Singer whose 1980 single The Breaks was first gold record rap song / WED 6-3-20 / Starting point for German count / Actress director Lupino

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Constructor: Johanna Fenimore

Relative difficulty: Easy (under 4)


THEME: BIG BAD WOLF (57A: Fairy tale villain associated with the ends of 20-, 27- and 49-Across) — HUFF and PUFF and BLOW are the ends of the themers:

Theme answers:
  • LEAVES IN A HUFF (20A: Storms out)
  • CHEESE PUFF (27A: Airy snack item)
  • KURTIS BLOW (49A: Singer whose 1980 single "The Breaks" was the first gold record rap song)
Word of the Day: KURTIS BLOW (49A) —
Kurtis Walker (born August 9, 1959), professionally known by his stage name Kurtis Blow, is an American rappersingersongwriterrecord/film producerb-boyDJ, public speaker and minister. He is the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label. "The Breaks", a single from his 1980 self-titled debut album, is the first certified gold record rap song for Hip Hop. Throughout his career he has released 15 albums and is currently an ordained minister.
• • •

I was solving this puzzle and had no real idea what the theme was and wasn't particularly in love with the fill, but then two things happened to brighten my mood considerably. First, I ran into the name of my new kitten, who is currently the center of my life, because ... well, I mean, come on:

4 weeks old when we found him in our bushes








7 weeks old now
So when someone asks me "What's it all about?" I can honestly answer: "ALFIE" (22D: Title role for Michael Caine and Jude Law). So that answer was a joy to get, and then right after that I ran into KURTIS BLOW and it's my sincere belief that no puzzle that contains KURTIS BLOW can be truly bad. Throw all the EWW and AONE and LETO ETTA PASHA ALEE you want in there, the power of KURTIS BLOW cancels them all out. These are the breaks.


After KURTIS BLOW, I was set. The theme ... well, I really really (really) wish that there had been some way to incorporate HOUSE DOWN into the theme somehow. Even if HOUSE had just been one of the Down answers in the grid somewhere, that would've made me smile. As it is, it doesn't really represent the Wolf threat trifecta: huff, puff, blow your house down (not huff, puff, blow). Still, the themers are good on their own, and the fill is, at worst, average, and so, by the transitive property of KURTIS BLOW and the mystical power of ALFIE, I declare this puzzle just fine.

["You're free to come and go / Or talk like KURTIS BLOW ..."]

I sailed through this, though looking back, I appear to have made a number of initial errors. Writing in AID for ACT was weirdly obstructive (23D: Be effective), I think because TORIC ran through that answer, and I was somehow not seeing the capital letters on "Life Savers" and so kept wanting some word like "heroic." I also had OPTIMAL (which is the adjective I'd use) rather than OPTIMUM (which is ... a noun to me). OPTIMUM is suboptimal imho, but it's valid, so fine. Speaking of suboptimal: NIKKI Haley, who almost single-handedly un-KURTIS BLOWs this puzzle with her horrid Trump handmaidenness. Please don't put (R) bootlickers in my puzzles!!! But then there's a big cup of coffee there with ARABICA and suddenly I'm happy again. So many moods! To sum up: my cat ALFIE is great, KURTIS BLOW is great, the fill has issues, NIKKI Haley has issues. Verdict: just fine.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. TWEENER is not a word and won't ever be so delete it from your wordlists Thank U!

P.P.S. I knew how to spell KURTIS but I did not know how to spell NIKKI and it seems *entirely* possible that many many Many people will put a "C" at that crossing and it will feel right and look right And Sound Right When You Say Both Of Their Names and yet not be right. That is cruel. This cross probably should never have happened. If the puzzlemakers had followed my "no (R) bootlickers" rule, this would never have happened.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

129 comments:

David 12:07 AM  

Uh, "PUSS"?

jae 12:13 AM  

Easy-medium. Only place I got hung up was the KURTIS/ARABICA/TO A MAN section. Reasonably smooth and cute, liked it a bunch.

@lms and/or GILL I - Am I right in thinking the author is joho who was a blog contributor for many years?

TinPT 12:18 AM  

I was about to read about the Wednesday puzz when KITTAY! SQUEEboopersnootPEETZ! happened. Alfie is the best. Hi from a fan.

JW 12:20 AM  

You have a seriously cute kitten there.

Interestingly enough, the only word that hung me up today was "puss", and that was because I had "eine" instead of "eins" down intersecting it.

So, congrats on the kitty, whose "puss" is becoming famous from these posts!

Joe Dipinto 12:32 AM  

Such cuteness deserves to hear his theme song. (Not you, Rex.)

Also agree about Kurtis Blow. I still have that album on vinyl.

Tom R 12:55 AM  

Threw in leave in a huff then confidently stuck in chiffon off the f and, since I did not know Sophia Coppola, I was well and truly stuck in the NE corner. Slow because of that. But all's well that ends in a solution.

amyyanni 1:00 AM  

Alfie! Such a charmer. And lucky to have been found by you. Love the song, too. Thanks for the photos, Rex.
Nice puzzle, just can't compare to Alfie, however.

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד 2:02 AM  

Welcome Alfie! NIcKI/cURTISBLOW added many long minutes for me. Still have no idea what ALLELE is.

Dave 2:10 AM  

I was sure I was right. I mean I knew his name was Curtis and her name was Nicki. :(

chefwen 2:11 AM  

@jae - You are correct Johanna is definitely @joho a AND it’s her Birthday today. Nice B-day present having you puzzle published on your special day.

I really enjoyed it. At first I thought all the long ones were going to end or at least have FF in there. I was looking for a rapper with FF in their name then THE BIG BAD WOLF showed up and I was set on the right path. CURTIS BLOW was the last to fill in, never heard of him. No surprise there.

Loved the clue for 68A.

Rex I always knew you were a dog lover, I guess we can also add cat lover to the list. Welcome to the club. She’s as cute as it gets.

