Land of rustic innocence / TUE 6-9-20 / Rink great Bobby / Comic book debut of 1963 / Annual White House Correspondents' dinner jocularly

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Constructor: Freddie Cheng

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (3:58) (I just couldn't get my head around a few of the themers)

THEME: GO FISH (31D: Popular kids' game ... or a hint to 18-, 32-, 37- and 58-Across) — themers describe fishing? I guess?

Theme answers:
  • PICK-UP STICK (18A: Item in a game of jackstraws) (what are 'jackstraws'!!!?)
  • OPEN A CAN OF WORMS (32A: Attempt to fix something and inadvertently make the situation worse)
  • TAKE A SOFT LINE (37A: Go easy on the criticism)
  • GET HOOKED UP (58A: Join (with))
Word of the Day: ARCADIA (13A: Land of rustic innocence) —
Arcadia (GreekΑρκαδία) refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature. The term is derived from the Greek province of the same name which dates to antiquity; the province's mountainous topography and sparse population of pastoralists later caused the word Arcadia to develop into a poetic byword for an idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness. Arcadia is a poetic shaped space associated with bountiful natural splendor and harmony. The 'Garden' is often inhabited by shepherds. The concept also figures in Renaissance mythology. Although commonly thought of as being in line with Utopian ideals, Arcadia differs from that tradition in that it is more often specifically regarded as unattainable. Furthermore, it is seen as a lost, Edenic form of life, contrasting to the progressive nature of Utopian desires.
The inhabitants were often regarded as having continued to live after the manner of the Golden Age, without the pride and avarice that corrupted other regions. It is also sometimes referred to in English poetry as Arcady. The inhabitants of this region bear an obvious connection to the figure of the noble savage, both being regarded as living close to nature, uncorrupted by civilization, and virtuous. (wikipedia)
• • •

What year is it? That is the question I kept asking as I solved, and after I solved, and right now. Whose idea of "fishing" is this? A stick and a can of worms and a soft (???!) line ... who is fishing, Opie? And is "GO FISH" really a "popular" kids' game in the year of our lord 2020? Who plays pick up sticks? What is 'jackstraws'?! And while we're at it, when did anyone ever call the school cafeteria the CAF!? (1D: School lunchroom, informally) Wow, wow, what? No. No. So I didn't get it. I don't believe in what the puzzle wants me to believe in. Further, I don't really see how TAKE A SOFT LINE works. I don't even know the idiom at all. I had to work for almost every letter in that one. And even now, looking at it, I don't see what softness has to do with fishing lines. I get that all these themers are verb phrases, so it's like we're getting instructions ... on how ... to fish? ... but what is "soft line"? The fact that I have to ask means that there's a problem. Also, a single, lone PICK-UP STICK!? I doubt it. And GET HOOKED ... UP? OOF. That UP was rough for me, as I had ON at first. And GO FISH is all weirdly placed, seriously, the whole thing is a thematic mess, and the attempts at playful fill (NERD PROM, FROGKICK) can't save it. Also, NERD PROM is gross on at least two levels. A, the White House Correspondents' dinner devalues journalism; don't be seduced by glamor and access; don't be chummy with politicians; take their lunch money and make them cry! And B, those aren't nerds. No, they're not. I know nerds. Please trust me on this. Also, nerds actually go to actual prom now, so ... the moniker is dumb, stem to stern.

I like MILK BAR best today (10D: Place to get a dairy treat). Oh, and SUBPOENA, just because of its funny spelling (i.e. Latin spelling ... I just like that it looks so different than it sounds). Almost all of my struggle with this one came with TAKE A SOFT LINE, a total puzzle ruiner, as I discussed above. I also had trouble with FROGKICK, as I was thinking of what the arms do, not the legs (41D: Breaststroke move). ODIC is a dumb word. Having JOVI over BON feels assbackwards, although part of me wishes they'd found a way to include ARENA in the cross-referencing action. Go all the way and just make that little southwestern section a total cross-referencing clusterf***. Why not? Penny, pound, etc. DURAG has still somehow never appeared in the NYTXW, despite being the more common (and preferred) spelling (26A: Close-fitting headwear). Here, check out this article. The title of the article is, "The Durag, Explained." The subtitle is, "It's spelled durag. The end." And it was published in the ... (checks notes) ... New York Times? Huh. Weird.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:10 AM  

On the tough side. NERD PROM was new for me as was TAKE A SOFT LINE so those were the last ones in. Liked it, but I agree with @Rex about the theme, it didn’t quite click.

Pete 12:13 AM  

Not spelling related, but that durag article sucked. I can attest to the fact that durags were commonplace in the early 60's at the latest. Someone invented them in 1979!? Baloney.

Joaquin 12:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frantic Sloth 12:18 AM  

I could leave basically the same review as yesterday's puzzle.
Inoffensive, easy fill and theme.
Can we maybe raise the bar just a titch?

@Rex - We said CAF in high school. 70s.
I thought the same about the singular PICKUPSTICK and also wondered isn't it just a STICK that you PICKUP, hence PICKUPSTICKs is what you do, not what they are.
Whatevs. No motivation to go any further. 😴


Anoa Bob 12:57 AM  

Coming out of the gate with CAF and ODIC was inauspicious, but my grandfather's name was ORVILLE so 17A righted the ship.

Then PICK UP STICK got a "Really?" reaction. In FISHing it's called a POLE, not a STICK. And a LONE PICK UP STICK is about as useful as yesterday's SOFA LEG. OOF indeed.

My favorite entry brought back memories of long-ago lazy summer afternoons down at the lake with some tautened toric flotation devices, drifting slowly along with the current with only an occasional FROG KICK to reorient our position.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

Unless the answer to 31D was Fortnite, the puzzle better have a lot of explaining in the theme fills. I don't think most kids would even know what Go Fish is, let alone call it popular enough to admit they wanted to play it.

Phil 1:43 AM  

Rex likes MILKBAR. Any particular location. Must be a bunch of them ... somewhere. On the other hand forget it. Doesn’t sound interesting at all. Happy to hear they have patrons, enjoy yourself Rex. Wait, googled it. an aussie thing, new to me.

