Lexicographer Partridge / SUN 5-3-20 / Maker of Instant Feathers and Hi-Speed Tonic / British spy Christopher in 2016 news / Drum heard in raga music / Casual vodka order / Dr Seuss character who becomes king of mud / Banned display of firepower informally / Gambino crime family patriarch

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Constructor: Ben Zimmer and Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (10-something, not drunk, but ... having had a strong one, for sure)

THEME: "Shifting Sounds" — familiar phrases where the "A" (as in "sands") sound is changed to an "OU" (as in "sounds") sound, creating the wackiness you might expect:

Theme answers:
  • HOUND SHAKE (23A: Dog's order at a malt shop?)
  • COUNT MISS (3D: Bad shot by Dracula?)
  • NED FLOUNDERS (29A: "Game of Thrones" patriarch has difficulties?)
  • COUNSELED CHECK (58A: Advised a chess player to attack the king?)
  • MOUSE MARKETING (76A: Part of Disney's advertising budget?)
  • TROUNCE STATE (107A: Decisively defeat a cabinet department?)
  • FUZZY MOUTH (117A: Feeling one gets under anaesthesia at the dentist?)
  • FAIR COUCH (79D: Comfy seating at a carnival?)
Word of the Day: RISD (81D: New England art inst.)
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD /ˈrɪzd/) is a private art and design school in Providence, Rhode Island. It was founded in 1877 and offers bachelor's and master's degree programs across 19 majors.
RISD's campus is located at the base of College Hill and contiguous with the Brown University campus. The two institutions, which share social, academic, and community resources, offer a joint degree program and students can cross register for classes.
The RISD community includes 181 full-time and 421 part-time faculty members, and 2,009 undergraduate and 492 graduate students. The school has nearly 30,000 alumni. (wikipedia)
• • •

There just isn't much to this one. It's a very old-fashioned sound-change theme without a lot of zing to it. The wackiness isn't nearly as Big as it needs to be to carry a Sunday-sized puzzle. There's just not enough that's interesting about this particular sound change. The title is also pretty limp—starts out seeming overly basic ("yes, the sounds are indeed changing ... and?") and then *maybe* you eventually realize that the title is a play on the phrase "Shifting Sands," but maybe you don't, and even if you do, it's not exactly a great joke or a huge Aha. In short, the theme felt stale. Also, the "A" sound in "CATCH," for me, is not at all the same as the "A" sound in all the other changed words. I say "CATCH" more like "ketch." It doesn't rhyme with "hatch," not coming out of my mouth, anyway. Sound-change puzzles *routinely* run into this kind of problem, which is sometimes a regional problem and sometimes just a Problem.

The grid is otherwise fine, I guess. I moved through it pretty easily and didn't have many significant grumbling moments. I still don't really believe UBID exists, and no one says SOCKO except the good people at Variety, and only the puzzle thinks it's UNARMS as opposed to "disarms," and the INURE v. ENURE thing is always low-level annoying, and ESTOP is less-than-lovely crosswordese and N-TEST feels very last-century (I'M (actually) AMAZED at how long it seems like it's been since I've had to deal with the whole A/H/N-TEST issue) and LLB is unlikely to rev anyone's engine, *but* it's a big puzzle and a handful of less-than-stellar answers doesn't really have much effect on the overall solid feel of this grid. Sunday themes need to be great, not just ... long.

I had a little trouble grasping the exact nature of this theme at first—again, I blame, in part, the theme, which is ultra-lifeless and unhelpful. I got COUNT MISS first, and figured there was some syllabic swap happening, whereby (in this instance) "miscount" became COUNT MISS. I think I was all the way down the west coast and into MOUSE MARKETING before I got the whole "A"-to-"OU" gimmick. After that, the theme was not an issue. I had some trouble with the upper middle of the grid because I screwed up the chess term and started 58A: Advised a chess player to attack the king? with CASTLE ... I guess you "castle" when you *protect* the king??? I literally would not know. This is what happens when I try to get all fancy with my chess answers instead of just waiting patiently for crosses to take care of things. I also had Yoda as Luke's MASTER (66A: Yoda, to Luke = MENTOR), had YESSES as YES, YES (45A: Words of affirmation), and because of all this screwup, had zero idea what the Jimi Hendrix / Patti Smith song could be ("HEY, JOE"). Outside that section, though, things went pretty smoothly. I had RERUNS for REAIRS (67A: Shows as an encore presentation) and BEYONCÉ before SOLANGE (92D: Singer Knowles with a 2016 #1 album).

I hope you're doing well and not rushing back out into your prematurely reopened state!

Promotion time!

First, Peter Gordon's got "A-to-Z Crosswords: Petite Pangram Puzzles," daily 9x11 puzzles that use every letter of the alphabet! I find pangrams superfluous in standard crosswords, but in tiny daily crosswords where the pangramminess is the point—that actually sounds cool. Anyway, his Kickstarter is fully funded, so the project is a Go. Subscribe here!

Second, Caleb Madison is the crossword writer over at The Atlantic and as of today they are running themed 15x15 crosswords from outside contributors. So, constructors, here's his pitch:
The Atlantic is looking for 15x15 puzzles with fresh, fun and intuitive themes at a medium difficulty (think Wednesday level) with a word count of under 78. I love themes with elegant parameters applied consistently that generate in-the-language entries and leave enough room for clean fill with minimal partial answers or obscurities. The Atlantic puzzle is online only, but in the future there may be opportunities to publish in the monthly magazine. 
Constructors should email me their theme sets at cmadison@theatlantic.com. I'll provide feedback to all themes within the month and if I like the theme, ask for a filled grid. Currently the Atlantic pays $350 a puzzle.
Caleb tells me they're also introducing "social play" this weekend, so you can solve the puzzle with a friend. Anyway, if you're a solver, check out The Atlantic Daily Crossword, and if you're a constructor and want to do some edgy themed stuff, consider Caleb (he used to edit the Buzzfeed crossword, when that existed, and I found him a real pleasure to work with when I published there).

Lastly, today's co-constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley, along with the veteran constructing team of Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, has a Sunday subscription puzzle called The Hub Crossword. It's just $3 / month for top-notch Sunday action. Check out their Patreon page here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


puzzlehoarder 12:25 AM  

A mostly easy Sunday. I was at least half way through before I realized what the theme was. It wasn't because it was difficult. I just wasn't interested and stuck with the fill.

CARLO next to HIMBO was the only really tough spot. Other than the theme answers HIMBO is the only debut and an underwhelming one at that

Saturday's SB has me stuck at 34 words. That's 140 points and there are a total of 158 points to get QB. No idea what those extra 18 points will be. Hopefully not lame spelling variants.

astrotrav 12:28 AM  

So thoroughly did not enjoy this puzzle. I noticed the gag with NEDFLOUNDERS but kept getting annoyed with bad fill like SOCKO, ABOIL, ENURE, MEDOC, and the truly dreadful ESTOP. All of the themes were ones that evoked a "yeah, I guess" more than a haha.