Phil 2:25 AM  

your taste in music is dreck but is canceled out by your taste in lovebugs

Loren Muse Smith 3:58 AM  

@jae – Yes! @chefwen is right. This is our own @joho! Back when we were all on a delay here, when we had to wait quite a while to have our posts cleared through, @joho and I (and several others) went over to Wordplay to check things out. @joho is still there. I gave up trying to navigate Wordplay’s commenting system – too hard to follow threads and see responses.

Simple, sweet theme. I agree with Rex that to have some kind of house in the grid somewhere being blown down would have been fun, but I liked the theme set. LEAVES IN A HUFF. I’m pretty sure I never had even one birthday party in Chattanooga where Grant F didn’t leave in a huff when he didn’t win a game. I don’t think he ever made it long enough to have the requisite chocolate cake and grape Kool-Aid.

I tell ya, sometimes those nasty orange chemical-laden CHEESE PUFFs are just what the doctor ordered. Neither the color nor the texture occurs in nature. I love the way they feel when you bite down – like sinking your teeth into delicate Styrofoam.

Cool to have both GASP/PANT in a puzzle of HUFFs and PUFFs. Hah.

@JW – me too, for “eine” first ‘cause I had “pose” for 39A.

Oh, and I had a dnf ‘cause I spelled it “Curtis” and “Nicki.” Oops. (Morning, @Dave.)

SAYS OK – this is a wicked funny piece by David Sedaris about the dangers of saying d’accord in France when he doesn’t really understand what he’s just said ok to.

LATELY – Fun that we have two words, late and LATELY with such different meanings:

I haven’t been sleeping late.
I haven’t been sleeping lately.

Same with hard and hardly:

He’s working hard.
He’s hardly working.

@joho – congrats on your puzzle! And it’s your birthday to boot? Wow – this is a cup-runneth-over kind of day for you! Way to go!

PS – Rex – nothing like a kitten to put everything into perspective. And you found him in your bushes? That’s so sweet. Like he actually found y’all! Those are the best cats to have.

jae 4:06 AM  

@chefwen - Thanks for confirming that and I should have typed et. al. ...and happy birthday @joho, you are missed...and I’m not sure why but I now have a Dylan song running through my head.

JOHN X 4:55 AM  

I call BOO on this puzzle for NIcKI/cURTISBLOW. I knew both answers right away but never could find my error, and never would have. So DNF for me, and JOHNX never DNFs, even if he's hallucinating.

Also, what's with all this old-timey stuff? Kurtis Blow? Ida Lupino? What century is this? I can play this game too.

webwinger 5:18 AM  

aWW! One of my fave fun facts is that cats, unlike dogs, were not domesticated by humans—they just sort of moved in when they collectively figured out what a good deal it would be for them. Reminded also of a fave joke: Dog getting fed thinks, she brings me food—she must be a god. Cat getting fed thinks, she brings me food—I must be a god...

Another fave joke, from a female comic of yore whose name I’m blanking on: My husband, he has the nerve to ask if we have any CHEESE PUFFs! He can look under the sofa cushions just as easily as I can…

Have always loved the ALFIE theme, use its primo lyric all the time.

Gotta go for any puzzle with IDA Lupino. If you don’t know about her, do not delay in reading her story and watching films that featured her acting (On Dangerous Ground; One Rainy Afternoon) and directing (Outrage).

PUSS in Boots character in the Shrek movies, voiced by Antonio Banderas: A swashbuckler whose most effective move is springing a hurt kitty look on his opponent.

Hand up for falling into the NIcKi/cURTIS trap.

BarbieBarbie 5:20 AM  

AYN Rand flunks the breakfast test, but whatever. She serves an important wordlist purpyse.

Lewis 6:13 AM  

A well-constructed puzzle from Joho that shot me back to the innocent times of young childhood, when there was not only The Three Little Pigs, but also This Little Piggy. Where there was dialogue like:

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
"No, no, by the hair on my chinny chin chin."
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."

Which is as clear in my brain as if I heard it ten seconds ago.

Thank you, Johanna, for the fun solve and trip to a simpler time, and, for me, a most happy place!

ChuckD 6:16 AM  

This is one BIG BAD puzzle. Usually Rex rails on the aged out stuff - but I guess that kitten lightened him up today. TALLYHO, TAFFETA, OLD LACE?? DO A FLIP and TWEENER should have been edited out. This is not a Wednesday level offering.

Hungry Mother 6:20 AM  

Had Eew and NIcKI until I didn’t or it might have been a PR. I shouda paid more attention to the theme. Mostly very easy.

Unknown 6:35 AM  

But, Curtis Blow and Nicki Haly seem pretty reasonable to me... And, in fact, that is what I had. It's only Wednesday and I'm not American. I can't know every American politician out there. I stand by that being an unfair (and unfun) cross for a Wednesday.

GILL I. 7:03 AM  

YES!!!! It's our friend joho - she of the first one to take words from a puzzle and weave them into a story. I'll never forget her saloon tale. What a way to celebrate your Birthday, Johanna....AAAAAND OFL likes it!
@Rex gets happy with KURTIS BLOW and mine is TALLY HO. You can also throw in CHEESE PUFF. I think I first heard TALLY HO in "The Great Escape" when the Brits got on a train and were asked for their IDS. One of them whispered the heads up. The Brits come up with some fun words. They changed that one around and added a whacker to it. CHEESE PUFF is my secret gratification. Why do Cheetos with its "Flamin' Hot Seasoning make me think of hospitals?
Oh...and I like TAFFETA as well....If you wear it, it must be royal blue. @Roo will be happy today with the six EFS....
Thanks for this fun Wed., Johanna.
Love the kitty, @Rex.

mooretep 7:07 AM  

r/aww

That kitty is has teeth and claws, just like you!

kitshef 7:16 AM  

Naticked at cURTIS/NIcKI. Will, Will, Will … what have I told you about crossing names? Gosh, I wonder if anyone else will report that?

Other than that, I liked this very, very easy Wedpuz, because the theme tickled me.

‘Mug’ certainly has some varied uses. You can mug for the camera, mug someone in an alley, drink from a mug or have an ugly mug. Not sure which of those, if any, led to hugger-mugger, muggy or muggle.

Unknowable 7:19 AM  

@Unknown 6:35 AM

Being Un-American is no excuse for not knowing these things.

