Martin star of 1960s TV's Route 66 / SUN 7-26-20 / Site of Bocca Nuova crater / Hairy hunter of Genesis / Nickname of 2010s pop idol / Bird in Liberty Mutual commercials / Role in 2005 hit musical Jersey Boys / What Winthrop speaks with in Music Man / Nine-symbol message / Rule that ended in 1947 / Shrub that produces crimson-colored spice

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Constructor: Trenton Charlson

Relative difficulty: Medium (11:27) (the cocktail I had with dinner probably slowed me some...) 

THEME: "MADE-TO-ORDER" — random words in familiar phrases are anagrammed to create wacky phrases ... turns out that in each case, the anagram involves putting the letters in alphabetical order (47D: Kind of order for the circled letters in this puzzle => ABC):

Theme answers:
  • SQUARE CHIN (22A: Facial feature of a Lego man?) (from "square inch")
  • HOST IN THE DARK (33A: Emcee during a power outage?) (from "shot in the dark")
  • ACES DISMISSED (48A: "The elite fighter pilots may skip the rest of the lecture"?) (from "case dismissed!")
  • ABET AROUND THE BUSH (67A: Drive a getaway care through Australia's outback?) (from "beat around the bush")
  • BEGIN WATCHING (89A: What you might do after the movie previews are finally over?) (but ... weren't you ... "watching" ... the previews?) (from "binge-watching")
  • BELOW MACARONI (106A: Where spaghetti and orzo rank in terms of their suitability for making necklaces?) (from "elbow macaroni")
  • OCEAN DEIST (120A: One who believes exclusively in a sea god?) (from "ocean tides")
Word of the Day: PASTORALE (83D: Piece of music that evokes the countryside) —
n. pl. pas·to·ra·li (-rΓ€′lΔ“) or pas·to·rales
1. An instrumental or vocal composition with a tender melody in a moderately slow rhythm, suggestive of traditional shepherds' music and idyllic rural life.
2. dramatic performance or opera, popular in the 1500s and 1600s, that was based on a rural theme or subject. (
• • •

I don't think you understand. The entire time I'm solving, I'm honestly thinking, "Come on, puzzle! Show me something! Wow me! Surprise me! Entertain me! You can do it!" I. Want. To. Like. Puzzles. I acknowledge that Sunday is very hard to do well, because themes are just hard to do well in general, and then on Sunday your theme has to be so good that it doesn't become taxing over the course of a large 21x21 grid. But this is why Sundays pay the most. It's the most-solved day of the week. I get my most traffic (by far) on this day of the week. Like ... yeah, it's hard, but this is the Big Time, so shine, already! Today is a good example of why I find the NYTXW Sunday so exasperating. There's just nothing here. There's a thing that *feels* like a theme. I mean, there is a concept. And that concept extends across the longer Across answers. There is wackiness, of a sort. But there is nothing in the way of genuine cleverness or joy. The "alphabetical order" thing ... honestly, I didn't notice. Not while solving, not after. Someone had to tell me. I never saw the revealer, or it didn't register (look at where it is). I just didn't see a clue / answer anywhere indicating that the anagrams involve arranging the letters in alphabetical order, but more importantly, I truly, genuinely, with all my heart, don't understand why a solver is supposed to care? Solvers are going to anagram, based on information in the clue (familiar phrase where one word is clearly re-ordered). And the anagrams are just words. You can *tell* me they're words that have letters that appear in alphabetical order. But ABET is just ABET. It's not hard. For instance, LOST is a word where all the letters are in alphabetical order. And so what? I don't look at any of the anagrammed words and think "wow, the letters in that word are in alphabetical order." BELOW is just a word; I have never cared, and do not now care, that those letters are in alphabetical order. The puzzle is deeply concerned about a thing that I, as a solver, not only am not concerned about, but never even saw. How is that good? And the resulting phrases aren't even funny, my god, you can make up for So Much if you can just hit the "Funny" mark on occasion. But no. And the fill isn't even good, so there's nothing to make up for the sadness of the theme. If you want to see how a simple concept can be enjoyable, look at last Sunday's puzzle. This ... I don't know what this is. I truly don't understand how this passes muster.

There's not much to comment on here. NW corner was where I started and was probably the hardest for me, as I don't remember Winthrop from "The Music Man" (was that ... Ron Howard??), so LISP, hard (1D: What Winthrop speaks with in "The Music Man"). LASS, with that clue, hard (1A: Miss). I still only barely get the clue for ICON (18A: Where a phone might be tapped). I guess I do tap icons on my phone ... seems like more of a "what" than a "where," but OK. No idea about BOBCAT (53A: New Cub Scout). That's not even ... the right ... species? ... or is that not important? Also, I don't care. Cluing seemed maybe harder than usual, overall, but I am drunker than usual, overall, so it's probably just average (note: I've had exactly one drink so don't Worry, I'm just a lightweight—it's a good thing). Only a couple real mistakes today. Thought Winthrop spoke with a TUBA (LOL) and thought LOTT succeeded Frist even though I sorta knew that was chronologically messed up (23D: Frist's successor as Senate majority leader = REID).

Anyway, as for the theme. it's totally possible that I'm just an idiot and missed the "alphabetical order" thing when every other solver could see exactly what was going on ... but somehow I doubt it. The title doesn't tell us enough. "MADE-TO-ORDER" just has "order" in it, and I took it to mean "we've put the letters in a new order" (i.e. anagrammed them), not "we've put these letters in alphabetical order." I went with anagram, not alphabetizing. Seeing what I missed changes my feelings about the puzzle not one bit; if anything, it makes me more disappointed—I just can't believe no one thought about whether this particular twist would add pleasure to the solving experience. Because clearly no one did. I wish the news were better. I'm sorry. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Harryp 12:08 AM  

I completely missed the Alphabetical Order of the circled answers, but did see the anagrams after the solve. Fairly Easy Sunday, but way deeper than it looked.
This is a fine effort by Trenton Charlson.

Joaquin 12:08 AM  

As I have posted here before, I do crosswords to learn new things and to have fun. Today I had no fun at all and I already know my ABCs.

Another puzzle that was more fun for the constructor than for (at least) this solver.

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

I got the alphabetical part fairly quickly, so enjoyed the theme. I thought it was fun.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

The clue for alphabetical order was there. Check 47-down. Maybe you should have the drink after you write your column? Otherwise, appreciate your insights.

Spec 12:26 AM  

47 down provides all the context you need for the theme. Try to read all of the clues before criticizing a puzzle, Rex.

Z 12:26 AM  

So Rex missed 47D. That’s a pretty odd revealer placement and I presume he never saw the clue. Not that that helps. Anagrams and the alphabet. La Di Dah. I guess the pre-alphabetized phrases are all legit and in the language, but this is just playing with letters and then retro-fitting some “wacky” clues. If you listed “top three puzzle tropes that Z finds dull” anagrams an the alphabet would be in second and third. At least it’s not a quote puzzle, so it could be worse.

Carolpres 12:27 AM  

I was about to leap in on the 47D as well... Ha!

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Once I had 47D (ABC), I got that the strings of circles contained letters in alpha order. But I think it only helped once.

Bruce Fieggen 12:43 AM  

Why didn’t Rex show the pre-anagrammed phrases in his write-up? Did he miss them? Or are they not worthy?
I found them amusing once I got the trick.

So taking common phrases, anagramming one word into pure alphabetical order and ending up with a wacky phrase is pretty nifty in my book. Made me and my kids smile.

astrotrav 12:47 AM  

I'm looking over the solved puzzle to see if there were any answers that delighted and I can't find any. The theme was dumb. The fill was irritating. I reflect on how much I enjoyed Thursday's puzzle in contrast to how much I not enjoyed todays.

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

Seriously, did everyone here miss the point of the puzzle??