Robin 1:03 AM  

Yeah, SOCKO is not BOFF(o) (to reference another answer from the past week).

Also seriously agree about UNARMS. Seriously? UNARMED might be the appropriate adjective, but you only get there bt being DISARMED (if you were armed in the first place).

I couldn't complain about ESTOP as it seems like it's been quite a while since I last saw it in the NYTXW. It's not like OBOE, which must be making its 12th or 15th appearance of the year.

Since I do the puzzles on-line, I've gotten into the bait of never looking at the title. So I saw NEDFLOUNDERS on the first theme thing and didn't get the idea yet, but then there was MOUSEMARKETING and HOUNDSHAKE and those clued me in on the consistent vowel shift. So, as Sunday themes go, it was kind of weak sauce.

And I have no idea where OFL is from, but around my place, catch rhymes with hatch.

16min+ for me, which seems seems easy-ish.

Joe Dipinto 1:15 AM  

Well, the 65a clue is worth the price of admission. Also, I bought ramps at the farmers' market yesterday, so that was timely. But yeah, the theme here doesn't pack much of a punch.

Rex stole my Paul McCartney song, so you get this instead.

Also this, since I wasn't here to post it yesterday.

CDilly52 1:53 AM  

Kind of a plain vanilla theme. Got the sound change with NED FLOUNDERS and the only really good theme answer was MOUSE MARKETING. It both fit the theme and was very internally consistent. Had the remainder of the theme answers had this kind of sass, the theme would have been more entertaining.

The theme clue at 58 gave me a head scratching moment. I got that if one advises something, she counsels (as in the rather redundant lawyer expression “counsel and advice”), but consider this: when you shift the phrase back to “normal“ with the short a sound, it becomes the answer to the clue, “advised the chess player NOT to attack the king.”

UNARMS-no, just no. We usually get more sass, cleverness, tricksy clues and humor from BEQ, but for a debut puzzle on Mr. Zimmer’s part and on a Sunday, I thought this was a good collaboration. An enjoyable Sunday without too much brain torture.

Mo Pariser 2:08 AM  

UNARM actually is not a word though. Unarmed is a word. It's an adjective. You cannot unarm. It is absolute nonsense. The correct answer to this clue is disarm. A whole different word that exists. A verb even! This is a huge problem for me. Should never have passed an editorial inspection. Crossing CARLO, HIMBO and abutting LLB nonetheless. That whole area needs COUNCILING/CANCELLING.

TROUNCE STATE should have been clued as Local University rather than Cabinet Department. The way it stands doesn't work. What does it mean to trounce a department? On the other hand, "KU trounces State for the Big 12 title" works perfectly. I understand the sheer silliness of the theme, but the other themers all at least make sense as a phrase (albeit a ridiculous one), this one does not.

True story- I walked through Central Park earlier today and stopped to read the little sign about the elm trees for the first time. Even exclaimed aloud "ooh, nice elm trees" Wild coincidence. Wild. There's also a statue and blurb nearby of Balto the dog. Get that good boy into a puzzle too, he freaking deserves it.

Other then the aforementioned section-that-shall-not-be-named, it was a fairly breezy affair for me. Not a bad Sunday puzzle IMHO.

P.S. My grandparents' best friend was also named Ben Zimmer. He passed away some years ago. Used to make our Passover Seder the funniest time of the year. Still think about him every year. RIP big guy :)

Mo Pariser 2:15 AM  

Speaking of words that are/aren't adjectives... Council. Brain farted that one out.

jae 2:22 AM  

Easy. Hey, it’s a Sunday that was mostly OK, liked it.

Mo Pariser 2:33 AM  


Anonymous 2:53 AM  

I guess that I Naticked, but I still feel that my answers are defensible. I had LLD instead of LLB ( both are law degrees ). Also had HIMDO ( as in he’ll do). Makes as much sense as HIMBO.
Easy puzzle. We were not amused.

chefwen 2:56 AM  

I can get the Sunday puzzle at noon and thought I’ll just leisurely work my way through this in between watching mindless TV and working on a jigsaw puzzle. POOF, I was done well before wine time. Puzzle partner didn’t get to contribute which disappoints him so we printed out the Wall Street Journal puzzle and worked on that. Highly recommend it, fun puzzle.

Not grasping 117A.

Anonymous 3:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 3:46 AM  

29A. Am I missing something? I think the only Ned in GOT is Ned Stark. Ned Flanders is the Simpsons neighbor - right? Am I crazy? Sure you can clue it as any Ned (I guess?). But if the pun is on Ned Flanders, why would you clue it as any other Ned???

Loren Muse Smith 4:36 AM  

Huge fan of Ben Zimmer (linguist beast) and BEQ (grid beast). Huge fan of this theme. I mean, I like any sound change theme, but this one’s more subtle.

(Skip this treatise if you’re not into linguistics. . .) The trick is that the vowels are going from the “short a” sound (/æ/) and, at least the way I talk, then retaining that vowel while adding another vowel to slide into, a “long u” sound (/u/) sound. The vowels are not so much changed as enhanced, teased into diphthongs. So they all start off exactly the way they’re supposed to start before the sound change. Take the words COUCH and catch. If you punch me in the stomach right as I start to say COUCH, you’re not gonna know which word I’m saying ‘cause the very first vowel sound in both is that /æ/.

Sit there and say the slang negative nah really really slowly. Then say now really really slowly. They both start out the same. But…you could draw out nah forever. When you’re finally finished saying it, your lips are pretty parted, like a smile. With the now, though, at some point you have to abandon the /æ/ and move on to the /u/. So when you’re finished, your lips are closed like you’re whistling.

The title is terrific.

I’ll pause while you get all this down. Ben would probably wince at my diphthong discourse. I’m no phonologist, and I never played one on tv.

Really hard to come up with other themer possibilities. Faust food? Ground forks? Fancy pounce doesn’t work ‘cause the first vowel isn’t changed, too. [See also: my avatar – doesn’t work.]

I smiled at every linguisticsome clue – those for SAMOAN, ALIEN (the hero is a linguist in Arrival), TONE, ARA, ERIC, and ANO. Ahem. Ben and Brendan dodged a bullet there with that clue only to face the wrath of the peever patrol with UNARMS.

@Mo Pariser – I never know if it’s COUNSEL or council. When I’m speaking, I use either one and don’t care. Being ignorant effects only your writing. ;-)

I’ll see your mirror MAGPIE and raise you a ringtone parrot.

As regards the UNARMS outrage, my disinterest borders on uninterest. If someone said, Yeah, there was a guy out there with a gun, but we manage to unarm him, I’m going to understand exactly what they meant and not get all upset and angry about the word. (Ok, Ok – huge difference between He was unarmed and He was disarmed. I’ll give you that.) Fun to think of other pairs: Only one Toll House cookie – I’m unsatisfied. Toll House cookies without the crucial tsp of salt – I’m dissatisfied. If you can’t find those AAA batteries you bought last week, are you unorganized or disorganized? Asking for a friend.