I remember talking to an aussie about the adoration they have downunder for veggiemite. Haven’t tried it but they say its an aquired taste. I suppose MILKBAR is as valid an entry as veggiemite would be.

Rexenheck 1:47 AM  

Rex. I could not agree with you more regarding JOVI over BON. I do have to disagree with you about the correspondence dinner (NERDPROM). I think it is a fun and funny event and a good tradition. But if you say that it devalues journalism I will trust you because you are smarter than me and I was not able to finish this puzzle even though my girlfriend (yes my girlfriend) was helping me.

Signed Rexenheck

chefwen 2:30 AM  

I’ve never heard of a fishing stick, it’s a pole, as others have stated. Maybe he’s referring to what Catholic kids had to eat on Fridays, Fish STICKS. TAKE A SOFT LINE??? MILK BAR, something I would avoid at all cost.

A little tougher than your typical Tuesday, but the whole puzzle just didn’t come together for me.

Loren Muse Smith 3:16 AM  

Aw, c’mon. This is a sweet little story. PICK UP STICK. Check. OPEN A CAN OF WORMS. Check. (Here, they come in little Styrofoam cups with lids.) TAKE A SOFT LINE. Check. Ya gotta work with Freddie here and not overthink it. GET HOOKED UP. Check. If it’s in one of our ponds, you’re hooked on some kind of branch or stick. Anyhoo, once you’re sure it’s a fish, you reel it in, admire its size even though it’s never really that big, remove the hook, kiss it, and then throw it back in.

I liked RAVI next to ERIC. I don’t know my Beatles history, but I bet those two have played together before.

Breaststroke was not my event. Ever. But I swear that kick is either the whip kick or the scissors kick, right? Heck, swimming changes so much that maybe they’re even doing the dolphin kick for breast now, too. I feel like I switched from a FROG KICK to a whip kick back in the early ‘70s.

I didn’t know MILK BAR and I still can’t tell if it’s like the proper name of a place or if it’s a general term. Whichever, it doesn’t sound very appealing at all.

And I didn’t know NERD PROM, but it didn’t make me all mad and stuff.

When I lived in Japan and spoke very limited Japanese, I told Kimi-san as we were driving at night in the rain that an unagi had just run in front of our car and did she see it. She was confused. Unagi?? In the road? Crossed our path??? Hai. Unagi?? Hai. Soo desu. After a moment, she was like, Usagi? Oops. Right. Rabbit, not EEL.

I agree with Rex that SUBPOENA looks really weird. Want me to make it worse? I always listen on the news for the -ing version and then try to picture how to spell it. Subpoenaing. Now that’s a seriously startling English word. Go back. Look at it again. Whisper how you’d say it. Embrace the strangeness.

@Z – I posted at the end of yesterday’s thread re our myriad vowel sounds.

Shuls 3:34 AM  

Just what I was going to say. I’m the year of our lord 2020 (as Rex puts it) the answer to 31D is Fortnite.

Alex M 3:58 AM  

Agree with the criticism except that I gratuated HS ten years ago this month and we definitely called it the CAF more often than anything else. Like, what are we gonna call it, the lunch room? It's definitely in-the-language.

mathgent 4:26 AM  

Good sparkle for a Tuesday. ARCADIA. Clue for the exponent THREE. SILKS. GEEK out. SUBPOENA. NERDPROM. But, 27 Terrible Threes. Inexcusable. Should be unpublishable.

We called it Fish. Was it the same as Old Maid? Wait a minute, I’m going to look it up.

mathgent 4:47 AM  

Go Fish and Old Maid are different. In Go Fish, the player with the most pairs wins. In Old Maid, the player stuck with the Old Maid loses. There are special decks for both games but they can be played with a standard deck.

We taught our kids to play these games when they were so young that they could barely hold the cards in their hands. But as they got older and could understand the rules, we went to Crazy Eights. We played that with them into their teens. We would bring a deck to the restaurant and play while we waited for our food.

ChuckD 6:08 AM  

Thought the theme concept was fine - some of the fill maybe not. Liked the methodical process - get a rod, get some bait, wet a line and land a fish. The grid was graphically pleasing too - just too many clunkers in there. ARCADIA was the highlight - but MILKBAR and NERDPROM huh?? Also seeing BON JOVI in a puzzle for me = Rex seeing Ted Cruz or Ivanka.

Lewis 6:24 AM  

I love that happy face right in the middle of the grid.

I seem to be swimming against the stream here, except, thank heavens, for @LMS, but I really liked this Tuesday puzzle, with its share of lovely answers (FROG KICK, NERD PROM, OPEN A CAN OF WORMS, TAKE A SOFT LINE, ARCADIA), a couple of wordplay clues, which every Tuesday puzzle should have but often doesn't, IMO (AWOL, SUBPOENA), cluing in general that is one level deeper than obvious, to prepare the newer solver for vague and misdirecting clues coming in the later-in-the-week puzzles, clever recycling of non-fishing phrases, and finally, a sweet story, one that leads right up to the revealer GO FISH.

Smart and sweet, an early-week treat. Thank you for this GEM, Freddie!

amyyanni 6:40 AM  

Didn't dislike it as much as most of you. Not a lot of fill, and can give the theme some poetic license. Of course, happy to have a day ahead with no plumbers; just had my place repiped.

QuasiMojo 6:56 AM  

I really liked this puzzle until I got to the themers and it started to sag under its own weight, the effort in squeezing in a rather forced theme with bygone expressions and bland ones to boot. Some were just plain weird: "get hooked up"?

Loved seeing COSMOS -- it brought back memories of an erstwhile NY soccer team.

ARCADIA was a great play by Tom Stoppard. Billy Crudup was in it. Not as famous as Jon BON JOVI, but ALMOST.

To me a dweeb is a NERD not a GEEK. I'm neither but I FEEL their ILL.

A GEM is a BEAUT but not a beauty. We've has this clunker before.