Square Chin = Square Inch
Host in the Dark = Shot in the Dark
Aces Dismissed = Case Dismissed
Begin Watching = Binge Watching
Below Macaroni = Elbow Macaroni
Ocean Deist = Ocean Tides

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

Sometimes Rex's curmudgeonliness makes me sad. So he missed 47D and didn't know about the alphabetical gimmick. That's fine. Alphabetical ties it to the title. But I guess I want to give the constructor more credit not for anagramming "random words" as Rex put it, but for finding common colloquisms that have words that could be anagrammed in alphabetical order. OK, maybe the clues could have been funnier. Still, I had fun decoding the anagrams back to the original spelling to complete the original phrases.

Frantic Sloth 1:55 AM  

I'm confused. Am I completely missing Rex's point or does he really not get the theme?
He does realize that the alphabetically anagrammed words need to be anagrammed again back to the words which make actual sense of the (now familiar) themer phrases....right?
These aren't just words picked out of the air because their letters happen to be in alphabetical order.
I must be misunderstanding his review...right? I said RIGHT??

Is this really necessary?? I truly hope not, but:

SQUARE[INCH] (common phrase) πŸ‘‰ SQUARECHIN (as clued)
[SHOT]INTHEDARK (common phrase) πŸ‘‰ HOSTINTHEDARK (as clued)
...and so on:

I liked it while I was doing it, but even more so when I realized what was being done here. Hello!

I'm no genius, people, but I play one in my head.

I fully expect someone (@Z?) to disabuse me of what must be a delusional assessment of OFL's words.


Lee Coller 2:38 AM  

Pretty pathetic. I saw 47D and thought "who cares." Didn't even notice the anagrams until 106A (only because it is a really simple one) then went back and figured out the other ones, which really don't stand up well. This was a bore.

jae 3:44 AM  

Easy-medium. Pedestrian. Did Rex grok the theme?

Migwell 3:53 AM  

I'm a bit dubious of 92D "GST" aka "Greenwich Standard Time". If you google search that term, every result is for the much more common "Greenwich Mean Time" (which I'm familiar with), or "UTC" which is more technically correct. Is this an American-specific thing?

chefwen 4:10 AM  

Got the alphabet thing thanks to 47D and thought Big Whoop, is that it? Hate anagrams so my mind didn’t even go there. Another fun moment in puzzledom missed. Hate when that happens. Guess we’re too busy batting down the hatches to concentrate.

I’ll pay more attention next time Trenton, promise.

Marcy 5:38 AM  

“Random words are anagrammed” - what, exactly, does that even mean? If they’re anagrammed, Rex is implying that they’re not random. Anagrammed from what??? A huge oversight/omission!!!

Anonymous 5:49 AM  

I find the clue to 15D to be a gross disregard of science.

There actually is a known meteorological phenomenon wherein a cloud forms above a high mountain, sometimes enveloping it. It's due to somewhat humid passing air condensing as a result of the cold upper slopes of the mountain. This phenomenon is billions of times more common a source of a cloud than VOLCANIC ASH.

Dave 6:00 AM  

Wouldn't it be hard to find words that anagram into other words when sorted alphabetically then put them into a puzzle?

I think it's an achievement, if not necessarily Mikey's cup of tea!

Lewis 6:33 AM  

What I loved most about this puzzle, and what made it a very worthwhile solve, was the care that Trenton put into his cluing. There is plenty of vagueness -- [Miss], [Take in], [Put away], [Cause], [Passed out], [Took in], i.e. -- to get the brain involved. And plenty of punny cleverness -- [List of available courses], [Major account], [What means most in the end], to take three examples -- to keep the solve entertaining.

A good brain workout and knowing there's a "Hah!" around the corner will make any puzzle a pleasure. It's hard enough for a constructor to do this in a 15 x 15 puzzle, but to do it in a puzzle that requires 140 clues -- 140! -- requires skill and dedication, and for me today, it made for a terrific experience. Thank you, Trenton!

ChuckD 6:35 AM  

So yeah - Rex missed the scale and magnitude of the theme - but I’m assuming a lot of people will mainly because it’s not really that interesting or funny. Technically - I’m sure it was tough to construct with the alphabetic requirement - but usually the technical chops don’t always result in an enjoyable solve.

I thought the fill here was solid though with limited short glue and nice mid length entries. Liked the NW and SE blocks - ACQUIESCE, SOUR NOTES and TIMPANIST. ALCHEMIST was a little twist for Newton and thought the DIMWITS/IVINS cross was fitting.

Coniuratos 6:44 AM  

There's a lot to dislike about this puzzle that's already been covered, but 108D is a pet peeve of mine, in crosswords and otherwise. Namely, the Incas weren't ancient. The Inca Empire was founded in 1438. That's late medieval, if we apply the same definitions as we would in European history. It's like referring to the Wars of the Roses or the Battle of Agincourt as "ancient". Same thing happens with the Aztecs.

This is a problem because if we think of something as "ancient", it's easy to ignore the reasons for those societies not existing anymore. Ancient empires fell a long time ago, as a matter of course. It lets us obscure the fact that they were actually brutally crushed by European invaders relatively recently. And that's not something that ought to be obscured.

David Fabish 6:56 AM  

Normally I think Rex is too much of a curmudgeon, but I'm with him on this one. For one thing, "square chin is actually a thing, so I didn't understand the anagramming thing from the outset. And the only themed clue that made me chuckle was" below macaroni".

Also, as others have said, it's not GST. It's GMT or UTC.

And Rex, the lowest rank of Cub Scout is called "Bobcat". Not that you really care... :)

Small Town Blogger 7:11 AM  

My thoughts exactly! I loved this one - got an added bonus of figuring out the “real” phrase after I solved the wacky one.

Colin 7:14 AM  

Good Sunday morning, everyone!

I understood the concept (SQUARECHIN from square inch, etc.) but did not see that all the anagrams are now in alphabetical order; that is, I could not understand 47D until I came here. It does seem OFL did not get the theme entirely, eh? Perhaps he was smoking some of "the devil's lettuce" while solving?

Really enjoyed the answers to "Where a phone might be tapped" and "Drive a getaway car"! Martin MILNER also brought a smile to my face - loved his goofy humor. Got hung up with DUMMIES for knuckleheads until I realized what a dimwit I was. However, I don't quite get "BEGINWATCHING"... as the answer to the clue, yes, but what was the original phrase? "Being watching"? Feel like a dimwit on this one, too.

As we slide into August, I hope everyone is staying cool and safe. (And if you're in the Southern hemisphere, warm and safe!)

sf27shirley 7:16 AM  

Thanks, I wondered that too

sf27shirley 7:20 AM  

Gosh, a lot of you are becoming as grouchy and unappreciative as Rex!

mmorgan 7:25 AM  

I did see that the (not very) wacky anagrams were in ABC (47D) order. Overall, I found this to be very, very easy... and not much fun.

ow a paper cut 7:33 AM  

I like anagrams so I enjoyed it. 47D ABC

OffTheGrid 7:37 AM  

Sadly, @Rex is absolutely right. I liked seeing ACQUIESCE. That's about it.


Renee Arnold 7:41 AM  

Agreed with Rex wholeheartedly. I was really proud of myself, progressing nicely, but that upper NW corner really got me. I had "oboe" because I seem to remember them kind of "talking" through their instruments, so that section was irritating. Also never got the alphabetical order thing and kind of could have cared less. Still somewhat fun, though!

Unknown 7:46 AM  


TTrimble 7:54 AM  

It took me a while to grasp the theme (which fairly screamed out at me when I hit BELOW MACARONI), but then I found it kind of fun. As quite a few have pointed out, it's very far from clear that Rex understood the theme himself. He certainly neglects to point out what exactly is being anagrammed (that makes a well-known phrase).