So I get that the commentariat here in Rexworld is pretty much a Whoville whose observations go largely unheard. I infer from other sites that all of us here have the reputation of being Will-bashers, basically hating everything. And hating it nastily. Some people at Wordplay won't even mention Rex by name. Anyhoo, I imagine that lots of constructors have written off this place as uber toxic and moved on. So BEQ probably won’t see this observation: If Ghostface Killah actually painted his face white and popped on a red rubber nose, he could be the Wu-Tang clown.

mbr 5:09 AM  

@puzzlehoarder: I don't know if anyone has yet to point it out, but just in case you're unaware, everyday there's at least one poster on NYT Wordplay who gives a chart of word lengths for the Spelling Bee. Granted it's a form of cheating for those of us who get stuck, but I find it very helpful when I can't go any further.

CDilly52 5:37 AM  

It is very early in the morning after all @Mo Pariser!

CDilly52 5:50 AM  

@Anon 3:24. Not crazy. In fact I think you have hit upon one of the weaknesses with the theme. In finding words that will “work”, the constructor’s were not careful to make the before and after make sense (as I think MOUSE MARKETING does). NED (Stark) FLOUNDERS fits the theme but change to FLaNDERS and the “right” answer simply doesn’t work. At all, IMO.

CDilly52 5:52 AM  

FUZZY MaTH is a high mathematics concept - way beyond my barely made it through basic calc understanding, but my dear hubby was a math/engineering guy so that one I barely remembered him mentioning.

Lewis 6:30 AM  

When all was over and done with, my greatest pleasure from this puzzle was simply the feeling that filling it in gave me. It wasn't too hard or too easy -- it just gently and insistently kneaded the skills I've gained over my years of solving, and somehow got me feeling just right. Like my brain had been given the perfect massage.

No big wows anywhere, just the feeling of "That was sweet. Extraordinarily sweet." And I'm most grateful, BZ and BEQ!

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

This was BS. I solved it, but took a long time because the themers were confusing: for most, the OU-to-A resulted in cogent spelling; for a few (FAIR CACH, MASE MARKETING, even CANSELED CHECK) I thought I'd made an error in the crosses. Either spell all perfectly, or all not so---otherwise the inconsistency is stupid. Bah!

pabloinnh 7:31 AM  

When OFL says he doesn't find this particular vowel change very interesting, it makes me wonder what sort of vowel change he would find interesting. This one worked fine for me, and I caught on at COUNTMISS crossing HOUNDSHAKE, so the rest of it was seeing how they could keep doing that. Pretty good stuff. Thanks guys.

Plus we get a nice discussion of diphthongs, thanks to LMS. I used to discuss these in Spanish class, as they change vowel sounds in a way that I at least find interesting. If students started using "diphthong" as a pejorative, (Out of my way, you diphthong!), well, I really don't know where they got that from. LMS's observation about pronouncing the final vowel shift also applies to singing, especially choral singing where everyone is striving to sound alike. You save that sound change for the end of the note.

This felt like a good old-fashioned Sunday to me. Yesterday's Saturday Stumper took me about nine times as long. What a bear.

Also@jcc66 and @JoeD-I'm still looking for a clue/answer that will make me LOL. Maybe I went through this one too fast and missed it. Hints?

Merriam Webster 7:32 AM  

Mo Pariser 2:08 - "UNARM actually is not a word though. Unarmed is a word. It's an adjective. You cannot unarm. It is absolute nonsense".

Definition of unarm
transitive verb


Rique Beleza 7:32 AM  

Him o is a play on Bimbo.

Merriam Webster 7:40 AM  

First Known Use of unarm: 14th century

Anonymous 7:45 AM  

Fastest. Time. Ever.
But still didn't break half an hour, like some of you speedsters out there.

I found this to be quite pleasant. I didn't actually get the "Shifting Sounds => Shifting Sands" thing, and was simply going on "shifting" the "a" to "ou" sound. Yes, Rex, there are areas of the country where "catch" rhymes with "hatch" and "match" - you need to get out more. Also, you may not believe there is a UBid - and I've never heard of it - but if exists (and it does), then why such a comment?

@chefwen (2:56am): There is such a thing as "fuzzy math". "Fuzzy mathematics forms a branch of mathematics related to fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic." - Wikipedia.

I think the threat of an N-test is not all "last century", as that regime in North Korea might well do something along those lines, and more.

Enjoyed seeing "STOLI" and "SOLTI" in this puzzle. Now beginning to see such nuances, thanks to Rex and pals here on this blog.

Happy May, everyone!


Hungry Mother 7:50 AM  

Not drunk, but ran 4 miles in the dark and drove my car for the first time in a few weeks to get gas at $1.60 per gallon. A few rough spots, but otherwise an average Sunday outing. I liked the theme and it helped me through.

Z 7:53 AM  

With wacky go big or go home. These never even got a smile from me.

@chefwen - FUZZY MaTH to FUZZY MOUTH.

@Anon3:46 - All of the themes are repurposed away from the original phrase. HaND SHAKEs have nothing to do with HOUNDs. So it is a theme requirement that the clue not be FLaNDERS related. This makes MOUSE MARKETING a little iffy, but otherwise it holds true.

Suzie Q 8:07 AM  

Easy and boring, sorry Ben and Brendan. Agree with Rex that this would have better in a smaller form.
Himbo is kinda cute.
Clue for Acme was fun. Poor Wile E.
@ Mo Pariser, Balto has been in the puzzle before.

Nancy 8:21 AM  

Why do some "change the sound" puzzles cows amusement, while others foul flat? I'm not sure, but this one was the latter. The subbed phrases just weren't funny, nor were they challenging. The process of solving felt workmanlike and dutiful. And this less-than-scintillating puzzle is competing with an You'll see!!! So I'll drop this one a little early and go back to the ones that are really delicious.

feinstee 8:33 AM  

Not nearly a critical review as expected, given how much the theme answers landed like a lead balloon. Other than 'mouse marketing' which has a bit of intelligence and humor.

George 8:40 AM  

SOCKO crossing SAHL?? SHIPMEN?? Crossing KINSHIP? UBID crossing TABLA?? Just yucky.

Baffled 8:46 AM  

Is it me, or are the Sunday puzzles getting way too easy and forgettable. A lame theme within a boring puzzle. What happened to the puzzles that used to challenge and outsmart us?

kitshef 8:49 AM  

I recently said that any puzzle with AA MILNE would get a smile out of me. It did not take the NYT long to trash that theory.

Just awful. A constant parade of unknown proper names: HARI, EMILE, CARLO, RISD, SOLANGE, STEELE, EZRA. At least SOREN sounded familiar, though I could not come up with it. Add in ARA and LLB, also unknowns.