A TIDBIT is a morsel of food, not a LONE PEA. Spelled TITBIT in England. Funnily I watched a ghastly Sherlock Holmes movie last night with Christopher Plummer as Holmes squashing the last remaining PEA on a plate of food James Mason as Watson was eating. It was called "Murder by Decree" and the only reason I watched it is because I thought it was "Murder By Death."

I also watched part of "Devotion" on TCM about the Bronte sisters, with a woefully miscast Bramwell. Our beloved IDA Lupino was in it, and the recently mentioned Olivia de Havilland. Closing in on 104. I can't remember which one wrote Jane EYRE. I would take a JAB at it but I don't want to ERR.

OMAN, Please stop with the DUDE and BRO junk fill.

And OH HEY, methinks a YMCA offers a lot more than a community gym. I used to listen to live chamber music at mine.

tb 7:14 AM  

@LMS: In yesterday's vowel list, you left out beat. Or at least none of the words has a long e the way I pronounce them.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

SEXY crossing FISH makes me think of Troy McClure. You may remember him from such movies as Suddenly, Last Supper and Give my Remains to Broadway.

Methinks Will forgot the day again, with ARCADIA and NERD PROM in there.

Midlantic upbringing always makes me want scepter, sabre, etc., so nice to see one spelt correctly.

Don’t get TEARIER over spilled MILK.

Conrad 7:32 AM  

I'm surprised Rex didn't mention the oversize 15x16grid.

Small Town Blogger 7:35 AM  

It’s not a “soft line” it’s just a line. You take a stick, a line, a hook and a worm and go fishing.

Joaquin 7:37 AM  

DuRAG is a new one for me. I always thought it was a DORAG (as in hair-do rag). Oh well. What does a bald guy know about those things anyhow?

In my day we did, in fact, have lunch in the school CAF if we were in the minority of kids who didn't bring lunch from home (in a bag or one of those really un-cool metal lunch boxes).

There's nothing "playful" about FROGKICK; that's what the breaststroke kick is called.

OTOH, I didn't know that MILKBAR was a thing.

Do kids play GO FISH these days? Maybe if there is a video game version (and why wouldn't there be?).

pabloinnh 7:40 AM  

Many fish'll bite if you got good bait,
Here's a little tip I would like to relate,
Many fish'll bite if you got good bait,
I'm a-goin' fishin',yeah I'm goin' fishin'
An my baby's goin' fishin' too."

@JoeD-you there?

Liked this one fine, because it made me think of Taj Mahal and the best fishing song ever. Who says "CAF"? Every kid at the last high school I taught in. Who's heard of "jackstraws"? Me. TAKE A SOFT LINE is obviously the opposite of "take a hard line", even if it feels unfamiliar. Only major glitch was first "Get a ROOM" and then "Get a CLUE" but that cleared up and bang, all done.

LMS has me wondering what a "whip kick" might be, it sure sounds way cooler than my old-fashioned FROGKICK.

Optimum Tuesday for me, for which thanks, FC. Go take your place on the Tuesday All Star Team.

GILL I. 7:50 AM  

And our friend @Lewis, finds a happy face. Did you notice the BURRO under the nose? ;-)
Well if you want, I suppose you can call this an oldie. I think I played PICK UP STICKs about the same time as I had my first kiss playing spin the bottle. I wasn't very good at either. My first kiss landed on my chin.
I liked GET HOOKED UP. I wasn't a GEEK or a nerd or any of those things but I was awkwardly tall for my age. My sweet cheerleading friends tried their best to find someone - anyone - who wasn't a MILK BAR to fit the bill. I think I finally stopped growing in High School - and probably in the CAF.
Memories of fishing with a little STICK off the Malecon in Havana. My bait was a piece of bread. Can you guess how many FISH I caught? I have a picture somewhere that my dad took of me. I looked very desperate and pathetic.
FROG KICK was my favorite entry. The first time I did some serious snorkeling, I was told to use it with my fins. It keeps you from falling into the coral.
When I see ORVILLE, I think of Redenbacher and his popcorn. He has a sweet face in a Mr. Rogers sort of way.
I guess people who hate peas will only eat one PEA. My brother hated them. He would always asks (loudly) to say grace before eating. As we all bowed our heads and closed our eyes in reverence and thanking the Lord for our good fortune, he would shove all his peas into a napkin thinking no one would notice. I did. I also told on him.

CS 8:05 AM  

I also thought this theme adorable - got it pretty quickly, once I had "Pick Up Stick" (and it is a totally fair clue, as it is "Item (singular) in a game....." )- went to the revealer and just thought it was fun fun fun.

Yet another example of my wheelhouse being so different from Rex's. Hands up for "Caf" being used, and I went to high school eons ago.

It did play a little harder than most Tuesdays, but in WFH days I have more time for morning coffee anyway :-)


Hungry Mother 8:10 AM  

Very quick, ignoring the theme and going for lots of downs. Beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Twangster 8:31 AM  

My kids went through a phase where they played Go Fish every night before bed but now they've moved on to double and triple solitaire. That was a few months ago. They tell me that most kids in these parts (New Orleans) know how to play.

KnittyContessa 8:36 AM  

I agree with everything that Rex said today. I even had a mental picture of Opie while solving. How weird is that?

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

For some Ravi and Eric, check out Concert for George, 2002

MR. Cheese 8:49 AM  

@Phil 1:43am
If you’ve never tried veggiemite prepare to gag. A truly vile taste to a Yankee.

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

Oh, come off it! Think “grandkids” not young computer users.

H. Mann 8:53 AM  

In the summer before my sophomore year of high school, our school board, realizing they were late to the technology game, decided to put a partition right down the middle of our lunch room and build a "technology center" on one side of the wall as a quick fix.

Consequently, we were left with just a half-caf for lunch.

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

“Cosmos” elicits Carl Sagan.

Nancy 9:00 AM  

Much cleverer, more interesting and challenging than the usual dreary Tuesday. The typical Tuesday puzzle would have settled for the nouns at the ends of phrases: STICK, WORMS, LINE, HOOK and called it a day. This had all the action of what you do with the implements included in the theme answers. Now, if you follow these instructions to the letter, I'm not sure how many fish you'd actually catch, but you would be fishing. Really nice!