There are some nice things in it. For example, the trivia (well known to me personally) that Newton was an ALCHEMIST after a fashion -- he spent an enormous amount of time on it. A very curious character he was. I suppose ADA (Lovelace) is crosswordese, but it's always good to raise awareness of her. Oh, and there's Molly IVINS, whose writings are a lot of fun to read. I also liked learning something new about MAHI MAHI -- just the other day I
I saw this vid in the NativLang series (which I highly recommend), and based on this I'd guess that MAHI MAHI is an instance of linguistic reduplication -- see the video to find out more.

On the other hand, I don't care for two answers both clued as "Give in" both beginning with AC-. And I need to have someone explain to me 121D: while I've heard NIX rendered into pig Latin ("Ixnay"), I don't understand how it is pig Latin or part of pig Latin speech. On second thought, I don't think you have to explain; I just think the cluing is flawed and it should be, if anything along these lines, "often rendered in pig Latin".

I liked the puzzle okay, overall. Solved it in a time which is relatively quick for me.

---[SB Alert]---

---[spoilers for yesterday coded in rot-13]---

I forgot to keep the tab open from yesterday, because I wanted to see if I could get this morning the one word I needed to reach QB. Maybe I would have gotten it, maybe not. (It was ZHHZHH.) Probably the puzzle overall was generally received as hard. I thought it was hard (or unfair -- I mean, come on, VZNZ is acceptable but NZVE is no good? or what about GNGNZV which is fine but GNZNEV is not?).

All that said, some of the ones I got were fistpumpingly satisfying, particularly LGGEVHZ and GEVGVHZ which I believe were the last two I got. Talk about words outside your average Joe's wheelhouse! For that matter GNGNZV, mentioned above, was nice to get. Getting NEHZ was, I'll admit, a bit of an accident.

I'm up to Genius for today and waiting for nytbee to refresh, to see how far I have to go. Forecast for today: another toughie.

Z 7:55 AM  

@Frantic Sloth - Hmmm... Rex does say they are anagrams, and that implies they were something else before. But that’s all I got. Rex would normally do a better job of showing the SQUARE INCH to SQUARE CHIN connection.

Greenwich Sidereal Time
- To be clear, I’m just explaining not defending. Learned this from a previous set to about GST and its cluing.

@Coniuratos - Interesting. “Ancient” is often used to describe any civilization where all we have left is ruins, obfuscating here the reason why all we have left is ruins. But I wonder how long the ruins connection has been in the vernacular. This etymology suggests “ancient” originally meant “before the fall of the Roman Empire” and American Heritage goes further by specifying the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476. Thanks for pointing this out.

Z 8:03 AM  

@TTrimble - the clue is Word often spoken in pig Latin. “Spoken” is the equivalent of your “rendered” or, more clearly, “word often converted into pig Latin.”

Snoble 8:04 AM  

Why is 90D IMINLOVE highlighted in a different color (on line version) I was expecting it to be tied to another clue or to have some significance to the puzzle.
This one didn't excite me, but I could appreciate the trick of the anagram end answers being in alphabetical order. I wonder how many other words can do that? I was wondering if this was constructor or computer driven--a quick google introduced me to a new word ABECEDARIAN. This is part of what I love about xwords--the intriguing rabbit holes I can spend hours exploring.

pmdm 8:14 AM  

I became aware that the theme asnwers always involved a common phrase with one of the words changed. I never became aware tjat the word change involved an anagram of the original word, and I also missed that the letter of the new word were always in alphabetical order. Yet I solved the puzzle, and only late in the game did I have to look up a few of the proper names to finish.

It's easy to figure out how this puzzle passes muster. We have been told there are relatively few puzzles in the queue for a Sunday slot. I think at one point it was less than a month's worth. So, unless you don't want to publish any puzzle at all on a Sunday, a puzzle like this one passes muster. Automatically. From reading the comments so far, I think for some solvers the puzzle more than deserves to be published.

For me, humor is a bonus in a puzzle. I really did not find humor in the theme answers, but for me that would only be a bonus. Welcome, yes. Necessary for my enjoyment of solving, no.

After going through the clues once, I thought to myself there there were more than the average entries involving the subject of music. Not sure about that now. But it did strike me while I was solving. I do like Dvorak's composition. And there is an interesting duel of tympanists in the last movement of Neilson's 4th Symphony. And listen to the opening of the 4th movement of Bruckner's 8th Symphony conducted by Van Beinum which starts just before the 52nd minute here.

Joe R. 8:16 AM  

There is a typo in the clue for 94A - they misspelled the word “traitors” as s-i-d-e.

TTrimble 8:17 AM  

We'll have to agree to disagree, both about the asserted equivalency and about "converted" being clearer than "rendered" (both are fine).

TTrimble 8:22 AM  

On second thought, I see what you mean -- thanks.

Hungry Mother 8:32 AM  

Instead of a drink, I preceded the solve with a virtual 5K. Very clever theme which was very helpful in traversing the grid. On Sundays I have to keep wiping peanut butter off of my keyboard which slows me a bit. Going back to “Route 66” was a bit much even for this octogenarian. Must have been tough for many and maybe unfair.

Anonymoose 8:37 AM  

The best thing about the blog today is the comment from @Coniuratos. Very interesting and enlightening. We don't call the Native American civilization ancient but their demise was at the hands of European invaders as well. And we obscure that fact, too.

WestBay 8:41 AM  

Always amused by Rex’s cranky take on 99% of puzzles Love the comments, too. But today in my view he has it right. This gave me a ‘so what’ feeling at the end, instead of accomplishment.
Rex, not sure why you’re telling us you’re drunk when you do these puzzles. Are you embarrassed they’re taking you longer than they used to? Cut it out, we don’t care

BarbieBarbie 8:45 AM  

I like seeing @Rex’s times, because it’s mathematically interesting to compare his to mine and think about what that means, especially as a weekly pattern.
Remember how the CarTalk guys used to spin a wheel to figure out their answers? And it’s... your oxygen sensor! ...your throwout bearing! ...your neutral safety switch!
Here it’s always ...up too early! ...up too late! ...had a drink! ...solved in pencil!
Sigh. Rex, I hate to break it to you, but you’re actually pretty consistent. When the puzzle requires advanced grokking, you slow down. When it requires lexical agility, you’re on fire. You’re better than all of us at puzzles. But you’re better at some puzzles than others.

Put me in Camp Lewis on this one. It had a good level of back-and-forthiness, the clues were thinkworthy, and the fill was fine everywhere and better than fine in some places. A good Sunday.

Geezer 8:46 AM  

At least two of the anagram exchanges are devoid of wacky or humor or fun. Someone else pointed out that a SQUARE CHIN is a real thing so that's just a common phrase like SQUARE inch. The other is BEGIN WATCHING, which is a real thing to say, just like binge WATCHING. And the others are very MEH. A lot of the fill was fine but the theme was forced.

OffTheGrid 8:51 AM  

Right On! @JoeR 8:16. I was thinking the same thing. Question: What would you call an admirer of traitors?

WhatDoing 8:53 AM  

I tend to enjoy crosswords that make me go back several times to get the answers. I actually enjoy seeing the grid fill little by little and feel accomplished when difficult sections finally fall into place. This one filled that need just fine. Got the revealer (because I actually read the clues ... it’s not always about solving quickly) and that did help in later theme answers.

Also love the comments by @WestBay And @Hungry Mother ... yes, I had to take several sips of coffee while solving so probably slower for me than it should have been. I also had an itch that I needed to scratch and my kid talked to me once or twice so my 23 minute time should have been more like 14 minutes.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Rex needs to drink,if he must, after doing the puzzle. Liked it, but missed the theme until I was halfway through and noticed host in the dark would be shot in the dark if I rearranged the letters of host. Tried it on square chin and it worked as well. VOILA!

EPed 9:09 AM  

He did show them. They're noted in the "Theme answers" section before the main write-up.

Anatolia 9:11 AM  

I never watch the previews either. There’s no reason to watch ads these days. Bring my headphones and my Kindle. I liked that clue/answer.

kitshef 9:13 AM  

About average for a Sunday, which alas means not a lot of fun to be had.

