desperation right outta AEIOU -- all the way back to Chile/Peru.

staff weeject pick: DAU. Which coulda been circled in a UGANDAUGANDA themer. Missed opportunity maybe, but the LEPER one is still one hard-ridin rodeo to beat.

Thanx for all yer hard work, Mr. Fromm. May the goddess Thenea always smile down upon U. And all them CHILE-PERU LEPERs.

Masked & Anonymo13Us

p.s. Happy Mother's Day, to all Comment Gallery darlins to whom that may apply. Stay cute and well, and have an outstandin day.


Mohair Sam 2:59 PM  

@Teedmn - Cripes, I've been suffering since the great cliff-hanger of Book V several decades back (or so it seems). Haven't watched the TV show so I wouldn't spoil the book (and thanks, Adam Fromm, for ruining the whole danged ARYA thread - thanks a lot)

Sick thought on Covid-19 created to keep old George at home. But as you say, it beats a lot of the conspiracy theories out there.

Bax'N'Nex 3:18 PM  

To harken back to yesterday’s “Runnin’” clue. I Googled up Runnin’ Utes” and it’s there. It was on Wikipedia, so I know it’s true...

OffTheGrid 3:27 PM  

Maybe UNMAN is a Lord Varys reference.

Ann Hedonia 3:33 PM  

Snootful is a possible reference to the schnozz. This is yet another boring and sad Sunday puzzle.

Bax'N'Nex 3:33 PM  

1.) @pmdm 7:37. You have nothing to apologize for.

B) @jj 7:13. That is my mindset exactly. Too much critiquing takes the fun out of just enjoying the activity.

Iiii). A certain “anonymous” keeps defending Mike against all comers. I would like to officially start the conspiracy theory that “anonymous“ is actually Mike. Yeah, I said it. Thoughts?

Christopher Jones 3:42 PM  

I just wanted to finish this puzzle because I disliked it so much.
BTW, last I heard a male deer was a stag or buck. WTF is “ harts” or am I missing something with the “forest ranger” clue? Do I really care? Terrible puzzle overall.

Carola 3:50 PM  

@PhilipArtGlass 2:18 - Yes to doing the Acrostic. Blog post here on Wordplay.

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

I thought Z was MIke. HAR!

SJ Austin 4:07 PM  

I dunno, I thought it was pretty neat that you could get so many words in the middle of countries jammed together like that. Probably worth a little subpar fill. But I agree the cluing could have been better.

As for ARYA… just learn it, man. It's ok if you're not in to the series (book or TV), but denying that it's an extremely mainstream bit of pop culture and that she's a major character makes you look older than FRUG.

JC66 4:16 PM  

IS this the FRUG?

Lorelei Lee 4:54 PM  

@CDilly, That sounds like one of my stories.

@webwinger, Thank you so much. But being a conflicted Luddite by choice, I'm going to decline for now (hoping you'll let me leave my options open for the future as furlough drags one).

I have Amazon Prime but refuse to download the Whole Foods app and reap the benefits because I don't want the Evil Empire following my every move (several of their checkers agree. See Larry David comparison above). That's how crazy I am.

Maud 5:45 PM  

Après-ski is French! It implies a French answer! I am UPSET!

jae 6:10 PM  

@M&A - Did you mean POBLANO?

Nancy 6:15 PM  

@Lorelei Lee (10:48 and 4:54) -- Like you I'm a Luddite. I'm also a first-class worrier. I worry about just about everything. Except the one thing I never worry about is Internet privacy or websites spying on me. Now, Facebook can't spy on me because I've never been on Facebook. Not out of any zeal for privacy; just because I don't require Mark Zuckerberg to mediate my friendships for me. I've had friends since before Mark was born, thank you very much.

Google, OTOH, spies on me all the time, I imagine, and so does YouTube. (I think they're the same people?) And I say: do your worst, Google and YouTube. Spy to your heart's content and you'll find out much more than you want to know about crossword puzzles, musical theater, tennis, Central Park and Agatha Christie. Don't say I didn't warn you. As for any information that's potentially sensitive in any way -- do you think I'd be dumb enough to put it online? So spy away, guys. Try not to get bored with what you find out.