Worst of all was crossing STEELE and SOLANGE for that awful clue for LONG. Any on of those three is fine on its own. Combining them is garbage.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Did anyone else feel as if the clue for 65A (Spanish unit of time with a tilde) was written with Rex in mind? I laughed out loud picturing his reaction as I filled in ANO.

pmdm 9:03 AM  

Solved this one yesterday inside my car waiting for my neighbor who I drove to and from a medical appointment. Watched the relatively few people passing by while wearing respirators. The experience brought home the idea of the importance of old friends and interactions with them. So when a crossword theme pops up as an old friend, I am happy. Somewhat the opposite reaction to Mike Sharp's. Neither of us should impose our own dispositions on others. But I would say I ignored the theme and solved the puzzle as a themeless. For whatever reason, the entries fell flat on my sense of humor. Which is fine. An admirable puzzle justifies itself.

xyz 9:05 AM  

ESTOP is no worse than ASEA and much else with an A or E added on.

ENURE is a great word. failure to learn to ENURE many Psychologists will tell you that failure of preteen ENURING to stresses is proving to be what leads to PTSD in many. Nothing wrong with the word except unfamiliarity.

UNARM, SOCKO, LLB are filler, which one gets with the nearly-always-ho-hum big grid along with nonsense fill.

I'm only doing these bigger puzzles because there is extra time these days, I still don't get excited about them too often.

This was a quick one, especially with BEQ sharing the byline.

Teedmn 9:05 AM  

I'M AMAZED that I found a BEQ Sunday pretty easy. FUZZY MOUTH and COUNSELED CHECK were my favorite theme answers and I thought the title was perfect.

Thanks, Mr. Quigley.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Also had LLD and HIMDO. How can anyone possibly tell the difference in slang accuracy of HIMDO vs HIMBO? They are both equally nonsense terms.

HIMDO gets 135K Google results and HIMBO gets 538K. Meh.

GILL I. 9:13 AM  

When BEQ is involved, I can count on a few zinger words. Today it was HIMBO. I always read it as bimbos with balls. David Beckham comes to mind.
I so want to say SOCKO for this Sunday. All it turned out for me was an OKIE dokie. I want my eyes to twinkle with laughter when I get the conceit. I did a bit of a grr when I figured it out at HOUND SHAKE. I just wished the answers to the shifting sounds had more oomph, some pizzaz, some je ne sais quoi. Instead, it fell on me bad.
There was some stuff I liked. MOUSE and EMILE. My all time feel good movie is "Ratatouille." I guess now that NYC is in lockdown, the rats are having a hard time finding food. Be a nice person and throw your food leftovers out the window so the poor critters can eat something.
I got to 36D and wondered why flaws and all isn't something like WARTS? AS IS is doesn't mean much. AS IS can be beautiful but warts are just plain ugly. I get them all the time. At least they don't grow on my nose.
Kinda fun seeing YERTLE The Turtle, MAGPIES, OSCAR the Grouch, EMILE the rat, up with STAN LEE and AA MILNE. That was my only whimsy thinking today. Oh, I had a little budgerigar that I named Tweety (original, huh?) and she recognized herself in the mirror. She'd say TWEET when she saw herself.
Wear a mask......

xraydoc 9:21 AM  

I agree. Naticked at HIMBO - LLB cross. I have never heard of either of them.

Otherwise an enjoyable Sunday for me.

David 9:23 AM  

Is this the second time in a week AA Milne has appeared? It'd be nice to see him clued with either "Now We Are Six" or "When We Were Very Young;" Pooh and his pals are pretty obvious.

Can't get upset by unarms. It makes me think of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Bimbo needed an equally puerile male counterpart. I didn't know it had gotten one. That's good, I guess.

Really Rex? Yawl say ketch? Where's your mizzen mast?

I've always preferred Hautbois to Oboe.

Put me in the camp of "meh" with the schtick, not a terribly scintillating solve for me. No reason to be in tears, however.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

If you are going to use SOCKO, at least make the clue about Mankind . This week has been a total bust for me.

Nancy 9:39 AM  

So I tried to use the italics-making function and an entire sentence disappeared in my earlier post - which now makes no sense. I was saying that there's a wonderful Puzzle Section in today's NYT with which this less-than-exciting puzzle is competing. (Never post before breakfast, Nancy! Just never do it! Bad things happen without coffee.)

I ended up finishing this after all. It got slightly more challenging in the East, though not any more amusing. And I too Naticked on HIMdO/LLd. Which I wouldn't have realized without reading the blog. It was actually @GILL, with her praise of the word HIMBO (not a bad new coinage, actually), that brought my attention to it.

pabloinnh 9:43 AM  

@JC66-Aha! Like JoeD., I skipped right over the clue as I was doing downs.

Nice to see that the NYT has cleaned up its ANO.

Oscar 9:57 AM  

Other than the lackluster theme, the subpar fill, and the stale clues, I thought this was pretty good!

Another Anon 10:02 AM  

Explained previously in comments.

OffTheGrid 10:06 AM  

I never quit on a puzzle but I was surely glad when this one was over.

Z 10:08 AM  

Here’s a fantastic collaboration on Ross Trudeau’s website. So much to love and the four co-constructor’s comments are a great read, too.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Yes, I was about to add another comment that there is a Puzzle Mania section with a Robyn Weintraub crossword, 25x25 grid. Just finished this.

It's themeless, but you can go for the Hard Clues or the Easy Clues. I suspect those here would find the Hard Clues very doable. This Puzzle Mania section is for "everyone," and so levels of difficulty cater to the young and old, naive and experienced, recreational and hard-core alike.


Nancy 10:11 AM  

@Mo Pariser (2:18 a.m.!) -- You were walking in Central Park "earlier today"??!! I certainly hope not. I certainly hope you meant yesterday. The park is much, much, much safer than it was thirty years ago, but let's not push our luck, shall we?

BTW -- from the Interesting-Ways-The Subconscious-Can-Work Department: It's not just that I didn't know you lived in Manhattan near Central Park (hi there, neighbor); it's even more that I had this FUZZY impression that you lived in...Paris! It's your last name, of course. Really dumb of me, but that's what my subconscious was thinking -- when my subconscious was thinking at all.

RooMonster 10:16 AM  

Hey All !
Two-letter DNF today. Ugh. Had deARMS for UNARMS, and even going back to try to find my wrongness, instead of just taking the defeat to see what was wrong, I didn't get to the spot where I had dRGE for URGE. I knew deARMS grated, but took it on faith. Dang.

Otherwise a decent SunPuz. The A sound changed to the OU sound (or vice-versa). FAIR COUCH didn't ring true to the LOBES for me, as CATCH has that T sound, whereas COUCH doesn't. Fill was decent. Nice unforced Q. QUITE nice. Har.

AA MILNE has been popular lately. AVERRED is bizarre looking. ALL pranks are TOO FAR in my mind. Pranks are stupid. Let's you be an ass to someone and supposedly they can't get mad at you if they say it's a prank. Boo.

How do they know MAGPIES recognize themselves? C'mon, do the birds tell them? They see a bird and just want to be socialable. An alligator also recognizes itself. So does an ant. How do we know or not?

Isn't NED FLANDERS Homers neighbor on The Simpsons?

Master-MENTOR had me wanting HEYJDA (read as one word) for HEY JOE!