And for the record, I have never in my life tapped a phone on an ICON.

kitshef 9:16 AM  

Either a lot of folks are not reading Rex's column before posting, or Rex changed his column at some point.

He discusses the revealer and talks about the originating phrases, both of which he is accused of missing. He admits to missing the revealer during the solve, but clearly knows about it by the time of the writeup.

Nancy 9:21 AM  

The whole time (and it wasn't very long; I'll explain) I was thinking that once I understood the gimmick behind the bland, unfunny theme answers, I'd enjoy them more. But that moment never came. Meanwhile, I'm finding the puzzle the (for me) worst of the four possible combinations to describe a puzzle:

Dull plus Hard.

This meant that my suffering was not destined to be over quickly, and perhaps not over at all. I was completely flummoxed in the midsection where the long Australian answer (67A), plus the exercise in dexterity answer (E-U--) plus the pop idol nickname (75A) were giving me fits. It was all suffering, with no raging curiosity to propel me along. I simply stopped, and came here to see what the gimmick is. Ah. Now I see. Not bad, but it never made me remotely curious along the way.

I think there may have been Trenton Charlson puzzles I enjoyed a lot. If I had a memory like everyone else, I'd remember. In any event, this wasn't one of them. It felt like a slog -- which may have been my fault and not the constructor's. But it wasn't fun.

Z 9:39 AM  

@EPed and @everyone else - Rex edited the theme answers section, the parentheticals were not there initially. He also edited other parts of the write-up. Somebody must have emailed him about 47D.

TTrimble 9:39 AM  

He edited the post.

rjkennedy98 9:40 AM  

I think Rex is just trying to rub it in by doing 4 minute puzzles while being buzzed. Maybe he will make us feel better one day by taking half an hour on a Tuesday while be stone drunk.

Carola 9:41 AM  

Like the grid's HOST, I was IN THE DARK for quite a while, despite having worked my way down on the right side to ABC order. SQUARE CHIN seemed close enough to "square jaw" to be an acceptable phrase, but the HOST and ACES really had me flummoxed...until I finally got "case." All right, then! I realized I had to face my least favorite kind of word puzzle, the Jumble...but dutiful grid soldier that I am, I persevered. The reward was BELOW MACARONI, which I thought was terrific and will continue to amuse me during self-quarantine cooking of fusilli and penne. I enjoyed the many long Downs, too, and the landscape cross of OCEAN and PASTORALE and RENEE Fleming accompanied by a TIMPANIST.

Pamela 9:49 AM  

@chefwen- I’m with you today. Solved the puzzle without paying much attention to the circles, saw ABC and shrugged. Didn’t bother to decipher the theme all the way, now see that there was (a little) fun to be had. Oh well. Just not my cuppa, I guess.

@anon 5:49- I was kept from a helicopter view of the volcano on Maui by just what you described. It looks like a cloud. I don’t know if there’s a word for it other than cloud or mist, so waited for crosses for VOLCANICASH and was disappointed by it. I thought I’d learn something new...

Colin 9:51 AM  

Ah, "binge watching" for "BEGINWATCHING". Yeah, I'm a DIMWIT. Thanks, @Geezer (8:46)!

Rube 10:00 AM  

So yes and no. Or no and yes. The no is that the cluing was decent at best, with the highlight being the clues for the J linking RAJ and REJOIN. But the theme was colorless.

The yes, Lewis, is that cluing IS the most important aspect of a puzzle. And people ignore that here all too often. The shape of the grid? Who cares? Whether CSA is appropriate in 2020? It's a puzzle not a political statement.

But the cluing is where the solver meets the constructor. If the clues are good the puzzle will be fun and if not, no shape will save it.

Z 10:00 AM  

Okay, last post, honest.

Regarding drinking and solving, when I first started commenting here I was amazed at the number of then regulars who drank and solved, all of whom solved much faster than I thought likely. In the decade since my solving has improved a great deal as well as the number of opportunities to drink and solve. Having a drink before solving has no noticeable effect on my solving ability or speed. What will slow me down and block my sussing skills is fatigue. As for Rex mentioning drinking and solving, I always take it as “the puzzled played at this level but since I had a drink it might be easier than that.”

@TTrimble - πŸ‘πŸ½ - We have all been there. As for my “more clearly” comment, “rendered” can be used in computer graphics and animal fat, so “converted” just struck me as a little less likely to be misunderstood.

rjkennedy98 10:02 AM  

Like a few others I got the ABC ordering from the revealer, but I did not discover that the anagrams were other phrases till late in the puzzle. Square chin to me is more or less a real thing (Square jaw). The whole Aces Dismissed clue made me think of Top Gun so I didn't see it there. And I didn't see it at Begin Watching. It wasn't till Abet Around the Bush that it became clear, but it had no bearing on solving the puzzle. I'm surprised so many liked the fill, because I thought there was way too much Crosswordese, that the cluing was humorless and vocabulary stale.

The highlight for me was Below Macaroni which is the only thing that brought a smile to my face. I remember being pretty proud of my macaroni necklaces that I dyed in bright red, green, and blue in preschool. Good times!

Malcolm Gibson 10:05 AM  

Dull. Boring. Not one bit of fun or excitement. Sorry I wasted my time (which, thankfully, wasn't that much).

RooMonster 10:16 AM  

Hey All !
Got to 47D with a few letters sprinkled about the themers, (had CHIN and BEGIN at that point), saw it might be ABC, looked back at the themers I had, saw they were in alphabetical order, and said, "Is that it?" After getting complete SQUARECHIN and BEGINWATCHING , I still wondered "Is that it" because they are actual phrases. It wasn't until I got more themers that I finally saw they were anagrammed words. Began to decode them, which ratcheted the theme up a notch. So at least it was a two-layer theme.

Which is good, because HOSTINTHEDARK isn't a real thing. So at least the non-phrasers are there for a reason.

I did enjoy this, even if it sounds like I didn't. Toughest one to figure out was OCEANDEIST (TIDES). Had VALLe for 124A, leading to my technical one-letter DNF, though I got the "Almost There!" and went back to see NeX was wack, (wanted seX there for a bit), and thought "NIX!", and got the Happy Music. So taking it as a Win. πŸ˜‹

LOOPIEST was fun. Also had the different highlight color for 90D IMINLOVE, making the ole brain think that had something to do with the theme for a bit. Dismissed it quickly. Maybe an insider joke? "Let's highlight this answer, it'll mess people up!" I can imagine them sitting around smirking and high-fiving at their subterfuge.

**SB stuff**
Yes, @TTrimble, what was up with (ROT-13) NEHZ YesterBee? Isn't that just a last name? I know i can look it up... Pissed I missed LGGEVHZ, wouldn't come to mind, although the other LGG did. Stupid brain.

**SB over**

Light dreck. Tough in a SunPuz. Overall passable Sunday.

One F

Photomatte 10:19 AM  

I didn't even realize the circled letters were anagrams until I read Rex's blog. That's how much of a dud this "theme" was. Perhaps the answer (or the clue?) for 47 Down should've contained an anagram. Also, I swear I've heard Rex mention he's a teacher (or used to be a teacher)? So there's no way he stopped at just one drink. The first step towards sobriety is acceptance, Mr Parker ;-)

KnittyContessa 10:19 AM  

First, the construction - anagrams in alphabetical order. This has to be quite the challenge to contruct. Very impressive on that level.

As for the solving experience, pretty boring. Everything fell into place quickly without much of a challenge. Wish the themes were a bit more clever, witty, had some sparkle.