If you want to do the NY Times puzzle, don't act like you haven't even gotten on the boat yet.

N. Yannick 7:19 AM  

TWEENER has been around for a long time in the world of sports. A LONG time. Especially in tennis (shot hit between the legs), but also in other sports, particularly to indicate a player who alternates between two positions, favoring neither. Only more recently has it taken on the meaning "between childhood and teen years."

I suspect that it is the latter usage that offends Michael. And because of this, we must all now eschew a useful word that has been in wide use, especially in sports, for a long, long time and declare it anathema. Michael has spoken.

jsloate 7:22 AM  

Rex, Congratulations! Alfie is adorable and you've given us some joy too seeing your pics.

Imfromjersey 7:27 AM  

I always think of TWEENER in baseball terms, a hit that falls in between the infielders and the outfielders, also known as a bloop. I found this basketball reference to it about players who are good enough to play multiple positions https://www.sportingcharts.com/dictionary/nba/tweener.aspx

QuasiMojo 7:45 AM  

Very photogenic PUSS there, Rex. Totes presh!! ALFIE Romeo!

Had no idea who Kurtis Blow is but NIKKI Haley was our UN Ambassador. And a state governor. Not exactly an obscurity in a New York Times puzzle so the cross was fair.

I had similar feelings as Rex but for different reasons. Too many celeb names. And way too easy even for a Wed. This felt like a WSJ or LAT puzzle (which isn't bad) but I feel a trend lately of making all puzzles feel the same. Nice, pleasant, easy time killers. Even the New Yorker crosswords have become too easy LATELY, like TV Guide puzzles for hipsters.

Isn't PASHA a former title? I'm not an expert in Turkish culture but I think it is an historical rank not a current one. The clue makes it sound contemporary.

US ATLAS is weak. SAYS OK is junk fill.

"Arsenic and Old Lace" is also a cinematic partnership. And a TV movie one.

Why the constant use of ACID or LSD in the NYT puzzle? Today's clue was too cutesy for an illegal drug. A trip to jail, perhaps.

TALLY HO and all that rot.

Tom Taylor 7:51 AM  

Still not getting 39A - PUSS for Mug?? Help?

pabloinnh 7:55 AM  

@imfromjersey-Also known as a Texas leaguer. Anybody say that anymore?

Got the HUFF part right away, went down the west coast, saw the fairy tale clue, got the WOLF thing, and the next thing you know, all done. Oh, hand up for the C/K slip up, which as others have pointed out, was clearly not my fault.

Our two '04 World Series cats are still with us and healthy. Brothers who look absolutely nothing alike, but have been loads of fun. Our favorite cat quote is "Dogs have owners, cats have staff.".

Thanks for the fun, JF, and happy birthday. Frosting on the birthday cake would have been HOUSE going down somewhere, but just fine as is.

Paul Emil 8:10 AM  

Mug refers to face.

mathgent 8:11 AM  

ALFIE made the puzzle for me. It reminded me of the haunting Hal David/Burt Bacharach song written for the movie. It has the line, “If only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel.” David was the lyricist.

It also happily reminds me of Michael Caine. He’s been in over 130 movies and is still active. Some of my favorites besides Alfie are Ipcriss File, Sleuth, Dressed To Kill, Hannah and Her Sisters, Miss Congeniality. I’ve never seen him be anything but excellent.

OK puzzle. I liked the clue for PANT, “What hot dogs do.” I nominate it for Lewis’s list.

Z 8:21 AM  

Are cat photos cheating?

I knew how to spell NIKKI but not KURTIS and immediately thought “natick!”Although, really, its a natick variant because it’s possible to know of both people and mess up the spelling on both. I’m just enough of a political junkie to know the former governor’s preferred spelling.
Finished with PUSe and had to check all the crosses. I was leaning towards PoSe for “mug.” Yikes. I see I wasn’t alone.
@Tom Taylor - Both PUSS and “mug” are slang terms for your face. It seems like something negative is always the adjective for both, “that guy has one ugly mug” or “that guy has one sour PUSS.”

Petsounds 8:36 AM  

OK, what the heck is going on here? What am I missing? I was sure I'd open this blog and see a raft of comments about TORIC and Life Savers. Not one comment! So I'm the only person who doesn't understand how the shape of a lens defines a candy that looks like the thing on the ship they throw to you if you fall overboard? I'm feeling very stupid. Worse, TORIC is a medical term, and I was a medical writer for 40 years and never heard it once. I feel so alone!!! Someone, please help!

In a related issue, TWEENER cost me a lot of time. As Rex said, not a word. Must never be a word. I had TEENAGE, but PAWS cured that misstep. Figured TWEEN had to be in there somehow, but even when I entered the final R--which also gave me TORIC--I was amazed to find that I'd completed the puzzle correctly. This was an unforgivable cross.

Also unforgivable: how utterly adorable Alfie is! Now I want to see MIGGY in a crossword; my longhaired dachshund is named for the Tigers first baseman.

Kathy 8:43 AM  

@Rex, that sweet new kitty found you at the right time!

Puzzle was easy riding until I hit some speed bumps, leaving me frustrated and not liking the puzzle. Now I don’t mind at all being stumped when the answer emits an aha, touché or head slap. But these clunkers landed with a thud for me:

Stumped because they seemed to be correct:
Eine and pose
NIKKI and Curtis

Stumped because it’s not in my vocabulary:
TORIC, even spell check doesn’t know it—and check out the convoluted definition in the dictionary. Furthermore, crossed by ACT, which is not a synonym for being effective. I even toyed with ACE for a while because it at least implies effectiveness. Am I missing something?

Another poor clue:
US ATLAS is not for all of America. I was sure Rex would call that out. But I knew it had to be right and PoSe must be wrong, so I did finally get PUSS. The same movie wise guys who call women dames call faces pusses.

@Webwinger, CHEESE PUFFS joke sounds like Roseanne Barr. One of her best lines was that husbands think the uterus is a homing device. Man, does that ever resonate!

High expectations for tomorrow’s puzzle...please!