On my first and last fishing outing -- a venture on which I caught 7 blowfish and had to throw them all back because they were too small -- one of the grownups was kind enough to OPEN A CAN OF WORMS and bait my hook for me. I couldn't get past the ick factor. (I was only about 15, so all was understood and forgiven.)

A word about the startling answer NERD PROM for the Correspondents' dinner. Who coined that??? I consider techie types like the awful Mark Zuckerberg to be nerds. Or maybe CPAs. But journalism has always struck me as a glamorous profession -- attracting people who are outgoing and gregarious, passionate and involved, articulate and interesting. Other women may fantasize about dating movie stars, but journalists have always held a special fascination for me. I have to confess: both Ben Bradlee and Pete Hammill have been in my thoughts from time to time. (Alas, I was not in their thoughts, darn it!)

A really good puzzle that I enjoyed.

LeaveItToYourGoat 9:02 AM  

I ran into my BRO ORVILLE at the BON JOVI concert, where he tried to help me GET HOOKED UP with THREE SEXY EXES. But I refused because I was planning to TAKE A SOFT LINE to the NERD PROM and GEEK out with some ANAKIN memes while doing the EEL to some DRE.

I don't recall what happened next, but I'm told it was an UGLY MESS, and I FEEL ILL, now that I'm looking at a SUBPOENA from the owner of the local YMCA.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

RooMonster 9:08 AM  

Hey All !
Although I can cut this puz a little slack, as it is Tuesday, but...

First, flawed theme, as the first three have the theme-word as the last one, STICK, WORMS, LINE, but the fourth one has UP. HOOKED is the theme-word, why is it not last?
Then, as @mathgent NITted, 27 threes, and 43 blocks. High black square count. Normal max is 38. 40 is even a stretch. 43?

So my rare (getting lass rarer lately) Did Not Like puz. In case you give a hoot about my opinion. 😊

Didn't notice the 16 long grid, so thanks @Conrad 7:32 for that. Do disagree with Rex on the CAF thing, though. Who says, "Yea, lunch time! Race you to the cafeteria" No, it's "race you to the CAF."

Add me to the DORAG is correct group. NERD PROM was a new one here, but like I've mentioned before, don't watch news, so newsy stuff always new to me.

OH HEY, Politicians need to Get a GRIP, regardless of the Party.

Five F's

Star Gurl 9:08 AM  

Being an Astronomy PhD Candidate, I balked at entering COSMOS for Universe at 1A, maybe universes? but ...

The Feminine form ALUMNA made my day. Or so I thought ...

I was lead to enter PICKUPSTICKS into 18A due to fill already in place. It seemed wrong sans s so I backed it out. Later I learned it was the very awkward singular, but by then I had already discovered that the puzzle was deficient in far too many other ways.

So finally is there a dash in 26A? DURAG or DU-RAG? Thanks!

Z 9:20 AM  

I was wondering why the WoD was ARCADIA and not jackstraw, then I read the write-up. Rex is a sly one.

@LMS - Good RAVI/ERIC catch. I was busy wondering how Dr. DRE got invited to the party.

Preferred by whom? @Pete 12:13 - I think the article is saying “popularized” more than “invented” - but even that seems wrong to me. I’ve been wearing one since the early 80’s to keep the sweat out of my eyes while chasing plastic and everything referenced in that article is new to me. Anyway, DO-RAG seems preferred by online resources like dictionaries and stuff, but Amazon uses every conceivable spelling, “O”, “OO,” “U,” with a hyphen, without a hyphen. The only conclusion I can reach is that the way you prefer to spell it is the preferred spelling.

Hand up for balking at the single STICK and at the notion that PICK UP STICK is something anyone has ever called that thing. PICK UP STICKs is the game and the things you play the game with are STICKs. Or you could play it with jackstraws. If you live in ARCADIA.

Hand up for having absolutely no idea what any of the various swimming kicks are called.

Thanks for the vowel info, @LMS. Now I’m curious as to the effect of The Great Vowel Movement on the number of vowel sounds in English. Do we have fewer or more or is it that we just spell them differently? And now I see we have to worry about Trisyllabic laxing. It sounds painful.

@Shuls - Yep.

TJS 9:31 AM  

One of the most popular brands of fishing rods are called "Ugly Sticks".

Scanned the NW corner and got nothing, switched to the NE and got the god-awful "Ravi,Eric,Dre crossing "Tearier" and "Orville". They don't get any worse than that, folks.

How hard can creating a puzzle be if you dont need actual words in the fill:caf,atm,awol,foto,dst,gre,ymca,bro,exes...

I thought they were called "Ted Talks", but having never logged into one, I could be wrong.

Birchbark 9:39 AM  

The MILK BAR at the Minnesota State Fair is one of the wonders of the world.

JOVI-BON. If I were them, I would end the concert with the band shouting it in unison, and then just stride off the stage. Like "Zilla-God," only for BON JOVI.

Mark & Michael 9:47 AM  

breaststroke-frog kick

crawl-flutter kick

sidestroke-scissors kick

backstroke-inverted flutter?

Evan 9:51 AM  

Sorry Rex, I think the comments here show that you're out of step with this one--I too called it the CAF, back in the 80s and 90s.

Newboy 9:53 AM  

Cute! And definitely too cute for Rex.

Easy and designed to take solvers to a simpler place & time. If you’re not able to pretend you’re going to GO FISH, Freddie probably leaves you cold, but if you’re capable of recapturing a second childhood, Cheng’s grid is fine. In fact, for a Tuesday it’s perfect 👌🏽. Even the repetitive UP didn’t raise my hackles as I tackled this one to put in my creel.

Now I want to see the constructor notes at xwordinfo, read Rex’s rant (I’m betting for one) and see what y’all have to say. I may be back....

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

- in olde time New England, synonym for soda fountain
- according to the wiki, currently the name of a chain of ... soda fountains (well, more bakery, but still...) in the Northeast, mainly NYC

burtonkd 9:58 AM  

@ IGill, how long ago were you able to fish off the Malecon in Havana. Visited a few years ago, but would have been inaccessible to US residents since Castro, no. That is a beautiful image of a little girl fishing with dad, you have the most colorful stories:)

Unfortunately, I learned the frogkick for my breast stroke as a kid. My wife learned the egg-beater circular whip kick and totally whips me effortlessly doing that stroke. Have tried to learn and change, but this dog too old to physically adapt at that level.