EdFromHackensack 10:30 AM  

C'Mon crew. Maybe its not a HOFer but its a perfectly fine puzzle. I enjoyed it - the revealer was very much an afterthought for me as I got 47D after I got all the theme answers. My problem was the cross of TAs and GIsMO. And I also had oLLEY instead of ALLEY for far too long making BoSETWO questionable. So I was able to fix that one. Not sure what enlightenment Rex is hoping to find in these themes, but sometimes he has to remember it's just a crossword puzzle. Happy Sunday all and stay out of the heat

Bruce Fieggen 10:32 AM  


thefogman 10:35 AM  

This one was easy as ABC for me. No writeovers. Woohoo! I thought the theme was good. Not great, but you can’t expect great every day.

TJS 10:38 AM  

Given my low expectations for Sundays, I rated this one pretty decent.Much of the fill contained words not commonly appearing in puzzles.I thin k@Chuck D. mentioned most of them. And I am in agreement with @Lewis on the level of cluing. Overall, a nice challenge for a Sunday.

Interesting that Rex throws in his little aside that being a "lightwait" drinker is "a good thing". Not in my book.

Frantic Sloth 10:39 AM  

Okay, so it wasn't/isn't me. Rex did miss the entirety of the theme and all his editing after the fact won't erase that.
Oooooh! I'm as smug as a bug in a nuclear holocaust.

Bruce Fieggen 10:40 AM  

He changed his write up.

Bruce Fieggen 10:44 AM  

And after he changed his write up he didn’t mention the change so now we early posters look like fools.
Nice one, Rex!

Sgreennyc 10:50 AM  

I agree with Rex. Maybe he is an idiot.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

These puzzles are about the constructor's experience, not the solver's. It's a shame.

Ernonymous 10:59 AM  

It was ok but I had RBC for ABC so I had no idea what that meant, but RBC seemed familiar (Ruth Bader? no) like I should know it. I had WRIST for WAIST, that's why. I saw a tailor measuring the wrist of a suit. But, waist does make more sense.
Best thing is the Music Man clip. When I was a kid, my brother's class put on that play and his one line was: and I want some raisins from Fresno. Which we sang over and over for weeks until the big night came and he got to sing his line. So of course I watched Rex's clip waiting for the raisins from Fresno line. It didn't disappoint, dopey kid with a lisp. Except he said he HOPED for the raisins not want the raisins. Years later I learned that Fresno was a city in California.

James Rapson MS 11:05 AM  

I am not a Justin Bieber fan, but I guess it's left to me to point out that his nickname is "Biebs", not "Bieb."

I enjoyed this puzzle, and typically enjoy most of the NYTXWs. I also enjoy Rex's cranky commentary and this forum, though I wonder if people begin getting more cross about their crosswords once they start really caring about their solving times. In any case, I love taking my time with a puzzle - racing through one would be like seeing how fast I could finish my bowl of ice cream. To each their own.

Bruce Fieggen 11:05 AM  

That was a dirty trick by Rex. He didn’t get the common phrases last night but ‘someone told him’ this morning so he added to his write up. That’s fine but he never mentioned his error so it looks like everyone who posted before 9 AM didn’t read his original post.
I teach corporations about leadership for a living and owning up to your own mistakes is a big deal. Leaving your followers to look like fools while cleaning up your own mistakes is a definite no-no. Shame on you, Rex.
As for your comment: ‘I just can't believe no one thought about whether this particular twist would add pleasure to the solving experience. Because clearly no one did.‘ read your comments section and note how many solvers did enjoy it rather than just as a way to cover your behind.

JD 11:10 AM  

Rare Sunday that I stuck with, mostly because of the solving experience. Read a clue, thought "no idea," hunt-and- pecked, filling in here and there, and then went back and found the answers to be surprisingly easy or just head scratching but doable.

Head scratched on Incas, GST, Volcanic Ash ... so thanks @Coniuratos, et al.

Favorite solving experience is a themeless that makes me think and surprises me with the clever. That's exactly what Sunday mostly is not.

But this one kept me in motion and the theme was well executed so liked it as much as I can like a Sunday.

dadnoa 11:11 AM  

+1 for no fun. Neither anagrams nor alphabetical order “helped” me solve the puzzle. Just kept writing letters.....

egsforbreakfast 11:15 AM  

I thought this puzzle was very good, but then , if the conceit of the theme is something that wouldn’t ordinarily be noticed, but can be utilized in a clever way.....I’m all in. In this case, I got the idea once I had two themers and 47D ABC filled in. But what I really liked was the multiple ways that the conceit could help with subsequent themers. For example, in 67A. If you had the “B” from the cross, you also had the “a” because it is dictated by the alphabetical order rule. Most people could infer ABET from those two letters, and then see that BEAT would be the anagram. With the excellent clue, the entire themer is done.

If, OTOH, you had filled in enough from crosses to guess that the answer ended in AROUNDTHEBUSH, there is probably only one word that will occur as the likely missing start. Knowing that it is “beat” and must be alphabetized, you arrive at the theme answer from the opposite side.

I liked this puzzle big time and am considering joining Trenton Charlson’s Z.J.Q.X . Organization ——— Americans Against Accurate
The only nit I have not seen brought up is that 40A LOOPIEST ((Most Eccentric) comes two clues before 42A. EST (what means most in the end). This feels like a slight infraction of something. I don’t think you’d clue a word that has no self containing superlative, like MOST ABLE, and then have MOST as the answer two clues later.


johnk 11:22 AM  

Aesy as eip!

Birchbark 11:23 AM  

ALCHEMIST -- I doubt Newton would have called his quest for the "philosophic mercury" a hobby. I suspect that right or wrong, he would put it on equal footing with everything else he contributed to science. The hobbyists among the 17th C. alchemists were more often gentry than full-bore natural philosophers.

When we go to the Minnesota State Fair, we always walk first to the far end of the Fairgrounds and get a GIZMO. It's basically an Italian sausage/mozzarella calzone. According to the brightly colored trailer that sells them, they've been there since long before I was born. Then we take the Sky Ride back across the Fairgrounds, dangling our feet and looking at the steam tractors, petting zoos, pontoon boat displays, and the rooftop covered with whatever the mischievous among the Sky Riders have dropped upon it (even the humor of the occasional unmentionables on a roof). Such is life among the undistant -- maybe next year.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

@9:16am: "Either a lot of folks are not reading Rex's column before posting, or Rex changed his column at some point."

YES, Rex changed his column AFTER several early comments pointed out how the anagrams were connected to more commonly-used phrases.

Pamela 11:40 AM  


@Roo Monster. NEHZ is a type of YVYL.

I missed LGGEVHZ and GEVGVHZ yesterday. The first was way outside my ken, the second, I really thought I had tried, along with some variations, but apparently not. Boo Hiss.

I’ve had a Zoom morning, so only now am I about to look at today’s offering. Here’s hoping it’s a little more accessible.

OffTheGrid 11:44 AM  

I have a question for you who are constructors. I see over and over that 21x21 themed Sundays are difficult . Is it easier then, to construct a 21x21 themeless? If so why not have more? I've only seen 1 or 2 themeless Sundays. IMO a solid themeless would be an improvement over junky themed. Thoughts anyone?

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Did I miss anyone commenting on the connection between Mt. ETNA which could spew VOLCANIC ASH and is on an island known as SICILIA?

Unknown 11:48 AM  

...I liked it!

Aphid Larue 12:04 PM  

Rex was correct. I used abc to check my circled answers. My favorite was abet around tbush.

Arra 12:05 PM  


bigsteve46 12:08 PM  

I wonder if there are any others like me who deliberately do the puzzle slowly? I mean, I am retired, somewhat "imprisoned" by the virus stuff - so I do have time on my hands. But, even in "normal" times, the puzzle is something I genuinely enjoy and so I don't mind stretching it out a little. I deliberately read the rest of the newspaper first - and then, make a nice stiff drink or put on a small pot of strong coffee (sometimes both, since, as I said I'm no rush.) If a clue stumps me, I puzzle over it, put it aside and come back. If an answer strikes me as particularly clever or excessively arcane - I stop and relish or fume or maybe just ponder for a while. This way I almost always solve - although occasionally with a wrong letter or two - which I still consider "solved" as long as there is a reasonable letter in each box. Ah, "a chacun son goΓ»t!"