Whatsername 8:44 AM  

@Rex: Such an adorable fur baby and what an excellent name! It’s amazing how quickly they do become the center of our lives. He’s lucky to have found you and your family. May you enjoy many happy years with him.

A pleasant Wednesday with a cutesy theme and seemed on the easy side. Thought the clue “what hot dogs do” was clever, but not sure TO A MAN really includes every one of us. STIFLES reminded me of Archie Bunker. I wonder what he would have to say about the current state of affairs in this country.

Oh and I’d love to see Alfie’s progress as he grows. Cat photos welcome any time.

bertoray 8:45 AM  

Yup, that is one adorable kitten.
And I too was snookered by Curtis and Nicki.

KnittyContessa 8:45 AM  

I had PoSe before PUSS, too, and also Naticked at NIKKI/KURTIS. Isn't it a law that you cannot cross two proper nouns?

RooMonster 8:52 AM  

Hey All !
Neat puz. DNF'd on that Mugging PUSS. Argh. Had EINe for EINS and in no way possible thought it to be wrong. Then seeing as how PuSe wasn't anything, made it PoSe and got me an OS ATLAS. Sure, maybe a company name? Overland Services ATLAS? Dang.

Someone explain (if hasn't already, posting before reading) TO A MAN as clued?

To get rid of Rex's NIKKI nitty, change NONE to NOTE, you get Rikki ___ Ravi, and no mistake on putting in a C like I did. Echoing @Nancys complaint about Rappers being any damn letter they want.

Was a nice F-ful theme. Five of 'em! Plus an extra one thrown in at SOFIA for good measure. I SAYS OK. 😋

In the words of Charlie from Supernatural (paraphrased as she says Adios), TALLYHO bitches.
(Not an insult, that, btw)

Miss Piggy's MOI was fun to remember. ASK MOI?

Six F's
DO A FLIP ACT
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

59D comes close to providing "HOUSE" down.

Lorelei Lee 9:07 AM  

Sweet little puzzle but Nikki Kurtis cikced my butt.

Alexander 9:08 AM  

Mug is slang for face, so is PUSS, as in ‘sourpuss”

Reno retired 9:09 AM  

Barbie - Ayn Rand saw the result of socialism and allowing 51% decide how to run things. Her books although s little over the top argued effectively for our American republic and freedoms. Most liberals have no idea where their idealism will truly take us. So enjoy your breakfast before the masses decide they deserve it more than you do and vote democratically to take it.

Ann Hedonia 9:10 AM  

As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie

I love Alfie!! Thanks for those pics!

The Clerk 9:12 AM  

Too many iffy crosses. Kitten is great though!

Barbara S. 9:28 AM  

ALFIE, MEW! What a sweetie.

I fell into all the traps today: the C/K problem with NIKKI and KURTIS (which was quickly fixable), and the ACT/TWEENER/TORIC fiasco (hi @Petsounds, hi @Kathy). This was the one that almost brought me down. At one point I had ACe and eORIC. ("Alas, poor Eoric! I knew him, Horatio.")

BTW, KURTIS's given name was KURTIS Walker (I looked him up), so it seems his parents gave him that "K."

I was amused that ASEA crossed ALEE.

VASCO da Gama was always my favorite explorer in school because he had the best name. He was the first European to reach India by sea (in 1498), thereby ushering in centuries of colonial rule. Sigh. At least he had a catchy handle.

TO A MAN, Boo (as clued).

OLD LACE is the name of a genetically-engineered dinosaur in the Marvel Comics "Runaways" series. There's no possible way that you'll ever need to know that -- it's just quirky.

Switching off "Ramble" button.

OldCarFudd 9:29 AM  

A recent Facebook post was a billboard at a veterinarian's office:

Dogs prepare you for babies. Cats prepare you for teenagers.

Rex, prepare to be prepared.

MC 9:31 AM  

The clue for ALLELE is bad! An allele is any version or variant of a gene, some of which contain mutations, but not necessarily, i.e. for any given allele defined by its mutation, there necessarily exists an allele with no mutations.

pmdm 9:37 AM  

I am not one to bother with learning foreign languages for crossword puzzles, so POSE it was for me. And of course I guessed wrong when solving the C/K dilemma. The puzzle was mostly OK, but these two problems ruined the solving experience for me.

My neighbor feeds the feral cats in my neighborhood. A few weeks ago three of the females had kittens. Quite a group. The white female mated with a white male, and the kittens are mostly white. Very, very cute. One of the cats was less than a year old and all but one in the litter died. But the grey mother went missing last Sunday (not uncommon) and the young mother accepted the orphaned kittens. Cats may be less social than dogs, but they are very cute.

Mikey from El Prado 9:42 AM  

What’s it all about Alfie? Looks like Rex has a soft side, and lucky for you! I hope you live a long and happy life full of love.

I thought for sure that I was going to get a DNF with ALLELE. I don’t recall seeing before, but I’m sure it’s come up in puzzles I’ve done. Wish I could remember everything.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Naticked by Nicki and Curtis - how does a puzzle like this get through testing when both options looks so plausible even if you know who the people concerned are? Maybe they don't test them.

Z 9:49 AM  

TORIC as in shaped like a torus.
Not to be confused with torii.
This lesson in crosswordese was brought to you by Dunkin.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

I love Lorelei Lee's comment at 9:07! I, too, almost took the NIKKI plunge, but corrected, since I didn't like KURTIS. I'm wondering why so many of us want Haley to be a NIKKI? Of course I never heard of CURTIS BLOW, natch, and as we all know, rap singers have names far more ridiculous than KURTIS, but here I went with the odds and it paid off.

Not much I liked in this puzzle. The clues for PAWS (14A); PANT (68A) and ACID (66A) are about it. Mostly a big yawn with some of the dullest fill I've ever seen -- especially on a Wednesday.

JC66 9:59 AM  

Hand up for c/K Natick.

Anonymoose 10:01 AM  

Nor to be confused with the Ford Taurus.

What? 10:04 AM  

Both are expressions for face.