I have to agree with Rex that the theme set was a bit awkwardly phrased today, but do like the image of he metaphorical Arcadian Opie on a lazy summer day making his own entertainment with nothing but things he finds laying around.

Is Acadia National Park derived from ARCADIA? If not, it certainly deserves to be.

burtonkd 9:59 AM  

woke up in the middle of the night realizing that BITE and BAIT, 2 other long vowels are also technically diphthongs. Stupid puzzle blog, let me rest...

Anonymous 10:04 AM  


LeaveItToYourGoat 10:15 AM  

Every time I hear MILK BAR, I'm filled with dread from the memory of trying to watch A Clockwork Orange at like age 13. I only made it maybe 20 minutes into the movie, so that MILK BAR scene, however brief, still seems like a big part of something that caused me nightmares for months.

Some really solid long downs today. AVENGERS, NERD PROM, and FROG KICK were satisfying to drop in there. And I loved the cleverness for the clue on SUBPOENA.

The theme did nothing for me, especially since I worked this thing counter-clockwise. Running into the revealer in such a strange spot not only didn't help, but actually slowed me down, by making me question TAKE A SOFT LINE.

Gentleman Farmer 10:45 AM  

Rex: “I know nerds. Trust me on this.”

Dude, you teach at a small, liberal arts college in the sticks. You actually write a daily crossword blog. You are offended to the point of apoplexy by the mere mention of a comic strip character created by someone with whom you disagree. You feel the need to let us know how many umbrella drinks you had in an attempt to excuse your solving times.

Hate to break it to you, but you we don’t need to be convinced to “trust” your nerd bona fides...

egsforbreakfast 10:54 AM  

I think people probably say things like “ Hey, grab the PICKUPSTICKs and I’ll set up the table.”

I have referenced some months ago the fact that I know that Tom Hanks cheats at Pick Up Sticks as I’ve been a victim.

Whatsername 11:01 AM  

A better than average Tuesday but it kind of left me oddly disappointed, as if I took my CANOFWORMS to GOFISH and didn’t even get a nibble. Anyway, loved the clue for EXES and the nice little asides with CRAB and FROG. Then I think there’s some grid art too, but I had to look for it and actually didn’t notice it at all until someone made a comment about it. I appreciate that the themers are lined up but what would’ve taken this puzzle to a level of greatness would have been HOOK, LINE and SINKER in that order.

I agree that STICK is an odd choice because it’s called a fishing POLE. Even as far back as Andy and Opie - whether they were using a piece of bamboo or a rod and reel - they called it a pole. “Hey Pa, let’s go fishin.” “Okay Ope, you get the WORMS and I’ll get the poles.” They sang a song with the words “you get the line and I’ll get the poles,” and there was even one episode based on a fishing pole. But to my knowledge no one ever called it a stick.

I never played GOFISH in my life, but I have played PICKUPSTICKS for hours at a time. For us, that’s how it was referred to - the game, the sticks and the activity.

Crimson Devil 11:11 AM  

Talk of fish, Ugly Sticks (fishin rods), vegimite etc. reminds of one of most entertaining SNL episodes, advertising/demonstrating “Bass-o-Matic”.

Kathy 11:13 AM  

Now I know why I thought this one was so easy; I am much older than Rex.

Sure those classic games are dated but they are still fun to play with your grandchildren when they are young. Go Fish and War are great entry-level card games as well as teaching experiences. I love games that can easily be adapted to a regular deck of cards if that is all you have on hand. I think Uno is just Crazy Eights dressed up in a special deck with some extra cards and moves, am I right, @Mathgent?

The theme was a bit clunky but it sped up the fill considerably. No aha’s along the way, but SUBPOENA was pretty good—and fun to write.

Go Fish is an APT theme for an easy Monday puzzle.

And anything that evokes Opie can’t be all bad!

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Well... if one interprets the 'theme' as just the fishing-related word in the phrase, then the puzzle is coherent;

I think it was in an illustrated 'Tom Sawyer' or 'Huckleberry Finn' where the kid is fishing with a WORM on a HOOK which is tied to a LINE (length of string) which is tied to a STICK (switch, yeah look it up). So, yeah, it can be seen as coherent. in a 19th century sort of way. even in the mid-20th century, that's how I first went fishin for punkin seeds in stagnant ponds in the neighborhood. didn't catch much, or eat any that I did catch.

Swagomatic 11:21 AM  

I finished the puzzle, and I did not see the theme. Then, it was late, I was tired, and I did not have the energy to try to figure it out. Now that I know, well, it's pretty underwhelming. I liked it okay though, just meh.

ccredux 11:39 AM  

“Let’s hook up later.” or similar expressions for joining someone are quite common.

Unknown 11:55 AM  

Seems all puzzles have imperfections yet I continue to do them and usually finish. When something is wrong better to support it than merely tear it down. Seen our share lately. Kinda hope they were thinking about Opie.

Whatsername 11:59 AM  

@LMS from yesterday: Regarding the “WEAU” sound, there is a town in SW Missouri called Weaubleau and it’s pronounced WAH BLOW. I’ve never understood why it isn’t either woe blow or wah blah. Maybe it’s a French thing.

Barbara S. 12:11 PM  

1. Left/Right symmetry in the grid. I intuit that's fairly uncommon.

2. For those who hate Vegemite, take equal precaution against Marmite. Absolutely appalling -- gives food a bad name. My husband loves it, though (as does the cat, strangely). My husband was fed it by his parents when he was a small boy and unable to defend himself, so I guess that explains that. (There's no figuring the cat.)

3. Does anyone but me remember when The Avengers were Jonathan Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel??

********SB ALERT******
I'm posting this in a blatant bid for sympathetic support. The SB's a bear today. My brain's a pretzel. On the positive front, I've remembered a bunch of words that I missed in previous SBs, so the medium-term memory isn't completely shot. But although I'm a Genius, I can't get past 45 words. Is tearing your hair out a reasonable substitute for a haircut? (Hairdressers not yet open here.)