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

I will henceforth heed SB warnings. I like the SB and do it daily but all this ROT-13 S*** has gotten really annoying.

JC66 12:29 PM  

****SB ALERT****

I agree with Anon 12:09.

It seems to me it would be fine to include answers to previous day's SB's, as a long as the poster indicates that they're commenting on SB. SB solvers who haven't finished doing the previous days puzzle can just skip reading those comments. We should avoid any spoilers for today's SB.

Ando 12:32 PM  

Can anyone explain why the answer "I LOVE YOU" (90 down) is highlighted in green on the NYT website, instead of the normal blue?

Masked and Anonymous 12:39 PM  

These theme cats could not have been an easy bunch to herd:
1. Need to find a set of well-known phrases.
2. Some word of that phrase has to anagram into another word.
3. New word has to have its letters in alphabetic(al) order. [yikes]
4. New phrase has to be clue-able, hopefully with humorous effect.
5. Need a set of phrases that can be arranged symmetrically in the puzgrid.
6. Need to hope the resultin puzgrid is fillable.

fave themer: ACES DISMISSED. This pup gets the job done. Makes some sense. Has humor. Very recognizable base phrase of "case dismissed". Like. Other themers … well … hit & miss.

I wonder how the themed search was approached. M&A would probably start like @RP would, with cocktails [har]. Then I'd try this:
Find some 4- or 5-letter words that have their letters in alphabetic(al) order. Find all the anagrams for each. See if any of the anagrams are words that are in well-known phrases. Repeat cocktail step. etc. See example, below*.

… Anyhoo, I thought this was a cool theme idea that kinda ran outta gas, for many of the solvers. Maybe a few themers needed more punch. Somethin. Especially for a giant-sized puz.

staff weeject pick: ABC. Theme revealer respect. Good.

@RP heads for them cocktails, when he glimpses The Circles in the grid. Wish I coulda seen his original under-the-influence blog write-up. har

Thanx for yer SunPuz-sized efforts, Mr. Charlson.

Masked & Anonym007Us

* 1. AMPS is a nice 4-letter poc word, in alphabetic(al) letter order. (yo, @AnoaBob)
2. SPAM is an anagram of AMPS. So is MAPS.
3. GOOGLEMAPS is pretty well-known, phrase-wise. Also RELIEFMAPS. Also SPAMBOTS.
4. GOOGLEAMPS and AMPSBOTS make sense only after several cocktails.
5. RELIEFAMPS might work … can it be clued in a humorous way …? {Current comfort?}? Pass the cocktail, please. Got any good weed?
6. etc.


Pamela 12:54 PM  


I also find ROT13 a big nuisance, to the point where I made a chart to make it quicker. It isn’t really, though. However, I am under the impression that an SB person was asked not to reveal the previous days answers, as some people work on it for more than I day. So I use ROT13 to be a good sport. If we don’t have to, I’d like it much better.

Maybe this is one for the mods? It would be much appreciated. Thank you.

thefogman 1:00 PM  

Is there a blog like this for solvers of The New Yorker magazine’s crossword puzzles?

sanfranman59 1:00 PM  

Rex is speed-solving, misses the revealer clue/answer and that's somehow the fault of the editor, constructor and/or puzzle? "And the anagrams are just words"??? Um, it's a crossword puzzle, right? For the most part, all of the answers in a crossword puzzle are "just words". I'm grateful that he continues to review the NYT puzzle since he's spawned this lovely community of commenters, but I don't get why he keeps solving a puzzle that he clearly almost never enjoys. Good grief, Rex, your personal crusade to oust Will Shortz from his job is truly tiresome.

HeatherRose 1:03 PM  

I didn't see the anagrams, but immediately saw the alphabetized letters. My main gripe, and it's big one, is t hat the cluing was so dull. Very little cleverness -. seemed more like a Monday or Tuesday in difficulty. I was very disappointed.

TTrimble 1:09 PM  

---[SB Alert]---

@JC66, @Anonymous 12:09

I'm happy to return to discussing yesterday's answers in unencoded form. Someone, I forget who but I could look this up, complained when I did this, and also asked for a moderator to weigh in. In view of difficulties I've sometimes had with moderation, and thus in an effort to be extra careful, I started a trend to use rot-13, which is a very common device when it comes to discussing puzzles.

But I don't enjoy annoying people if I can help it, and in fact I'd rather go back to the earlier way. I propose that a Spoilers Ahead notice put on prominent display should be considered sufficient to warn any would-be complainers. This should be a Community-based norm that other people are willing to stand by and vouch for, explaining to others who complain that this is how we've been doing things in our tiny little community.

Going out on a limb, I'd guess that regulars like Pamela, Barbara S., and Roo Monster wouldn't mind ditching rot-13 either.

It goes without saying that spoilers for the present day puzzle are verboten.

David 1:19 PM  

I know several Incans, even some who still speak Quechua. Yes, slavery was well established in both South and North America in the century before 1619.

Gabriela Lena Frank wrote a "Conquest Requiem" which premiered at the Houston Symphony in 2017. Deep and wonderful work. Unfortunately it's not yet been recorded; just one of the things which has been postponed by this pandemic and the anemic-to-criminal Federal mis-handling of it. I'm lucky to live in a state run by grown ups.

I did see the alphabetical order but didn't care. I didn't see the anagrams because, well, outside of "host in the dark" all the answers answer their clues. So did that one but I thought maybe the H was standing in for L. Then again, I generally ignore anagrams in puzzles.

War above Axis is interesting. How about cluing CSA as "local farm programs" or something. Will, do you read newspapers? Have a clue what's going on in our country?

I also got nowhere in the NW when I started, so I moved along and solved the top right triangle before going back (pretty much 5D through 66A) I also thought Lott succeeded Frist, though he preceded him. Sicilia's volcano spews ash. I liked that here better than in the recent "volcano" puzzle.

All in all I liked this puzzle well enough and smiled more often than not.

David Stone 1:32 PM  

Yeah, I have to agree with SanFranMan59, who basically said what I came to say: Rex, you might want to rebrand this blog as something specifically for speed-solvers of xwords. The vast majority of us are here to learn a few things and share opinions. The fact that you missed the theme is on you, and the fact that you didn't own up to it is even worse. As for the Scrabble side of things: My wife and I basically met over a Scrabble board, and I proposed to her with Scrabble tiles (and like Trenton, I'm an expert-level tourney player). So when my wife and I grokked the theme early on, it definitely helped with several answers and made the solve a bit more fun. This wasn't our favorite Sunday puzzle, but it was a tight concept that was carried out with less crosswordese than usual. As for you, Rex, it was entries like yours of today that made me give up on reading your blog for 3 or 4 years, and I'm considering just reading Amy's from now on. Who wants to hear griping from someone who's not even trying to get the most out of a puzzle?

Canon Chasuble 1:38 PM  

54 A beings to mind the greatest sermon of the 20th century, usually referred to as “Take a Pew.” It memorably begins, “My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man. My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man.”

A Moderator 1:39 PM  

As long as there is a spoiler alert, comments including answers to previous SBs won't be blocked/deleted.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

Ah, ROT-13. I get it.

I occasionally do SB on paper on Sundays, but not with any regularity. I see the SB comments here and sometimes just wonder in puzzlement. I realized very recently that a code had come into use but had no idea what it was.

I was wondering though what the code could be. Now I understand. It's easy, but difficult enough that someone seeing YVYL doesn't instantly understand what that really means, but has to work at it for a bunch of seconds. Good way to prevent spoilers.

Nancy 1:50 PM  

@BigSteve46 (12:08) -- There are many of us, and I am certainly one. I've said it here so often that everyone's probably bored. But I have two reactions to the whole concept of "speed solving" a crossword puzzle:

Reaction #1: Where's the fire?