Whatsername 10:04 AM  

@mathgent (8:11) Bravo on Michael Caine! He's the consummate pro. I loved him in Miss Congeniality, and another one where he showed his brilliant comic flair was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Don't know how I knew Kurtis Blow because I don't recall the song at all - but it sounds like a perfect song for Sesame Street if they include the spellings breaks and brakes! Love the kitten! -newbie
P.S. Nikki is the usual spelling for the nickname (no pun intended) for Nicole - I know, it doesn't make sense!

What? 10:08 AM  

Tonic means related to a torus which is a geometrical shape shaped like, well, a life saver (cf also bagel).

What? 10:10 AM  

I hated Rex’s cat. Even just seeing a photo I get scratches all over. Hope it’s declawed and defanged.

Newboy 10:12 AM  

Hand up for P.P.S. And kudos to Rex for feline rescue effort! Cute kitty pix, but can it play chop sticks yet? The PANTing hot dogs were almost as cute as today’s theme or Rex’s kitty. Well played Johanna Fenimore. I fear I’m becoming a PATSY for cuteness in an age turned too ugly. More kitties & less tear gassing please!

Nancy 10:13 AM  

Just read the blog. I see I got it bass ackwards. It is KURTIS/NIKKI after all.
I knew NIKKI after all. KURTIS has a typically peculiar rapper name after all. So I changed from a "Solved" to a DNF, instead of the other way around. Bummer!*




*Not really.

jberg 10:15 AM  

Hand up for c instead of K. I thought it was NIKKI, but wasn’t sure, so I checked the cross. Alas!

I liked the ALEE/ASEA cross, giving that corner a nice nautical flavor. OTOH, DO A FLIP stick me as green-painting.

@petsounds, @z, et al.— I’d call that shape toroidal— I had to spend a few nanos figuring out how to shrink it to 5 letters.

Ellen S 10:25 AM  

I was going to complain about TO A MAN including “everyone”, but I can see how a kitten would have softened my response. The local shelter is still closed but they have kittens available for fostering. Looking at OFL’s pictures of Allie makes me long for some little kitten faces in my life.

Petsounds 10:26 AM  

@Z: How is a Life Saver (candy) shaped like a torus? I'm completely ASEA ib this one. Is this some kind of weird crosswordese?

joho 10:27 AM  

Hi! Just popping in today to say hello to my longtime friends here in Rexville, my very first blog ever. So many great memories!

Just so you know, I still read you all, even the ever negative Rex. His review today? I'll take it!

For my next puzzle I'm seriously thinking of changing my name to ALFIE. 🙂

jb129 10:28 AM  

What a cutie! (the kitty not the puzzle)

Best of luck & thanks for sharing :)

Carola 10:30 AM  

PUSS + PAWS - just awfully cute in those photos! Thank you, @Rex, for the treat.
It was fun to see @joho's name at the top. Like @Gill I,, I fondly remember her stories woven from grid entries; @Tale Told By An Idiot, I'm glad you've picked up the baton.
Theme-related ponderings: LEAVES IN A HUFF made me wonder about other expressions for departing in a state of dissatisfaction. I could only think of "storms off," which seems like a big jump, up to gale-force level. PUFF-paradox: the CHEESE variety get inhaled.
DNF at that c/K square: I teetered at NIKKI v NIcKI but was swayed by cURTIS.

Z 10:38 AM  

@Petsounds - That’s a topological question best answered by clicking on the link in my previous post and looking at the pictures. Oh, wait, Maybe it’s the candy’s shape that you are misremembering. Anyway, Life Savers and doughnuts are the go to objects when cluing TORIC, TORI (that’s the plural), or TORus. TORI also sometimes gets clued as a person. So, “yes” to your “weird crosswordese” question.

CDilly52 10:48 AM  

This puzzle just made me smile all the way through. First, so many of the words (even the usuals) were clued differently, and felt “freshened up.” I especially enjoyed the NE. Haven’t seen PATSY, PASHA and SOFIA Coppola lately. Very nice. Misspelled NIcKI and cURTIS. Ugh. Did not want to believe either correction but tried them and the happy music ensured.

TAFFETA. Another word not used lately as it always seems to be “sateen”. Oh my, this took me back. First of all, any time Mom picked any dress for me without my approval, it was a disaster and the fights to get me to wear it were epic! But there were a very select few occasions that were memorably easy. I had a TAFFETA circle skirt that I called my Minnie Mouse skirt. I inherited it from my cousin Merillee. Deep navy blue, almost black until the light would catch the slight sheen and the midnight blue would almost glow. It had perfect white polka dots (about 1/4” diameter) spread all over. It tied in the back with a tastefully sized, not obnoxiously large bow (an adornment I usually refused to wear). It looked so good (or so my first grade self thought) with my patent leather Sunday Mary Janes, or bobby socks and white Keds for other less dressy occasions. It was perfect: no nasty lace, ruffles, or god forbid pastel color especially the dreaded pink, and I loved my dressed down version with a white button down shirt. Even the uber popular and rich self-proclaimed princess of my grade, Gail S, was jealous of it! I was devastated when I got too tall to wear it any more. It easily fit around my waist until seventh grade but my late summer growth spurt required that I give it up. Heavy sigh. Even Mom approved of my continuing to wear it for all occasions as often as possible because my natural proclivity has always been for pants. Forever. And the ancient school dress codes and holiday occasions were annual battlegrounds. I just hated dresses. Still do. Was so happy when the Federal Courts relented and I could even wear pants in those courtrooms (2000 in Oklahoma).

Enough already. My sister was famous for claiming ostracism in our sibling games. Such a pattern: she begs to play, doesn’t understand the game or the rules, lags behind, and LEAVES IN A HUFF. Runs to Mom and says “they won’t let me play (i.e. won’t “let” her win). Soon as I saw HIUF, two things occurred: I recalled how awful my brother and I could be to Annie who, as we learned late in our teens, had some severe learning disabilities that made many of our wordy games almost impossible for her, and; I hoped the theme would be THE BIG BAD WOLF!! E voila’ I really, really, really enjoyed the puzzle. Learning that the constructor is joho - icing on the cake. Congrats!!

Best part of the blog today is little ALFIE!!! He’s just an adorable little CHEESE PUFF, of a PUSS, and those sweet, tiny little PAWS just melt my heart.
He must have come from fairly healthy stock to have survived being abandoned.