OSCAR and OBIE. Had to change YuRTLE to the E. Hate changing U's (props @M&A) 😎

Four F's
ESTOP - When the internet crashes

Camilita 10:31 AM  

The couch was an outlier but not because it sounds like ketch. It is because the A sound in catch is not the same A sound in hand, Flanders, and mass. CATCH rhyming with Hatch is not the A in hand, no matter what region you are from. I had Fairbooth which more or less worked with the crosses such as FUZZYTOOTH. I didn't know it was a themer because it doesn't seem to follow the sound pattern. It's possible this was Loren's point but she lost me, ha!

longsufferingmetsfan 10:31 AM  

Lets be real, this is the kind of Sunday puzzle that OFL routinely lambastes. Take BEQ's name off of this and insert a Randolph Ross or an Alan Arbsfeld and this would have been a bloodbath. This was a snoozefest from start to finish. Fair and impartial? Yeah, right

Wine Diver 10:42 AM  

We are stuck at home. The Sunday puzzle needs to fill half my day!

Tony 10:59 AM  

No comma, Rex, in HEY [,} JOE.

Paul & Kathy 11:00 AM  

I'm frankly shocked Rex didn't tear this puzzle apart. Boring, short, and old fill. The whole thing felt like it came out of one of those dimestore crossword puzzle books that Kappa and Penny Press put out.

kitshef 11:02 AM  


For me, the vowel in CATCH is exactly the same as the vowel in hand. I cannot imagine which one you pronounce differently and how.

And this is one reason I dislike puzzles/clues/answers that rely on pronunciation - it is so variable.

webwinger 11:03 AM  

Sunday PB—and I think first Sunday under 30 minutes, though can’t be sure because app deletes old record when new one arrives. Brings current streak to 2! Not much else positive to say about this one, though. About as crunchy as oatmeal, or maybe just totally in my wheelhouse. Was not amused by any of the punny theme answers. Favorite clue/answer at 105A—says a lot about the overall appeal of the puzzle.

Finally heard a convincing explanation for recent TP buying frenzy that does not just bash idiot consumers: In the old days, people used this product frequently at work, or when out in public places, at venues that buy it in very large packages not suitable for domestic consumption. So much of the inventory was not accessible to the public when increased need for home use arose. I feel much better about my fellow humans now...

Late yesterday (actually 12:46 am 05/03) in a post about our crisis del AÑO [with a tilde] reference links failed. Here they are as intended: Coronavirus in the US: Current Statistics (also the source of data cited in 10:59 pm post), How Sweden Has Faced the Virus Without a Lockdown, and Thomas Friedman: Is Sweden Doing It Right?.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:06 AM  

Well, I'm glad I had this puzzle to do. I'm a church organist, I'm usually very very busy Sunday mornings but am sidelined for the moment. Minister does the service on facebook live, from his parent's home 200 miles away. He only allows me to do the Introit, me singing a verse or two of a hymn at the sanctuary piano, which I tape on my Ipad during the week; the only reason they let me do this is that having a view of the sanctuary is apparently important to the congregation. I've tried recording hymns,on organ (3 manual Skinner) or piano, but he refuses top use them. Anyhow, I watch the service, because it's my job and thank God I have it, but it was nice to do the puzzle during it. Worship without music is not worship, is my strong theological position.

Oh, the puzzle. I left a blank at the cross of LL_ and HIM_O. And I had a terrible time turning WEST POINT (4 letters) into USMA.

Carola 11:06 AM  

I agree with others that the theme doesn't merit reactions of SOCKO!, AGOG, and I'M AMAZED, but I thought it was worth it for FUZZY MOUTH - that one is inspired. Well, and the title, too, which I didn't get until reading @Rex.
Personal deflationary moment: there's so much I don't know and so much that I knew that I've forgotten, but I had no trouble at all coming up with the first name of a crime boss. Wish I understood my memory's retention policy.

Nancy 11:13 AM  

@Colin 10:09 -- What I love about the Puzzle Section are the Variety puzzles, not the so much the straight crosswords. I like to make this section last as long as I can, like ice cream, so I don't gobble all the puzzles down as fast as I can in a day. Late yesterday, I did Will Shortz's BUILDING BLOCKS (p.6) which is wonderful!! I also did 3/4 of the Cryptic, also p. 6, which I'm loving too. I'm a big Cryptic fan. Am struggling in the NW, but will go back now and try to finish. As for GOING FOR SECONDS (also p.6), I crashed and burned and didn't love it at all. It's a lot of trivia questions on a lot of subjects: 16 questions, of which I got two correct. Any wonder I didn't love it? If they put these questions on Jeopardy, I would have had to pay Jeopardy money.

For those of you who don't subscribe to the Times but who have access to it where you live, it's worth buying the Sunday paper in order to get this section. I'm not sure it's online.

thefogman 11:20 AM  

It would have improved the puzzle if the title “Shifting Sound” was clued as the reveal: Chord change?

Birchbark 11:22 AM  

This was fun to solve without once going "hunting" -- every answer after 1D connected to one already solved. This is nice when it happens on the late-week puzzles.

@Nancy (8:21) -- Your post cowsed much amusement, doubling down and straying as it does from the "U" conceit. Further to MAGPIES, what does the crow say? Cow.

Two speakers doth not a STEREO make.

I watched "Rambo: Final Blood" late last night. The theme is family, its vulnerability, and vengeance: the greater the wrong, the greater the vengeance. So the "payoff" depends on a set-up of idyllic (in Rambo terms, anyway) exposition followed by some pretty tough developmental scenes that go TOO FAR. Followed by "Home Alone" style battle prep, followed by battle, followed by Rambo in a rocking chair, quasi-poetic musing.

Today, work outside in perfect weather, then whittle away at Boswell's "Life of Samuel Johnson."

egsforbreakfast 11:26 AM  

I’m in the fine but not exciting camp on this one. I did get a small WTF moment when I first read 101A “Some piercing spots”, and had already filled in L_B_ _. First thing that came to mind was an interesting spot that only roughly half of us possess. “Gee” , I thought, “ Do people really get piercings there?”

Z 11:29 AM  

I am really confused by the “why didn’t Rex criticize this more” comments. Did we read the same post?

RooMonster 11:34 AM  

I did it! Finally hit Queen Bee status today!
And with no cheating of any kind!
My last get was a tough one.

I'm so happy I took a pic on my phone of it!

I am disappointed, though, that BUTTFOLD wasn't one of the words!

RooMonster Queen For A Day Guy

Mary McCarty 11:36 AM  

@LMS: I enjoy your linguistic romps and classroom stories so much I thought I’d give you this one, which I just thought of because I too have that “counsel/council” problem. COUNSEL is a person or what s/he does; COUNCIL is a group of people who sit around a C-shaped table.
(Actually COUNSEL is derived from Latin “consilium”, meaning “plan” and COUNCIL is from “concilium”, meaning “group”. Notice the diphthong change in both. These are never confused in Latin, because good classicists pronounce every letter C “hard”, as a K. I hope I remember this explanation next time I have to choose which one to write.

Pam 11:50 AM  

Lazy Sunday. I haven’t even finished the puzzle yet, but had to come here when I saw the clue to 65A. Do we think WS has noticed what goes on here, in spite of himself?!