Reaction #2: Would you ask me to "speed eat" a wonderful lobster dinner or "speed guzzle" a glass of Chateau Lafite?

Anything pleasurable is worth doing slowly, in my opinion. Well, maybe not tennis, but everything else. You're in good company, Steve. Relax and continue to enjoy your puzzle-solving.

Newboy 2:11 PM  

Sorry 😐 Rex’s “ There's just nothing here. ” says it all. Seldom quit even the most meh of grids, but today I did a third & just couldn’t go on. No reason to read beyond Rex’s assessment or look for magic from the commentariat—even @Lewis can’t save it.

Ike 2:13 PM  

I don’t usually agree with Rex but am with him 100% here. Only the “abet” and “aces” clues succeed in taking a ubiquitous phrase, rearranging the letters and making a sensible and clever clue answer. The others just... don’t. “Ocean Tides” isn’t a widely used phrase, and “square chin” and “begin watching” just answer the clue without a need for a question mark so, like, what’s the point of the theme? Just a real reach IMO.

Pamela 2:13 PM  

@Mod 1:39pm Thank you SO much!πŸ˜ŠπŸ’•

Mhoonchild 2:15 PM  

The first thing I thought of for the "Music Man" clue was TUBA! Glad to know I'm in good company with that. I did see the ABC hint, which helped on a couple of the anagrams - but still not a great concept.

JD 2:18 PM  

@David Stone, I'm not a Rex apologist but speaking as a (now in limbo) brand manager, the blog says "Rex Parker Does The NY Times Crossword Puzzle."

He notes, "I am the Greatest Crossword Solver in the Universe (when I co-solve with my wife)! (2017 Pairs Division Champions, Lollapuzzoola Crossword Tournament)."

He rates the puzzle's relative difficulty based on solving time.

So, this is a guy talking about his experience, and speed is a
consideration. That's a fairly well- stated, if not formal, brand and he's consistent with it.

Bruce Fieggen 2:24 PM  

I’m with you Steve. Savor the puzzle, don’t speed it. But then again, I use pen and paper rather than an electronic app that plays happy music when you finish.

Joe Dipinto 2:25 PM  

Rex, why not try doing a line or two of coke before you solve? It should make you more alert – you won't miss crucial clues/answers – and improve your time. Just make sure to include that detail in your write-up.

I think this was, at the core, a neat idea, and props to the constructor. I didn't notice the alpha order rearrangement until I saw the revealer. The problem, I think, is that with any kind of "alpha order" gimmick, you probably need a longer string of letters for it to be truly mind-blowing, and that just would not have been possible here.

But to me it was fun. ACQUIESCE and ACCEDE in the same grid –

And for you longhair types:

A soothing Pastorale from DvoΕ™Γ‘k.

And, a duet from Dmitri and RenΓ©e. (That must be Martin Milner conducting.)

jberg 2:36 PM  

I knew something was going on with the circles, so I stared (icily) at SQUARE CHIN , thinking about the puzzle's title, until I saw that it could also be INCH. That gave me enough of the theme to figure them all out. I'm with M&A, ACES DISMISSED is probably the best, but I loved ABET AROUND THE BUSH for its sheer implausibility.

I didn't get to 47D until I had all the theme answers, and indeed I had not noticed that they were in ABC order-- but I checked, and indeed they were.

Somehow, I enjoy knowing that a theme was hard for the constructor to implement; when I realize it, it makes the puzzle more enjoyable retroactively. I realize many others do not feel that way.

I'm not sure the "exclusively" is needed in the clue for OCEAN DEIST.

OK, Gotta run. We're anticipating a heat emergency tomorrow, us old folks are ordered to stay inside in an air conditioned room. Should be fun.

OTOH, that hurricane bearing down on Hawaii looks like no laughing matter. @chefwen and others, stay safe! (Same for the one in South Texas/ North Mexico).

Mhoonchild 2:40 PM  

@Pamela There is a word for some clouds that form over a mountain - they're lenticular clouds. In Seattle we see them regularly over Mount Rainier (or Tahoma, as it was known to the original inhabitants.) See

TTrimble 2:40 PM  

@Mod 1:39
Seconding Pamela: thank you!

Matt B 2:44 PM  

Started in the SE and got the DEIST answer pretty quickly. Looked at the puzzle title and thought, ‘Cool. These are all going to be religious orders that anagram back to common phrases.’ Wish it has turned out that way.

Bill L. 2:47 PM  

Joe Walsh may have been under the influence of the devil’s lettuce (never heard this) or perhaps something stronger when he decided to write Alphabetical Order. A song of common crossword fill?

bauskern 3:12 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
GaryMac 3:19 PM  

@Mod 1:39 and Pamela and Barbara S and TTrimble and JC66, etc.

I'm glad to see that comments regarding previous days SBs can be made without encoding. I do the SB everyday and manage to get to QB about 50% of the time but had decided to quit making any kind of comments as I found the whole ROT13 thing very annoying. Now that its not necessary, here's a neat little website that encodes and deciphers in ROT13 without having to resort to a chart.

thefogman 3:27 PM  

What dictionary do they use for the Spelling Bee puzzle. A couple of answers today are not recognized by either the OED or Scrabble (Merriam-Webster) dictionaries.

sixtyni yogini 3:28 PM  

Not sure Rex got the anagram thing. Either way, I agree with his crit up to a point = thought it was clever...AND boring. πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘ŽπŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘ŽπŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½.

thefogman 3:30 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
GG 3:59 PM  

I was proud of myself for getting Milner (Route 66 star) but I'm curious, how would anyone who is not an old geezer like me possibly know the answer? Route 66 was a popular but not iconic show that only ran until 64. To get the answer, you'd have to be close to or over 70. Adam 12 which also starred Milner, ran through'75, was more popular and would have been easier. I'm not complaining, honestly just curious why it was clued this way.

Michael Page 4:05 PM  

Also never saw the ABC answer, and didn’t need it. Kinda feel that the puzzle would have been a whole lot more fun and challenging without the circles, leaving us to figure out what part of the phrase is anagrammed. Too much of a softball with the circles.

TTrimble 4:24 PM  

The point is by now moot since the mod made an announcement, but I had consistently included a link to a rot-13 encoder/decoder every time I referenced it. Mine was here. I thought people would have taken advantage of it.

thefogman 4:31 PM  

******SB Spoiler Alert******

EDIT - It looks like the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle does NOT have an official reference dictionary to determine what are acceptable or unacceptable words. According to their FAQs in the NYT puzzle site, words in SB are simply curated. Today’s inclusion of the words QHAAB and HCBA (ROT-13 coded) demonstrate the need for an arbiter like the OED or maybe Merriam-Webster which the two words in question do not appear in.

bertoray 4:33 PM  

I admire and respect anyone who constructs crosswords. That said, for me, this theme felt like a meal of plain rice cakes.

Kathy 4:33 PM  

@M&A. You laid out perfectly what makes this puzzle an impressive construction.

On the other hand, whether it was a fun solve depends on personal preference. I happen to find delight in nonsensical phrases that require figuring out what’s amiss so this theme was my cup of tea. It was the kind of Sunday puzzle I enjoy savoring.

I’ll never set any speed records anyway, and I don’t even try. I usually solve in the morning. But should I happen to be solving at night while sipping on a drink, well, that isn’t even worthy of’s part of the savoring!

Melissa 4:41 PM  

I’m with you!

Masked and Anonymous 4:50 PM  

Amazin what a person can come up with, after a few cocktails …

1. {Swiss avalanche close-up?}.

2. {Urologist's dual concern, sometimes?}.

3. {Sesame Street-inspired arcade game?}.