I help with our TNR (trap, neuter, release) program to (hopefully) reduce our feral cat population.
I have seen mama cats accidentally leave a kitten behind after she carefully hides them from predators. Unless yours came from a dumped litter 😡, he was probably moved with his litter mates, discovered by something dangerous and Mama had to quickly move again to fend off a predator, and just accidentally left one behind.

Thankfully she looked in her “Neighborhood Suckers for Pets” directory so that in the event things went south on the fight or flight front, she could be confident such an accident would result in a successful alternative to life as a feral cat. Cats always have a viable Plan B (C,D. . . )!

Make sure you start early training ALFIE to let you clip his claws. Makes it so much easier when he gets all grown up with lethal weaponry hiding between those sweet pink toes.


I’m going to be whistling the Disney version if “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” all day. Be careful and stay safe everybody! You all brighten my day.

Who 10:49 AM  

WHAT?!!

Anonymoose 10:55 AM  

@Nancy, I think his full name is Lil KURTIS BLOW.

EricStratton 10:56 AM  

Nikki Haley is my hero. Whatever your political leanings, you have to admit that she is one tough cookie. 2024 is her year.

Joe Dipinto 10:57 AM  

Background music for when Alfie is stalking prey, such as cat toys. Or humans, as in Photo #4.

Petsounds 11:00 AM  

@Z: Yeesh. Many thanks. I've been doing crosswords for years and I've encountered TORI (Amos, Spellman), but never TORIC. I'll be ready next time! But it still seems weird to me.

Lorelei Lee 11:00 AM  

@CDilly52, I'd wear that Minnie Mouse taffeta skirt now if I could get my hands on it!

I had the same experience with my mother. The worst ever was a yellow "dotted Swiss" dress that tied in the back, with a big white lacy linen bib thing in the font. The perfect look for a chubby 8-year-old with a pixie haircut and a bad attitude. No wait, perfect would have been the horizontal striped, orange-and-white turtleneck with the matching orange stirrup pants from sears. I looked like Tweedle Dee.

Bax'N'Nex 11:02 AM  

I really tried to fit "Give me indigestion" into 68 across...

OffTheGrid 11:03 AM  

When my kids were young we had a cat we called Alfie. His full name was Alfred E Neuman.

For the first time in almost 3 months I was able to do some volunteer work for the local animal shelter. I transported 3 kittens to the vet for spay/neuter, microchips, tests and shots. Curb type service and masks prevailed. It felt good to do that again.

Bax'N'Nex 11:09 AM  

How do you guys insert links in these here posts??

Joe, Z...???

Crimson Devil 11:13 AM  

Whupped me at PUSS/POSE/EINE/EINS.
Much enjoyed hot dogs clue.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

ALLELE clue is technically wrong, but I didn't know it was in the puzzle as it had been filled by crosses and I first saw it here

NIKKI today is like the sole challenge in today's puzzle.
Will she run some day?
SC liked her as Governor.

bauskern 11:17 AM  

OK, did we really need to see nine pics of Rex's cat? Admittedly, I'm not a cat lover, and I will admit she was cute, but nine?? I thought this was a little old fashioned TALLY HO and the ubiquitous ETTA. And the EPA is no longer an agency that protects the environment; just the opposite. That clue always grates.
I had EINE, so that was my fatal error. I also agree with the NIKKI/KURTIS cross - a tad unfair. But otherwise I thought this was very easy for a Wednesday. I have been doing the 2010 puzzles from the archives, and those puzzles are an order of difficulty tougher than today's versions. Not sure why.

relicofthe60s 11:18 AM  

That Rex knew how to spell Kurtis but not Nikki tells you all you need to know.

johnk 11:22 AM  

A better clue would have been "All 49%". The kitten wouldn't know that, of course, but the Editor should.

Frantic Sloth 11:24 AM  

"[Cats] find their way across the universe and crash into your heart, like a purring, misanthropic meteorite."
- The Oatmeal

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

a Life Saver (candy) isn't a torus, since it has straight sides (inner and outer, at that). a nit, I admit, but isn't that what xword crit is all about?

as to TWEENER, it's use to name those between juvenile and pubescent is quite recent, so citing long ago uses doesn't matter.
"One of the first usages of the term tweens was in the late 1990s referring to children who are in the liminal space between childhood and adolescence"
here: https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791231/obo-9780199791231-0189.xml

anonymous 11:26 AM  

I never heard of Kurtis Blow.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

@EricStratton:

being 'tough' is easy, just destroy those with whom you disagree. very Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave).

dadnoa 11:42 AM  

+1 for Alfie pics. Rex, include those every day! Makes the world a happier place.

jberg 11:46 AM  

Back from our family walk in the park (with Martha, the other person in my avatar, and Allegra the dog). Now I've had time to do some research; it seems that there are several different things called "torus," with little if any relation to each other. TORIC can apply to any of them, but most commonly to the architectural molding or the lens that's shaped like one. TOROIDAL is strictly for the thing with a whole in the middle (the geometric definition is more particular, but topologically this is sufficient.)

Second, KURTIS BLOW. @Nancy, you're right that it's a pseudonym; his given name is Kurtis Walker.

@Joho, I didn't remember your name, but I loved those stories! Nice puzzle!

Alex S. 11:52 AM  

Was stuck with failure for a long time before I finally fixed the C/K natick. Never heard of Kurtis Blow so no help there and C is more common and didn't even think of K as an option.

Haley was a gimme but with the C already in place I never gave it much thought. I thought NICKI was the more common form over NIKKI but Google Ngram informs me otherwise. Excep thte two women I know with the name use Nicki and the most famous of them all (Nicki Manaj) also uses the C.

So it wasn't until my fourth clue by clue re-scan of the puzzle that I finally thought to try switching and resubmit. On paper I would have moved on confident in having finished the puzzle correctly.

Unknown 11:53 AM  

Just have to say the kitten is so cute, and such a tonic for the current times - please post more pix!