So far, pretty easy. Got the theme, loved Dracula especially, since I reread it recently, the saw it Off Broadway. See you later!

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

FUZZY logic is an established discipline. FUZZY MATH, aka in toto??? I'd need something to convince.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Criticize puzzles and not American liberty.
Liberate Rex Parker.

Anonymoose 12:15 PM  

Buttfold should definitely be a word. "My buttfold piercing really hurt!"

John R 12:38 PM  

Got the theme today in the NW with HOUNDSHAKE. Did not know HARI Kondabolu so had Kari at first, but KeyJoe did not make sense, so I corrected to HeyJoe to get Hari.

I did not know that Fuzzy Math was a real thing. I thought it was from a Bush/Reagan debate, but that was Voodoo Economics.

KM 12:39 PM  

Same. Other than JD the only law degree I know is LLM, and I’ve never heard of a HIMBO so I had “HIMMO” and “LLM.” I had to google “LLB” and learned it doesn’t exist in North America. In retrospect, I probably should’ve figured out “HIMBO” as a play on bimbo but that is very hard to see when you’re pretty confident LLM is right because 1) it exists and 2) answers the clue. Tough tough cross.

Masked and Anonymous 12:49 PM  

My kind of SunPuz. The humor of HOUNDSHAKE and MOUSEMARKETING and their sou-sou cousins sustained m&e enough, to enjoy this big old crossword.

Some nice tasty tastes of Ow de Speration also sustained m&e; faves: UNARMS. RISD. HIMBO. REAIRS. ABOIL. NTEST.

staff weeject pick: LLB. My nanosecondy heart always sinks a bit, when it sees a clue about an abbreviated foreign attorney's degree. Cross it with CARLO & HIMBO, swath it in the desperation of UNARMS & REAIRS, and U got yerself quite a rodeo subprogramme, complete with clowns in barrels, thereabouts. Temporary FUZZYMOUTH feelins ensued.

Still … in all, this was a fun SunPuz, at our house.
Sooo … Thanx for gangin up on us, BZ & BEQ. Nice touches of the usual pop music refs, BEQ. Hard to beat a Hendrix HEYJOE riff.

Masked & Anonymo13Us

p.s. @RP: My own crossword plug: I think U might really at least enjoy today's runtpuz theme, if U can stomach the usual occasional desperate bits infestin the rest of it.
What the hey … have another drink, and go for this pup, one time. It's ART, after all!


MarthaCatherine 12:55 PM  

I thought I'd come here and see NOTHING but laughing out loud at the NED FLOUNDERS error. How are more people, especially OFL, not howling at the moon about this?

How does anyone anywhere mistake Game of Thrones with The Simpsons!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I'm not even a huge watcher of either show. I just figured it would get more notice than it's gotten so far. Maybe no one else herein is either?

Picture, if you will, Ned Stark going head to head with Net Flanders. Srsly. This would be the greatest meme of all times.

That aside, it was a terrific puzzle.

Joe Dipinto 12:55 PM  

@Nancy – the Going For Seconds quiz is stupid because if you don't absolutely know the answer, there's no way to deduce it, you just have to randomly guess. They could at least have made it multiple choice. I'm positive about 3, and pretty sure about a 4th. But otherwise I'm just gonna look up the answers later.

KnittyContessa 1:00 PM  

Can someone please explain 29A. GOT is NED Stark. NED Flanders is The Simpsons. What am I missing?

I, too, Naticked at HIMBO/LLB.

Camilita 1:07 PM  

@webwinger those articles on Sweden are old and outdated. Sweden is an example of what not to do. Even Donald Trump tweeted how their cases and deaths per capita are 10x Denmark, Finland and Norway. They screwed up and are paying for it.

Pam 1:12 PM  

I see now that I was far from the first to have commented on ‘with a tilde.’ Still smiling over it. After that, though, things slowed down, especially in the SE and just above it. I ended up with a dnf for HIM O. FAIRCOUCH and FUZZYMOUTH took forever- I really wanted tOoTH and bOotH. That plus aStAR for OSCAR and sun taN took forever to fix.

So all my fun was in the first corner where the answers nearly entered themselves and the theme popped out with the first two, culminating in that newly accurate clue.

The first time I saw Dracula on stage was years ago, on Broadway. Raul Julia played the Count. I was sitting in a house seat near the front and couldn’t take my eyes off him. I told my friends afterward that I was going to leave my bedroom windows open, and he could visit me any time. In spite of my hopes, the COUNT MISSed the opportunity.

jberg 1:14 PM  

I didn't notice the sound shift in the title until Rex pointed it out; nice touch. What bothered me was HOUND SHAKE, since "shake" is a command that one actually does give to dogs; ideally, the meanings of the two phrases should be completely unrelated. (That's why the NED FLOUNDERS clue is actually good. If the changed phrase referred to the same Ned, it would be a defect.)

@loren, not knowing that much about hip hop (though I did recognize the names you used) it took me a minute to see what you were doing in your last sentence; it doesn't work either, though, as "tang" doesn't change.

OK, let's talk FUZZY Math. I'm no mathematician, but I've got some idea. First of all, that Wikipedia article is a hoot. I thought at first it was a parody, but then realized it was written by a mathematician for other mathematicians, with little concern whether anyone else would understand it. Mathematicians find concepts like "fuzzification" witty, and probably are not really aware that others may find them ridiculous.

Very simply (which is as far as I understand it), something may be either a member of a set or not a member of a set. But among the non-members, perhaps some are closer to membership than others, so it's less clear--i.e., fuzzier-- which are members. This idea led to fuzzy logic, which has practical applications: if your clothes dryer can be set to shut off once the clothes are dry, dryers with fuzzy logic can be told how dry you want them. Fuzzy math is the attempt to apply this concept of fuzziness to other topics in mathematics.

Whew! Enough of that. As for the catch thing -- I think I do say "ketch," but I correct myself when I notice. Where I grew up everyone pronounced the word creek as "crick," but once we got a little education we generally recognized that our way of saying it was non-standard. Cue the opening song from My Fair Lady (at least, I think it's the opener,) "Why can't the English..."

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

fun fact to look up. HIMBO, I guess, is a play on bimbo, these last few years as a, somewhat, derogatory word for some kind of woman. BUT, did you know that the coinage was for a male idiot?

jberg 1:18 PM  

@Nancy from yesterday--wow, that seems a little infuriating. That timing thing is certainly true, though.

Frantic Sloth 1:26 PM  

I have no strong opinion about this puzzle one way or t'other, so already it's a distant meh-mory.

If you are linguistically-abled, I can see how it would be more appreciated, but I'm not of that ilk, sadly.
Basically, I'm just here to thank @LMS for the video and do a strafing run at the comments...doesn't seem to be a bone of contention yet, so I'll happen by later in hopes of a fray to join.

I was able to glean HIMBO from bIMBO, but kinda prefer mIMBO - mostly because of its origin.

@Nancy 1113am Nope. None of those puzzles are online. Our getting Spelling Bee every day is probably the lone perk of digital vs. paper. I'm jealous.