RAD2626 12:14 PM  

Cute Tuesday with really good long fill: SCEPTRE, MILK BAR, AVENGERS all really nice. Enjoyed the puzzle and still enjoy playing GO FISH with grandkids.

My only issue was with Two of the themers. First, I have never heard a fishing pole or rod called a STICK. That and the missing S at the end make it a non-starter. And I was bothered by the clue for TAKE A SOFT LINE. I think that works perfectly well for foreign policy or diplomacy but not for criticism. TAKE it easy or go easy much more apt.

old timer 12:18 PM  

Tough for a Tuesday. At the end I reviewed the themers bottom to top and saw HOOK, LINE. Where was sinker?

I can tell you that when I saw GET HOOKED UP I immediately was back to the days when my oldest daughter went to college, and learned that this was a synonym for DOing the deed. Speaking of which, when I used to defend criminal cases, then as now African-Americans were overrepresented, at least in the BAY AREA, and it was common for their mothers to wear a DO RAG when they visited their sons in jail. Durag is some kind of modern fashion statement.

I played GO FISH as a child. Not a huge favorite among my children and grandchildren. But once they were old enough I taught my kids Cribbage. One of those games where you sometimes will beat your Dad. Kids like that.

STICK is a fine word as used. Think Tom Sawyer, and 19th century boys, who used STICKs and string or twine, a HOOK, and WORMS. (No sinkers, and no fancy salmon roe, though that was used at the summer camps I went to).

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Oh, Snap!

jberg 12:45 PM  

I liked the theme -- you have to see it as telling a story about a small-town kid with no money for equipment, but who wants to go fishing. So first you pick up a stick (maybe break one off a tree so it won't be too brittle); dig up some worms and put them in a can; tie a hook to your stick with a piece of string (soft, compared to a monofilament fishing line), put a worm on the hook and drop it in the water to see if you can get hooked up with a fish. The last bit is weak, I'll agree.

I'm pretty sure jackstraws is the same game as pick-up-sticks, maybe in England or someplace like that. There was a name for the stick we had to use to move the other sticks, but I can't remember what it is. So perhaps (wild speculation here) people who play jackstraws call that stick for picking up with the "pickup stick." Two things that did kind of grate were TOSS TO for "throw at," as way too literal; and BAY for a San Francisco area. I mean, of course San Francisco Bay has an area, but I don't think you'd refer to it that way. Or does this mean "Bay Area?" Hmm, plausible, but doesn't quite fit the way it's clued.

Finally, ARCADIA -- rustic, sure, but with all those nymphs and satyrs doing their thing, I question the innocence. See also about 3,000 ribald Renaissance madrigals. Here's one.

OTOH, there's et in Arcadia ego.

I've tried vegemite; also tried marmite. Only once each.

pabloinnh 12:51 PM  

@Barbara S re *****SB ALERT*****

SB Did not accept my obvious ****** officer (word which precedes "officer"), but did accept a few others I put in as attempts at comedy. This happens with alarming frequency. Anyway, I'm still working on today's.

Kathy 12:55 PM  

@Barbara S, yes I do! The original Avengers was super-cool!
Re SB—You are ahead of me! Team hubby and I are still only at Amazing with easy letters that turn out to be deceptive. I just know there are plenty more hiding in plain sight. I’ll give it another whirl later today and hope for Genius. Or I will need YOUR sympathy!

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

You get a line and I'll get a pole, honey. "Crawdad" is the song this puzzle brings to mind. I've never created my own pole to fish, though fishing with a bamboo pole is about the same thing - no reel, just the pole with an attached line and hook, with worms for bait. (I've never seen them come out of a can). Simplicity itself. I like simplicity, which is why biking is my favored mode of transportation and knitting is one of my favorite pastimes.

I made a little bit of a MESS, misspelling SCEPTer, no, SCEPTor, all right, all right, SCEPTRE. And I went a bit flowery, spelling 39D SUBPeoNA first (think peonies). And MreS before MESS at 71A. So this took a tad longer than your average Tuesday, but I don't mind.

Is MILK BAR only referring to the chain (which doesn't have a presence in the Twin Cities as far as I can tell) or is there an equivalent MILK version of the SALAD bar?

Thanks, Mr. Cheng, and nice grid mirror symmetry!

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

@Barbara S:

of course. how many remember (nearly no one in the USofA has seen them, since the the tapes were recycled!) that before Mrs. Peel there were other 'partners'. the only one most might know about was the about-to-be Pussy Galore.

Sara Dacus 1:53 PM  

I kept trying to make News Prom happen, but obviously, it wouldn't. Nerd prom doesn't work for me.

I teach at a junior high. We call it the caf.

people50 1:56 PM  


The juxtaposition of clues for RAVI and ERIC was in my opinion the only redeeming feature of this puzzle.

Do you really expect no slang, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. in the fill? How many puzzles actually do this? Also, BRO and EXES may be a bit slangy, but are definitely both "actual words". ATM and AWOL are technically acronyms but function as words in their own right. I also don't see an issue with using acronyms that are universally known like YMCA. GRE and DST are a little more tenuous but both still easily fair for a Tuesday. I agree both CAF (at least with that clue) and FOTO are subpar fill.

"TED talks" are just video taped sessions from the TED Conference, which has been going on since long before streaming video on the internet was a thing. I also have never "logged into" a TED talk, but I have watched and listened to many online.

Beth C 1:56 PM  

My grandkids -- all under 8 years -- play GOFISH quite often. Even the little ones can play, and friends can be taught quickly. Good for a lot of laughs and melodramatic reactions.

Doc John 1:59 PM  

Seems like Rex is the only one who didn't use the word CAF.

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

ATM is an initialism not an acronym.

turkmurphy 2:14 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only who connects Milk Bar to A Clockwork Orange. Frightening.

Masked and Anonymous 2:16 PM  

U do have to cut the themers a little bit of slack here, I'd grant. But they were pretty fun stuff, at our house.
PICKUPSTICK especially had a nice Tarzanian directness, without an article for STICK.

staff weeject picks: Weeject wierdladder of: ORR --> ORE --> DRE --> GRE.