Masked and Anonymous 11:57 AM  

@RP - Kool Kute Kitty pics. Only thing missin is the kitty quote caption, under each pic. Suggestion for that last pic's caption: "Everything here is mine!" (Kitty luvers might know what I mean.)

And then there's the puz. Also cute. Only thing missin was a HOUSE entry, crossin downward thru the BLOW in (K/C)URTISBLOW.

staff weeject pick: PAS. Better clue: {Tree sap defying gravity??}. The Shortzmeister loses soooo many opportunities, by eschewin the double-?? clues.

Cute as a kitty fillins: ALFIE (honrable mention). TALLYHO. TAFFETA. SKYHIGH. ARABICA. SAYSOK. OPTIMUM.
Best answers of mystery: ALLELE. AIME.

Thanx for the fun, Ms. Fenimore darlin. M&A happily wolfed it all down.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


**gruntz**

Joe Dipinto 12:17 PM  

@Bax'N'Nex – email me via my profile and I'll give you the secret formula.

Malsdemare 12:41 PM  

Oh gosh, Alfie is adorable and I'm a dog person! I don't have much to add; I enjoyed the puzzle a lot and really love it when the constructor stops by. Hi,@Joho! I always enjoy seeing your full name; my daughter and several ancestors are/were Johanna.

Before I had lasic surgery I was near-sighted and had a pretty awful astigmatism. Contacts worked fine until my close-up vision started to go and I needed the multifocal contact to maintain its orientation in my eye. The solution was the TORIC lens, shaped so that it wouldn't rotate around. I've probably trashed that explanation but knowing about the toric lenses makes it hard for me to see (pun unintended) the connection to life savers.

webwinger 12:41 PM  

@Petsounds: Lots of explanations with toric life-saver bagel donut associations, but your post mentioned a less obvious one, the toric (intraocular) lens. Many cataract surgeries now include implantation of such a device for correction of astigmatism. It does not, repeat, not have a hole in the middle! The term refers to the fact that its curvature is defined by two perpendicular circular arcs with different radii. It is, in effect, the shape you would get by slicing off the edge of a perfectly formed donut or bagel, leaving behind the larger part with the hole. (Sure that’s perfectly clear to all now…)

My Covid rumination is now complete and final, and available by email at the rock-bottom price of -$1—that’s right, I will pay you $1 via Zelle for requesting it.

Pamela 1:15 PM  

I knew NIKKI, so shrugged over Kurtis and let it be. She has caught my attention more than once for coming down on the wrong side, especially lately, so I was very sure. But I was stuck on PuSE for a while, until I remembered the spelling variation that’s used in counting, and, although I finally added the T to TORIC, I was mystified as to why it was right until coming here. Same for ALLELE. Two new additions to my crosswordese.

The ACID clue was fun - probably because back in the day I didn’t indulge, but have fond memories of those freer days. I like to say now that in those days my eyelashes were longer than my skirts. It’s almost true🙄

Also liked PANT, as in HUFF and PUFF.

OFL has been very agreeable these days. Must be kitty love. I like it- Good job, Alfie!

DigitalDan 1:17 PM  

The cross of KURTISBLOW and NIKKI was a Natick for me, not being familiar with the former (but ask me about Messiaen) and with the unconventional spelling of NIKKI, which I should have known but didn't. CURTIS and NICKI made enough sense that I wondered if Mr. Happy Pencil had made a mistake. It happens, I guess.

old timer 1:18 PM  

My problem was I confidently put in the usual TSA at 1D instead of EPA. What? The EPA still monitors anything? (I know, I know, it really does, and still has a bunch of attorneys gaily filing suits, and the changes in this administration are at the margins, almost always, but most of my FB friends like to believe Armageddon is around the corner). So it took me forever to realize our old friend ETTA was at 1A.

Hands up for writing in EINe before remembering that Germans count "EINS, zwei" und so forth. As for the C/K Natick, I did look up Mr BLOW, but only after being almost positive the pol was NIKKI, so not really a DNF. Never heard of KURTIS BLOW in my (sheltered) life.

AIME in that context is one of those French words almost every anglophone knows. Friday or Saturday we will get some French words that are harder. MOI? I am slowly working my way through my Inspector Maigret novels, en francais bien sur, as a way to fight off the Coronavirus blues.

Teedmn 1:20 PM  

Yup, I got to 35D and thought, "NIcKI or NIKKI? I'll figure it out when I get the cross." Got to the cross, and while NIKKI, in my mental image of her name, seemed like it could go either way, I was pretty sure it was cURTIS BLOW. Ach, a BLOW to my ego.

I was mugging for the camera at 39A with a PoSe (EINe, EINS, whatevs) and SwInging when I should have been SLIDing at 60A, so the book containing America O SA TWAS, hmmm. SEnGE became SEDGE, Swing became SLIDE and I saw the error of my ways and recovered to have only one error in the grid, not umpty-ump of them.

Johanna Fenimore, congratulations on your first "from scratch" grid filling and thanks for the Wednesday.

burtonkd 1:34 PM  

I realized I was thinking of Curtis Mayfield for the spelling.
Learned that Eins is for counting, which you don't tend to hear bc the "s" elides into the "z" from zwei.
Figured Sofia the female film director would elicit more joy.
We hear so many complaints about old terms, yet when perfectly serviceable and of fairly recent coinage TWEENER comes along, it is a total nope? It is useful for that interesting age when children are no longer young, but not up for the trials and body growth of the teenage years.

Nancy from Chicago 1:40 PM  

Thank you Rex for the Alfie pictures! He has brightened my day and I'm sure he is brightening your life. So glad he found the right bush to get lost in!

Unknown 2:17 PM  

2

Bax'N'Nex 2:22 PM  

tweeners do exist

Joe Dipinto 2:46 PM  

@Bax – nicely done. ;-)

ghostoflectricity 2:58 PM  

That kitten is too d*** cute! He's going to grow up to look just like Mursik, our now-14-year-old boy: long-hair Tortie with the biggest eyes, fluffy tail, and handsome as the day is long. We also have two adorable females: Anita (gray-and-white tuxedo, also 14) and Samsara (white-with-orange-and-black-spots calico, 8 1/2). So cute! Keep posting pictures!