@Roo 1134am Congratulations on the QB on SB! I happened to get there today, too - just barely - by hoping what turned out to be the last word would be accepted. Lucky guess - luckier still that it was accepted. Yay, us! ;-)

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I signed on today to specifically see the savagery that would result from the Ned Flanders/Ned Stark mistake.
Only two or three mentions.


Greg 1:53 PM  


Frantic Sloth 1:54 PM  

@Anonymous 138pm. I never watched The Simpsons or Game of Thrones - at least not enough to know that. But the google supports you, et.al.
There's going to be some insignificant detail that, if you look at it sideways, while hopping on one foot and eating Cheetos on a Blursday, can rationalize its veracity.

Let's watch!

webwinger 1:57 PM  

@Giovanni 1:07 pm: You seem to be countering me with inaccurate information from a Trump tweet. Did you really read my post and review the numbers? I didn’t think so, but here is an update on stats from Sweden and comparison countries (again from the NYT global stats reference), since I originally extracted the data 4 days ago. Numbers within brackets are from 4/29, showing percent increase since then to give today’s numbers preceding brackets; the remainder of my paragraph on this point is also REAIRed, as I think its points remain equally valid.

[Sweden] now has 219 [up 10% from 199]/100,000 population cases, 26 [up 8% from 24])/100K deaths, compared with Norway (147 [up 2% from 144] cases, 4 [4] deaths per 100K), Denmark (164 [up 6% from 155] cases, 8 [8] deaths), Germany (196 [up 3% from 190] cases, 8 [up 14% from 7] deaths), UK (274 [up 13% from 242] cases, 42 [up 27% from 33] deaths), and the United States (349 [up 13% from 310] cases, 20 [up 25% from 16] deaths). Not bad at all. Hard to attribute relatively high death rate to lack of stay-home requirement, in particular because the government has recommended that all those over 70 stay home, and has a no visitors policy for nursing homes (despite which more than 1/3 of deaths have occurred in such facilities). The country’s chief epidemiologist recently said it appears that about 25% of the population of Stockholm is now immune, and the city could reach “herd immunity … within a matter of weeks”. Will be interesting to compare economic impact of the pandemic and response to it across these countries when the smoke clears.

To summarize, since my “old and outdated” post and references from the middle of last week, numbers in the UK and US have increased considerably more than in Sweden, which is still better than either of those countries, and not a great deal worse than its better-looking European neighbors. If Sweden comes out way ahead economically, and/or countries that have been under stay-home orders have a larger second wave in the future, Donald Trump will turn out to have been not just wrong, but way wrong!

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

It’s Ned flounders. As in Ned screws up. The last name of the Game of Thrones character is irrelevant.

Lorelei Lee 2:00 PM  

@Nancy and @Gill, If we're going to socially accept Himbo, then we have to socially accept the feminine form Bimbo. And wait for it, to be fair Thembo. People are free to say what they want, but I'd rather not see nasty name-calling in a puzzle.

I hope it doesn't sound prudish, but it's become so commonplace.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  


it ain't no mistake. NED Stark FLOUNDERS, which is exactly what the clue says. it is, may be, a coincidence that there exists another NED called Flanders. sure, it would be cooler if all of the answers were A - OU subs AND be a parallel sort of thing, i.e. fictional characters, in this case. that might take some doing.

Joe Dipinto 2:09 PM  

Ned Flanders/Ned Stark is not a mistake. The function of "Ned Flanders" is merely to be the jumping-off point from which the sound shift is created. The "Ned" in the phrase NED FLOUNDERS by necessity has to be a different Ned. Get it?

Frantic Sloth 2:28 PM  

Well, I guess I'm dense. Not exactly news, but perhaps someone can explain it to me like I'm me.

The theme (simplified) is changing sounds from "a" to "ou", the clue being the jumping off point for the answer.

If "NEDFLOUNDERS" is the answer, then NEDFLANDERS is implied and inferred in the clue.

Since GOT has no character by that name, why reference it at all? Furthermore, if The Simpsons does have a character so named, why wouldn't you use that show in the clue?

GILL I. 2:56 PM  

@Lorelei Lee 2:00. Who said anything about HIMBO being socially acceptable? It's a word in the crossword (probably BEQ's clue) and it simply means a bimbo with balls.....

Joe Dipinto 3:02 PM  

What if the 29a clue were:

"Nancy Drew's boyfriend has difficulties?"


"Character actor Beatty has difficulties?"

Does it make sense that way? Because it's the same thing. The clue had to be about someone else named Ned – not Ned Flanders.

Barbara S. 3:03 PM  

@Roo Monster 11:34
Yay! Yay! Roo, I'm with you! Well, maybe not about "buttfold," but about achieving Queen Bee status at long last! And before 2:00 p.m.! I'm savouring this moment like it might be the only one ever, 'cause well, you know.

Barbara Regina

pabloinnh 3:21 PM  

@Anonymoose-Totally agree on BUTTFOLD. See also, BOOTFUL AND BOOTFULL. "Of course he thinks she's BOOTFUL, he just drank a BOOTFULL of beer." . Lots of points there too.

sixtyni yogini 4:00 PM  

Meh. Did not like...except for himbo and hound shake. 🥊🧩🥊

Xcentric 4:01 PM  

Wasn’t the Black Knight “unarmed” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? A-ou that must have hurt. :)

Xcentric 4:01 PM  

Wasn’t the Black Knight “unarmed” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? A-ou that must have hurt. :)

Frantic Sloth 4:03 PM  

Okay, so "Flanders" is irrelevant and just a coincidence that there is a character by that name on TV. I still think it adds a touch of confusion (intentional or not) that is unnecessary.


and then there's NEDFLOUNDERS from...? Just plain NED?

Do you see why it doesn't seem to make sense to some of us?

tkincher 4:23 PM  

Despite multiple keyboard attacks from Party Cat, this one was a record Sunday for me (just under 18m). I liked the themers, solid puzzle.

Crimson Devil 4:26 PM  

Hungry Mom; speakin of gas mileage these days, I figure I’m gettin 1.5 mpg, months per gallon.
Enjoyed HIMBO. UNARM not so much.

Doc John 4:27 PM  

There is actually a better way to clue ESTOP but although it's less groan-worthy, it's probably less-known than its law counterpart. In the amusement industry an E-STOP (short for emergency) is when a ride operator has to immediately stop the coaster, ferris wheel, Zipper, or whatever because of either rider, onlooker, or natural (think tree branch) misbehavior. It's usually the big red button in the middle of the control panel.

Joe Dipinto 4:33 PM  

@Frantic Sloth – I didn't say it's not awkward; it is. It probably wasn't the best idea to base one of the sound shifts on a proper name. But it isn't an error.

egsforbreakfast 4:48 PM  

@Frantic Sloth. I’ll try a slightly different route to explain this. Each answer is a well-known word or phrase that has been altered by converting an “a” to an “ou”. Each themer clue gets to the altered phrase by utilizing a different noun as an answer than the one that had the “a” sound. For example, the phrase handshake, after alteration can be clued with a dog instead of a hand. But the other part of the word/phrase also needs to get clued differently from its normal meaning or use in the phrase. Therefore instead of “shake” as in move rapidly up and down, as in handshake, “shake” is clued as a malt shop item.