And alsoes:
* Luvly E-W-puzgrid symmetry.
* DURAG. Looks good, to m&e. Make it so. PUP yerself a balloon, while yer at it.
* CAF & MESS … Someone was gettin hungry, during the grid-fill constructioneerin phase.
* Prez watchin a bunch of his voter base parade by: "OHHEY. Those are my people. I need to find out where they are going, so I can lead them."

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Cheng. Good job.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Z 2:30 PM  

I wish we could do a CAF poll. I strongly suspect it is a generational thing for actual use. It is definitely something I never called that space in school, but something it was definitely called in the 2000s by kids in my middle school. I don’t recall hearing it in the 90’s, but I was working in a rural district the first half of the decade and then a HS with an open campus at lunch, so it could have been very common and still not reach me.

@Anon 2:01 - Sure. And why are you mentioning this? As far as I can tell nobody here has discussed ATM, let alone call it an “acronym.“ Did I miss something?

@Anon 1:14 - Wow. I never knew that. The Wikipedia article has Emma Peel in only 2 of 6 seasons, the same number of seasons that Honor Blackman played Cathy Gale. Thanks. I seem to recall a long explication on Pussy Galore and how her portrayal in the movie differed from the book, but somehow Blackman’s work in The Avengers never registered with me.

Z 2:33 PM  

@2:01 - Nevermind. I see it now. Apparently the search page function on my iPad doesn’t see a comment if I have minimized it.

GILL I. 2:37 PM  

@burtonkd 9:58....My little fishing expedition off the Malecon was before communist revolutionary, Castro. It was during army sergeant, pawn of the US, dictator, Batista. Such beautiful people; such a beautiful island and run by a bunch of thugs.....
Stay safe and happy... ;-)

people50 2:49 PM  

@Anonymous 2:01 PM

It is a common usage for the word acronym to apply both for pronunciation as a word (AWOL) and pronunciation as a series of letters (ATM), and therefore perfectly correct. In this sense, ATM is both an acronym and an initialism.

Gina 3:00 PM  

I am a high school teacher in Central NJ. Twenty years ago my students ate in the Caf and they still do in 2020 (at least when school was open).
My grandkids love to play Go Fish and Minecraft — not mutually exclusive.

syracusesolver 3:37 PM  

As someone who fished with her father on Saturdays as a child, I enjoyed the lovely walk down Memory Lane this puzzle took me on, warts and all.

I do think that a hook would not have been available to anyone using such primitive equipment. A bent safety pin would have been used to hold the worm and snag the fish.

Z 3:46 PM  

@people50 - I guess that depends on whether or not American Heritage Dictionary calling it a usage problem is worse than having the distinction lost on “many people.” I’d have gone with “initialism,” but then I also used “whom” today.

Today’s moment of Elvis comes from this century.
And this very different video was the next suggestion. Not sure what the search bot was thinking.

CDilly52 3:47 PM  

Well, after reading the blog, all I can say is that @Rex and I must have solved different puzzles because all of the themers made perfect sense to me, I know many kids today who play GO FISH, and I thought the puzzle was really rather bouncy for a Tuesday. In fact, I really enjoyed PICK UP STICKS. My family still plays (and argues about whether a stick moved!) on the rare occasions that we do get together. Jack straws are the same game. And, PICK UP STICKS happened to be one of the preliminary qualifying games that led to my high school senior class “Ultimate Tiddly Winks Championship,” the grand prize for which was a “found” manhole cover “lost” one night by the City of Columbus, OH. It was spray painted gold and awarded to the Grand Champ at Senior Supper.
There are definitely stories there.

No problem with TAKE A SOFT LINE either. Maybe I am just so far removed in decades that I am familiar with this phrase, but when talking about consequences for transgressions, I can swear to the fact that on more than one occasion during my youth, I heard this phrase applied to myself and some of my friends when caught in some close-to-but-not-quote-delinquent act. As in, “we are certainly disappointed in you kids, but since you have already made amends and apologized (or whatever “fixative” we immediately applied when discovered at some mischief or other), we will TAKE A SOFT LINE on punishment.” Just to be clear, this didn’t mean we escaped scott free, but the consequences weren’t as dire as they might have been. Well, until my dad found out but there you are. He was absolutely Machiavellian in his ability to “make the punishment for the crime.”

Back to the puzzle. I really liked the variety in fill from DORAG to EYRE, it covered lots of decades and was fairly clued to enable most solvers to finish, I would guess. I enjoyed it but over too quickly. This was one of those rare occasions when I owned the wheelhouse. A happy Tuesday.

QuasiMojo 3:56 PM  

@pabloinnh, re SB, it accepted my blanketyblank officer. Strange. @Barbara, I'm at 45 too. Running out of steam more than ideas. :) and fearing some tongue-twister side dish from an atoll somewhere.

Pdxrains 3:57 PM  

Calling anyone who has to do with politics a NERD is a huge insult to real nerds all over!

Barbara S. 5:04 PM  

@Anonymous 1:14 and @Z 2:30
Thanks for the reminder about the various women who starred in "The Avengers." Diana Rigg seems to have made the biggest impression on me. In fact, I'm not sure I watched the show before her arrival. I was sufficiently young in the early 60s that it might have been a bedtime issue. I'm glad other people remember that program. It was witty, stylish and although often suspenseful, conveyed a kind of knowing wink.

@pabloinnh 12:51, @Kathy 12:55, @Quasi 3:56 ****SB****
Wow, asking for support really paid off. I'm now at 48 and I'm sure it's all due to encouragement from you guys. SB Solidarity! I had no problem with the "officer" word but, yeah, the SB definitely lacks a sense of humor. Don't lose sight of the L and the Y among the letters today. Buona fortuna to all!

pabloinnh 5:32 PM  


SB routinely rejects my attempts to enter DADO, which is a perfectly good word, and DOBRO, which is an important instrument in my little folkie circle. I'm beginning to think that SB does not have my best interests in mind.