Barbara S. 2:59 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous(M&A)

I'm not sure if you saw them, but @RooMonster and I left you some presents on yesterday's blog at 6:16 and 8:41 p.m. Har!

Victoria 3:27 PM  

Alfie FTW.

webwinger 3:51 PM  

@Malsdemare: Should have included mention earlier that similar principle applies to toric contact lenses. As you note, the toric contour of the inner surface (so-called for the same reason mentioned in my 12:41 post) fits snugly to the oppositely curved surface of the astigmatic cornea (both having different radii of curvature in perpendicular directions--sometimes likened to a football), and keeps the lens from rotating. The outer surface is spherical, which results in astigmatism-free refraction for the eye, while the difference between the least inner surface curve and the outer surface curve corrects the eye’s myopia (near-sightedness).

john towle 4:00 PM  

Texas Leaguer user here…sometimes preservation of the traditional lingo is good for the soul. Old dogs, children and watermelon wine doncha know.

Why can’t we just all get along…

Hugs,

john

Unknown 4:35 PM  

Yes!

Masked and Anonymous 4:48 PM  

yo, @Barbara S. (and @Roomeister) - I just checked em all out. yep. They are mighty exquisite.
There ain't hardly a hidden word that could elude y'all.

Except for one … which I'd mention here, but I don't want to distract U from yer important work…
har back at yah

Thanx,

M&A

Anoa Bob 5:44 PM  

When I saw TORIC at 31A, I interpreted that to mean "of or like a TORus", which is a three-dimensional geometrical shape. The mathematical description of that shape is a humdinger and not very helpful in visualizing what it looks like, but the image of one makes it instantly recognizable. Yeah, like a doughnut or bagel or even a little bit like a life saver.

In the real world, the nearest to an ideal TORus (one that closely follows the mathematical description) that I can think of would be an inflated vehicle tire inner tube.

We had big truck tire inner tubes always on hand when I was a kid. We would pump them way up so they were taut and carry them down to the river for a swim. They were great just to float around in or be a target we would dive through. Had to be aware of where the valve stem was on the diving-through thing!

I've had several pets of various species inside with me in our living space over the years (happily so) but back when we were pumping up inner tubes, all our dogs and cats lived outside, all the time. No one ever brought them indoors. They were still "our" pets, but they were free to come and go as they wished. They seemed quite happy with this arrangement.

RooMonster 6:45 PM  

I remember the last time we had a TORIC discussion on here. It was quite the kerfuffle, but made it stick in the ole brain, which for me is tough to do! I got it as anything round with a hole, doughnut, bagel, tire, even Life Savers, as yes, they are round with a hole. Certs are round, but no hole.

RooMonster Round With Holes Guy 😂

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

again, with em phaaaa sis. a torus is curved *everywhere*, thus a Life Saver (or the cork version tossed out to drowning cruise ship passengers) doesn't compute, since it has straight 'sides'. a distinction with a difference.

just because it's overall round with a hole, doesn't make it a torus.

DigitalDan 7:10 PM  

Yeah, lots of things can be toroidal (toric [sic]??).
Doughnuts and bagels and lifesavers (including the original tire-like throwable objects) are typical examples, but there are others. Taking the pure topological definition, The human anatomy is essentially a torus. So is a coffee cup, if it has a handle. It gets even weirder from there.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Tweener is in Scrabble dictionary, OED. What's the issue?

RooMonster 8:41 PM  

@Anonymous Square Life Saver person
How do Life Savers have straight sides? I'm genuinely curious, not trying to get your ire. They're round, like a doughnut.

Roo

mathprof628 8:46 PM  

Knew NIKKI ok and lived with KURTIS, but DNF nevertheless at PoSe/EINe after convincing self that the Ordnance Survey must have an American ATLAS. TALLY HO! I’d prefer to call the shape of a Life Saver ``toroidal.’’ But enjoyed many nice clues today.

Joe 9:03 PM  

What is “no (R) bootlicker”?

Z 9:10 PM  

@anonymous 7:04 - With em phaaaa sis, you are wrong. You could read my earlier link to the lengthy Wikipedia article or go to Wolfram MathWorld or a bunch of other easily findable online resources.

webwinger 9:11 PM  

This is in danger of becoming an exercise in hairsplitting, but I think there is some confusion between the geometric definition of a torus, which requires that it be perfectly round, with every cross section parallel to its principal plane, or perpendicular to that plane through its midpoint, defining two circles (so a Life Saver, for which planes containing the hole’s axis create two pillowish cross sections, would not technically qualify), and the topological definition, which equates all objects “with a hole”, that can be in theory “stretched” to mold them into a geometric torus (including a coffee cup with a finger hole handle, and the human body, with the entire inside of the GI tract representing the “hole”). My favorite biological example is the pericardium, a very complexly extended and folded membranous sac surrounding the heart, which develops from a simple “donut”, through the hole in which the primitive embryonic circulation begins flowing.

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

@RooMonster, et al:

Last time I had a Life Saver, I recall, quite strongly, that licking off the edges of the outside and inside circumferences took some doing. as one can see quite clearly ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Savers ) the sides of the candy are *vertical*, not curved. and, as you can see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torus
the sides of a true torus are *curved*. QED

Mammy Yokum has spoken.

Unknown 10:50 PM  

Change 35 down to “Prince’s ‘Darling’” and it’s fixed.

RooMonster 11:02 PM  

Ah, I see. You're saying a TORUS is all-around round. A Life Saver is round, but has flat sides, ergo, no TORUS. These things take a while for me to grasp! So a Bialy (if you know what that is, it's been in puzs before) is also not a TORUS, because it's flat -ish.

Rebel Roo
(Whose brain decided to kick in right before bed time!)

Rexenheck 12:45 AM  

Rex Parker, youv've done it again! and a cute kitten to boot!

@proteinchemist 1:30 AM  

A good definition: https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Allele

evil doug 8:54 AM  

Lovely work, Joho.

Unknown 4:12 PM  

What a cutie! How can any one abandon a kitten in the bushes? Lucky Alfie to find you. You’ll have to construct a puzzle all about Alfie

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