I know that @Quasi has mentioned that he has work-related info that he wants to keep out of the hands of Google and for that reason won't create a blog profile. Maybe you do too, @Lorelei. But I just don't see much, if any, danger. As I say -- I worry about just about everything, but not this. I've had this profile for at least 5 years and absolutely nothing bad has happened.

CDilly52 6:15 PM  

Oops! Been such a long time since I watched On Golden Pond, I guess we both misheard or forgot - had to forget, who when reminded would not remember “You Old POOP!” Ah wel, helped the solve anyway. MY BAD!

CDilly52 6:19 PM  

@Anon, 1:57 pm. LOL. No kidding!

CDilly52 6:21 PM  

@JC66 Thank you!! This old dog doesn’t mind trying to learn a new trick at all.

CDilly52 6:29 PM  

@TJS, 11:23. Good comments. I agree. The one clue/answer that, in my opinion went way far out of its way to say “watch me flummox you with such a convoluted stretch of the definition of “dishearten” that you will have white squares until the very end.” After I finished l, I checked Webster and OED and indeed UNMAN is stretched and stretched like salt water taffy!

Anonymous 7:53 PM  

Apparently there is a thing called a "pup tart", which gives you "snout", but I doubt that they get microwaved.

ghostoflectricity 7:55 PM  

Has anyone actually ever said or written "RAIL ON"? The expression is "RAIL AT." And UNMAN is simply out of line in this day and age.

Final verse of The Rolling Stones 1968 classic "Street Fighting Man":

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance/I'll shout and scream/I'll kill the king/And rail at (NOT "ON") all his servants."

Masked and Anonymous 8:06 PM  

@jae 6:10 - doh! And I guessed PABLANO/TARRES in my puz solvequest! Wrong again, M&A Breath.
Another correct solution bonus bites the dust.
I may never be worthy xword tourney material. M&ay never get to meet @muse darlin and @Bob Kerfuffle, there. [My loss, more than theirs, tho.]

Maybe if I can do tomorrow's MonPuz in under 2 …

Ever hopeful M&A Breath

Teedmn 8:51 PM  

Hello, Moderators,

The Syndielanders' comments have not shown up on that day's blog although I have it on good authority that comments have been posted. Technical difficulties? Thanks.

A Moderator 9:06 PM  


All appropriate comments hav been approved for posting. It must be a problem with the site.

Anonymous 9:22 PM  

Actually there are lots of people who don't watch GoT. They read SoIaF. Where book 6 is not out yet. So yes, there exists audience for whom this is a huge spoiler. And tht newspaper that prides itself in keeping up it's print media should have paid more heed to the needs of book readers.

egsforbreakfast 10:42 PM  

It really pissed me off when a 2017 crossword revealed that Old Yeller died. I haven’t seen it yet.

Xcentric 12:53 PM  

My middle school students would love this puzzle. For me, it was meh. Got the theme early, and then winced at the non-words like pss and unideal. Auto spell suggests unidentifiable for unideal, sounds good to me. Missed seeing tush, bum, keister, can, and in keeping with the recent plethora of French, derrière. C’est la vie.
Let’s hope that this week started at the bottom and gets better every day, and was not just the tail of a bad run last week.

grampa 1:54 PM  

This was terrible. Yet another recent example of prioritizing “cleverness” over quality fill. For the first time in quite awhile I couldn’t wait to be done with puzzle. Just not fun.

Vince 6:40 PM  

Does anyone remember a Sunday puzzle he actually liked?

Joe 7:15 PM  

I’ll be honest. If the puzzle had Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi for an answer, it wouldn’t phase me. Why to Intellectuals hate it when right wingers are in a puzzle? Hitler, Mussolini...the horror! Pol Pot, Stalin, problem. Have a nice day, you f***ing pr**k.

Waaah 7:14 PM  

LOL. So insulted.