Today I quit at genius, and was happy to get that far. To those of you still at it, courage!

CyC 6:56 PM  

I've heard 'take a hard line' but never a 'soft' one though I guess it makes some sense.

Also, FWIW, Opie Taylor used a proper rod and reel when he fished.

Joe Dipinto 7:02 PM  

@Barbara S. - "The Avengers" wasn't picked up in the US until the season that Diana Rigg came on as Mrs. Peel. People don't remember the earlier episodes because they weren't shown here.

JC66 7:14 PM  


There's aways at least one word SB won't take. Today it's ALAR.

QuasiMojo 7:28 PM  

@Pablo, they wouldn't take "dhow" the other day either which is pretty common usage. But "Dugong" whatever that is passed the test. I'm at 48 now and quitting for the moment. Cheers!

Speaking of Acronyms vs Initialisms. I remember when I was in Paris back in the 70s, there was a bizarre fad among French kids to wear UCLA t-shirts and sweatshirts. They pronounced it OOKLA, kinda like Kookla. I could never find out why they wore them.

Music Man 7:28 PM  

This felt more like a Wednesday puzzle to me.

JC66 7:44 PM  


re: Diana Rigg. Thanks. I thought I missed something.

Barbara S. 8:45 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 7:02
Thanks for that intelligence! I think all the seasons were shown here in Canada, but either I didn't see the series from the beginning or else for me Diana Rigg blew everyone else out of the water.

@pablo, @JC66, @Quasi **GUESS WHAT -- SB**
I agree completely about DADO, which I've tried to use. I don't think ALAR or DHOW have ever occurred to me and I don't know DOBRO. My serious rejects from today are TARN and RUANA. I've ground to a halt at 49 and feel good about it. That's the largest number of words I've ever entered into SB. And tomorrow is another day. (I think Scarlett O'Hara said that, but not about the Spelling Bee.)

Teedmn 10:06 PM  

Another SB alert****

Today's didn’t like aryl, yesterday's didn’t like paten, and I keep trying loblolly when the letters are there, still no success. And dhow and cupric.

Monty Boy 10:21 PM  

I liked this one a lot. My first fishing experiences were with a stick, line, hook and worm. My grandson from about age 8 has been a fisherman. We go to Montana and he lashes the water the whole time, and even catches some nice trout.

@LMS - your avatar should be Hook, Line and Stinker.

Anonymous 1:38 AM  

Another reason for Rex (and half the nation) to hate the nerd prom that is the White House Correspondents’ dinner: it could be argued that it was there, in 2011, that Seth Myers and President Obama double teamed Donald Trump and started him on the road to the presidency.

Sai 1:15 PM  

Thanks for writing this blog. It is very much informative and at the same time useful for me

Space Is Deep 6:55 PM  

Never heard of a MILK BAR.

thefogman 11:37 AM  

Pretty challenging for a Tuesday. Good puzzle in spite of the lacklustre theme.

Diana, LIW 11:40 AM  

Out of an abundance of curiosity, I Googled MILKBAR in all its various formations. Aside from being on the East Coast, apparently you can get mail order treats. One pictures quite the goopy mess.

This puzzle, however, was not a goopy mess. Tho the BON JOVI/ANAKIN cross had me in fits for a bit. I'm just not a sci fi person (sorry @Teed). Yes, not even the wars and treks of stars. nae

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a Milk Bar Treat in the mail!

spacecraft 11:54 AM  

The other day we had RAWBAR; today it's MILKBAR. It's like, there's this whole world of bizarre bars--and not a one of them sounds very much fun. How about a RAW MILK BAR: "straight from the cow to you!"

This one had a little more meat on the bone than your average Tuesday. I agree that PICKUPSTICK (singular??) is a pretty weak themer for GOFISH. BTW, I don't know when the "GO" part was added. The game is called "FISH." And as to the criticism that kids don't play that any more, I'd TAKEASOFTLINE. We're talking LITTLE kids here; toddlers to about six or seven. I bet they still play it.

The placement of the revealer doesn't bother me; I know of no "law" that says it has to be central, or the last long across. Personally, I like a little variety. It would be a nice touch if you could fit something theme-related in the symmetrical spot, but that's tough to pull off.

The fill is spotty but interesting. Mini-theme with NERDPROM/GEEK. But alas, the GEEK EKES. Not good. OHHEY and TOSSTO betray desperation as well. DOD? Are you there? Well, offstage, a SEXY member of the AVENGERS: Scarlett Johansen.

On balance, this was fun to do. I'll give it a birdie.

Burma Shave 1:11 PM  


YES, THREE of my EXES were UGLY,
YET when you'd PICKUP one's HEM
you'd GETHOOKEDUP in ENACT so lucky;
that FROG became a SEXY GEM.


rondo 1:25 PM  

Well, I certainly wouldn't TAKEAhardLINE to go fishing. Sometimes OFL can be so obtuse. A single PICKUPSTICK sounds odd, but I guess that's what it is. Some of my EXES used to consider Jon BON JOVI to be SEXY; maybe they still do and he still is? I got nothing to CRAB about here.

rainforest 1:53 PM  

I think @Spacey pretty well wrote my comment. Thanks @Spacey, although I'd add that if one simply uses the operative word from each themer: STICK, LINE, WORMS, HOOK(ED), you've got your theme. Pretty cute. Cute, pert, toot, squirt to quote MAD magazine.

leftcoaster 3:57 PM  

@Burma Shave's adult tale of conquest stands in some contrast with the kids' innocent fishing venture.

If I were to join the kids, I'd take a pole or a rod (but not a SCEPTRE). Even a STICK might work as far as the kids are concerned.

SUBPOENA is a good word to spell, and didn't know the correspondent's dinner is called a NERD PROM.


Anonymous 12:09 AM  

uh-oh. I'm agreeing with OFL. And with leftcoaster. Get Hooked Up belongs with an adult themed puzzle. Idea maybe for a future puzzle construction. Didn't like the Dorag / Anakin cross. Not familiar with either. But not a bad puzzle to solve without even needing to use the theme to figure it out. And Bobby Orr skates into another puzzle.

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