One of the well-known phrases is Ned Flanders. Flanders is clued as “has difficulties “, but the Ned part also must be clued as something other than what is in the well-known phrase. Therefore it’s clued as a disguised form of “first name of Ned Stark”. I would call it a weak clue, but it does stay true to the principle used in all of the themers.

egsforbreakfast 5:33 PM  

Caution: piercings in the buttfold are a known risk factor for SLOP ITCH.

Z 5:36 PM  

@Frantic Sloth - Does my explanation at 7:53am not help?

Aketi 5:49 PM  

Pretty easy Sunday which is a good thing on a day when I’m under the weather. FUZZY MOUTH was a gimme because I have a tooth that I’m hoping doesn’t need to be extracted. Sadly, my thermometer is telling me it might not go away with just saline soaks and vitamin D and C straight from my sardine and orange stashes with a little extra boost with D supplements. Not that I was ever deficient anyway or feel that those nutrients are some sort of universal miracle cure. Fortunately I have a good dentist who knows a good oral surgeon who is working with full PPE the tooth fails to comply with the first and second line treatment.

My least favorite was MOUSE MARKETING, but that is just because I’m feeling a little grumpy about that E for no good reason. I kept looking at it and thinking whether it should be pronounced like MACE (which I’m tempted to get to keep people out of my personal space) or MAZE which I’m thinking of creating in Minecraft just because.

Barbara S. 6:02 PM  

At the risk of repetition --

I think the confusion with the theme stems from inconsistency:

In the case of "Can't miss" and COUNT MISS, "miss" means the same thing in both, i.e. "fail to hit a target."

In the case of "Cancelled check" and COUNSELED CHECK, "check" means two different things, i.e. a financial document in the first, and a status in the game of chess in the second.

In the case of "Ned Flanders" and NED FLOUNDERS, "Ned" is a male first name in both, but it's the name of two different men, so it's perhaps in the most ambiguous position of all.

Maybe the puzzle would be improved by sticking with one of these principles or the other, and by not muddling the two.

egsforbreakfast 7:51 PM  

@Barbar S. 6:02. You are correct. I gave my 4:48 response to Frantic Sloth without looking at each themer again. The puzzle is an inconsistent mishmash, and I thank you for pointing that out.

Z 8:27 PM  

@Barbara S, @egsforbreakfast, and @Frantic Sloth - In each theme answer the changed word is clued completely differently from the source word. So in COUNT MISS, “Can’t” is in no way related COUNT. The other part of the phrase may or may not change its meaning. The theme is consistent because the theme is just the changed sound and ensuing wackiness. Using a Ned Flanders clue would break that consistency because it would not be making a full break from the source word. I agree it would be better if the other part of the phrase was also involved (either always changing or never changing) but that’s like buying a 10-speed back and complaining you can’t ride it on the freeway. It’s not designed to ride on the freeway and this theme isn’t designed to have the unchanged word be consistently altered or not. Has any other sound change puzzle accomplished this kind of consistency? I don’t recall it ever coming up before.

Barbara S. 9:08 PM  

I think we're essentially in agreement. It didn't bother me that the words that stayed the same (miss, check and Ned in my examples) sometimes changed meaning (or identity) and sometimes didn't. But given the amount of head-scratching in the solver community, I'm wondering if the puzzle might have been better received if the constructors had designed their theme to stick with one paradigm or the other. (Ooh, love that p-word!) Your question about other sound-change puzzles is a good one and I wish I knew the answer.

egsforbreakfast 9:21 PM  

@Z 8:27. I’m afraid that you are right. I’ve been insisting on too much from the clues. I tried seeing if I could make them all “always changing”, but the clues tend to get very tough.

ss 9:47 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle (not a socko boffo knockout puzzle but still good) and I also appreciated the linguistic nods from Mr. Zimmer. My beef with the puzzle is the clue for SMUDGE as "a fingerprint can leave one". Does a fingerprint really leave a smudge? I don't see it that way. A finger (or fingertip) can leave a smudge, but a fingerprint is what you get if your fingertip leaves a mark that isn't too smudgy. A fingerprint can be smudgy, but I don't think the fingerprint is itself 'making' or 'leaving' the smudge as the clue implies.

Frantic Sloth 12:19 AM  

I'd just like to thank @Z, @egsforbreakfast, @JoeDipinto, and @Barbara S for all your efforts and patience with trying to hammer an explanation through my testa dura.
It's embarrassing to admit that I only partially grasp what y'all are saying, but at least I understand a bit more than I did.

The horse be dead, the barn door be closed, and I be going to sleep. The coin will probably drop in a dream. Fingers crossed.

biomedlives 12:12 PM  

Though I didn't see it, I understand that a 2017 episode of The Simpsons was a spoof of GOT. Apparently Ned Flanders suffers the same fate as Ned Stark in it, so there is some connection between the two Neds.


Megan 2:30 PM  

Ha ha, I see what you did there. Agree, it was a chore finishing after figuring it out.

Uke Xensen 11:16 AM  

The blurb made the constructors seem well credentialed, so I was surprised at how full and flat this was.

spacecraft 11:29 AM  

Easier than the average Sunday but for two naticks in the east. I got them both on lucky guesses: hoping that HIMBO would be the male equivalent of "bimbo" (a word I don't use), and that maybe the RI of RISD might stand for Rhode Island (it does: whew!). Now who is this ALI?? Not, I'll wager, DOD Laila.

Speaking of Words I (and people in general) don't use, we have UNARM and ENURE. Are they real words? YESSES to both. Unfortunately. Sometimes I think that whole bunches of words are coined for crossword constructors' convenience. NTEST is not only a letter-add but a practice that belongs in the past. Let us put it in the xword past too.

Comparative ease of solving cut down on the slogginess of this one, so it has that going for it. Par.

Burma Shave 12:39 PM  


ENURE INTEARS that she goes TOOFAR south?
YES, so I AVERRED I hadn't QUITE kissed HER,


Diana, LIW 3:54 PM  

My first answer in was the ever-popular ANO. Immediately could hear the tilde discussion - hope it was averted by the clue.

And rats! My "DIMBO" was not a winner. Even tho I like it better. Got all the rest, even a corner that was troubling me for a bit. Oh well - back to quarantine.

Diana, Lady-in-Hiding

rondo 6:51 PM  

Didn't find much to like or dislike about this puz. One write-over having at first spelled it YERTel. SHIP load of mens' names so SOLANGE Knowles (not HER SISTER) and Laura DERN stand out. A couple of YESSES there (haven't we also seen is as YESES? Maybe not.). Not exactly SOCKO. End of POST.

Rube 8:05 PM  

Except that Seinfeld coined the correct term years ago when characterizing Elaines boyfriend Tony as a make bimbo. A MIMBO

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