Burma Shave 10:31 AM  


AND DON'T be BEMUSED, I'M armed.
What SMORE, a DANCE would be SOCUTE,
then PREY I set you FREE UNHARMED.


rondo 11:02 AM  

What Rex said. Could not BEAR to read other comments.
@Lewis is wrong. SCAM is four letters.
Speaking of four letters, the corners point you to TINE, or a short NITE.
POPE clue semi-funny, but up in smoke, too LATE.
Michelle YEOH, or any Bond girl, automatic. YEOH baby!
Not done INFUN. Left me (D)FLAT.

erikam 11:04 AM  

I just discovered this blog today and am a relatively un-zealous puzzler, but here's my question: 113 across uses an article-- "THENEA"-- in the answer. Is there anything in the clue that would indicate this? Isn't that a no-no?

rondo 11:14 AM  

@erikam - not exactly a no-no, certainly highly frowned upon. Looking forward to see more comments from you.

spacecraft 12:22 PM  

Is SW the new NW? What a BEAR, both days this weekend! Hand up for censuring the THE in 113a. This *borders* on the unfair. Also, my HARTS were stags; I bet yours were too. Then the failing eyes of this OLDCOOT read the clue for 74a as "Where mediators look" at least five times. I was thinking ?upward?? Like, the dais is higher...finally, on about the sixth reading, I noticed the extra "t", which turned mediators into meditators. Once again the world made sense. much sense as it can, these days. But I didn't know the pepper, or the strait, so the area was horrible to get through. I did manage it, with an astute guess here and there.

The rest of the puzzle was easy, especially the theme entries. I started with the first thing I recognized: ORK, apparently the home planet of Benjamin Button. This led immediately to KNEEHOLES, AND I hit the ground running. Fill woes aplenty in this one, from the Old MacDonald Vowel List to the SUPER-awkward PREREQ to the (again!) RMK. But, for every AONE or ECIG there's a STICKEMUP!; for every TEDCRUZ there's an EARTHDAY. Second the motion for Michelle YEOH as DOD. Par.

Diana, LIW 5:43 PM  

Once I caught on, I enjoyed the theme and "gimmick."

OTOH, I didn't enjoy the trivia-fest of a PPP, which led to a 2 or 4 letter dnf and frankly a "who cares?" Because of the triviality. Such a clever constructor should be able to rely upon wordplay vs. knowing trivial "stuff" - again, IMHO.

Diana, LIW

Ray - O - Sunshine 10:56 PM  

Got to the puzzle late.

Do the Scotsman dance with each other before battle to see who gets to LEAD?. Thought BEAR might cross another bear which ended up HARTE (not buck or stag).

Finally gave up on eye candy for EAR.(I knew MAGI has to be right) the R gave me LUNABAR leading to the B in BEMUSED TO U in DAU. DNF: too many blanks in the SE. Plus a blank on YEOH and MYST last letters each so no THENEA.

I agree poptarts for 3 seconds in the microwave? Who does that? Eat 'em raw like I do.😉

Happy Memorial Day...

wcutler 3:41 AM  

@jberg 12:35 PM
I liked this whole paragraph:
"Like Lewis, also, I learned so much! Not only how many FINs a dolphin has, but how many LAS per verse are in Deck the Halls. (Unless you're Walt Kelly!) And apparently St. Patrick's Day is not a federal holiday? You'd never know that here in Massachusetts!"

@Masked and Anonymous 2:58 PM
My favourite was "staff weeject pick: DAU. Which coulda been circled in a UGANDAUGANDA themer. Missed opportunity maybe...". I always enjoy your comments.

@everyone who refers to the Saturday puzzle in the Sunday blog, this is yet another plea: DON'T DO THAT. Go back to the Saturday puzzle and comment there. We in syndiland have not seen that puzzle yet. We get the Sunday puzzle a couple of weeks before the weekly ones. No, we don't know why. No, we can't do anything about it. Maybe the mods would consider not approving Sunday comments that are weekday spoilers.

Unknown 5:21 PM  

Too bad we have to endure your childish snide liberal remarks Rex. More tiresome than any puzzle.


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