Answers below.


no refunds

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

-- SB Spoilers --


ghthree 5:04 PM  

As many of you regulars know, I print out two copies of the puzzle before breakfast,and my wife Jane and I solve jointly on separate clipboards. On easy days we usually finish before breakfast arrives (around 8:00 am). Later in the week, we finish after breakfast, and then check with Rex. On Sundays, we finish in the late afternoon or give up and check with Rex anyway.

Today, we finished at 2:30 (well after lunch,but with no need to look anything up). Jane hated the puzzle until she grokked the theme, but when we were done, she loved it.

We both agree with the @Nancy and @BigSteve46 that speed-solving takes the fun out of what should be an enjoyable past-time. We never time ourselves, but I occasionally write down the time we finish. But there are always interruptions.

I still can't get the puzzle from the Times website, but the helpful hints you guys offered us in the last two days help us to ACQUIESCE in and ACCEDE to the inevitable apology. Hopefully, Will Shortz will admit the problem (his reluctance to do so seems absolutely Trumpian). Maybe some time they will actually fix it.

Stay safe, everybody.

Joe Dipinto 5:27 PM  

@M&A – those are great. Especially Peter and the Flow – too funny!

@thefogman 1:00 – there used to be a New Yorker puzzle blog, but it was invaded by people posting about the NYTimes Spelling Bee so they discontinued it.

Dan 5:28 PM  

I think I love you more after today’s review. Completely agree on everything you said especially the who cares theme. Last Sunday’s puzzle was so much more fun!

Side note: It seems to me that you often blame drinking when it’s a harder puzzle to solve. Maybe it’s not the drink? Just sayin :)

JC66 5:43 PM  

@Joe D


Joaquin 5:58 PM  

@M&A - 4:50 - For the win!

sf27shirley 6:03 PM  

I'm 67 and cannot believe that Martin Milner is taking up space in my memory banks.

Taffy-Kun 6:06 PM  

Don’t forget “life is like opening a can or sardines- there’s always a little bit in a corner you can’t get”

JC66 6:16 PM  


Good ones. Thanks for the chuckles.

****SB ALERT****

Got QB today. Yay for me.

Pamela 6:27 PM  

@Joe DiPinto- Lovely Dvorak Pastorale, complete with beautiful images. And adding the divine voices of Renee and admitting is icing on the cake. Thanks!
As for your other suggestion, wouldn’t that speed things up even more?

@Mhoonchild- Thanks for the correct terminology. 1 letter short for today, thoughπŸ˜‰

M&A- What fun! I agree, Peter is my fave.


Dear mod 1:39- So many people are happier now! What could be nicer?

@JC66- Congratulations! And yay for you!

I’m stuck again in a familiar place- Genius, but 2 words shy of QB. Aargh!

Liz 6:30 PM  

Loved last Sunday. This one was just a chore. One or two clues were interesting though.

Liz 6:31 PM  


Escalator 6:35 PM  

Worst Sunday puzzle in about two years. Theme was silly/stupid.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

Martin Milner was a jazz musician in Sweet Smell of Success, arguably the greatest movie about NYC. It was written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman starred Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. They made it into a musical starring John Lithgow as JJ Hunsecker. I was one of the unfortunate few who got to see it. It closed after about about two months.

Ken Freeland 6:45 PM  

I concur with Rex's assessment (I too missed and couldn't care less about the alphabetical order thingie) but I hasten to add that at least the fill was pretty decent with a reasonably low PPP quotient, so that made the puzzle completable, if still not particularly enjoyable.

Pamela 7:07 PM  

Sometimes I agree with Rex, and sometimes I don’t. Today, more or less, I do. I didn’t hate it, but I never got excited, either. Earlier this week, I was thrilled by a puzzle, and today I wasn’t. But no matter what Rex says, I agree with the cohort that knows we are all here because of this blog, and the blog exists because of Rex. So read him or don’t, like him or not, without Rex we don’t have this this playground, and I like it here.


Amazing- QB! Whew! I was beginning to think I’d just had beginner’s luck, and it had run out.

JC66 7:24 PM  

Yay, @Pamela!

Unknown 7:48 PM  

solved it and still didn't know what it was talking about.

syracusesolver 8:34 PM  

I’ll echo everyone who liked this puzzle. For me, getting the theme in its entirety wasn’t a burst of sunlight but rather a gradual dawning. As my understanding grew, so did my admiration for the puzzle and respect for the difficulty of its construction. And I was able to use the theme in my ongoing solve. I thought it showed that a real effort had been made to refine both the clues and their answers.

Obviously I’m not a speed solver—each solve takes as long as it takes. I savor the experience and enjoy taking a close look at the puzzle to appreciate its subtle features. It’s hard for me to understand the joy in speed solving, and I absolutely balk at the idea of judging the merits of a puzzle by how long it takes to fill it in.

TTrimble 8:43 PM  

---[SB Alert]---
To my great relief: QB. It's been a while!

Congrats to Pamela and JC66 and now, me!

Only one of the words do I find outright annoying (and feel that I've never seen before), although its meaning is obvious on inspection. Does that uniquely characterize the word, fellow QB's?

JC66 8:55 PM  

Tomorrow's puzzle was constructed by Alan Arbesfeld...can't wait to read @Rex's "glowing" review.

****SB ALERT****


Yay! Are you talking about ORTRZ?

TTrimble 9:04 PM  


Yup -- you nailed it.

Michael Fleming 9:13 PM  

And is it not a faux pas to use “std.” (abbreviating Standard) in a clue where the answer also contains the initial letter standing for Standard? (I’m in the USA and have always referred to it as GMT except when being an amateur radio geek when it’s UTC.)

TTrimble 9:26 PM  

All that's true, and I like the playground metaphor. We're united in a love for word games, puzzles, the delight in words and language, and generally speaking (and without meaning to sound pompous -- how else can one say it?) the life of the mind. For myself, I also enjoy hearing from the many people here older than myself and what gives them joy in their lives.

So yes, however we feel about Rex's posts, a little toast to Rex and this space that he has created. I'm having a really nice single malt at the moment, but may sometime try a Negroni which seems to be one of his drinks of choice, and then tip my glass in his direction.

JC66 9:28 PM  

****SB ALERT****


Yeah, but there have been many words that have been much more "annoying" lately. No?

TTrimble 10:02 PM  

Heh -- I'd probably agree. This was the only standout in that regard from today's batch. I'd have to review more days to remember the more annoying ones (and they'd come back quickly, to be sure).

Anyone do the Puns and Anagrams today? It seems that SB-meister Sam Ezersky is also in charge of that. It used to be Mel Taub, who seemed to be Mellow in his approach -- I think we can expect a more rigorous reckoning under Ezersky's hand. In his favor: I did like the trickiness in parsing correctly what's going on in 45D. So despite the teeth-gnashing we've experienced under his reign at SB, he seems interesting in P & A.

TAB2TAB 10:24 PM  

90 Down: *Swoon* "IMINLOVE" highlighted in green. WHY?

Anyone? Someone please solve this puzzle!

JC66 11:06 PM  


I did the P & A yesterday, but didn't notice who the constructor was. Thanks.

Z 11:56 PM  

@Michael Fleming - See my 7:55a.m. comment

Spelling? Bah! But when I want to avoid spoilers i use upside down text instead of rot-13 or rot-whatever. Huvuftpjl hyl ilza pnuvylk.

Dave S 12:58 AM  

I would agree, pretty much a drag. Only difference is that I caught on to the alphabetical order early, but didn't realize the anagram part until I read his recap. Probably just being dim as always, but I'd like to think the pretty boring anagrams had a little something to do with it. I mean, "ocean tides" and "elbow macaronI"aren't even familiar phrases like the other ones, they're just stuff. Liked the Ada Lovelace and Molly Ivins references, i guess, and clerical error and list of courses were not bad clues, but it ended up being a chore.

Rug Crazy 9:01 AM  

I loved this puzzle! BELOWMACARONI is one of the best answers ever! Sorry for all that didn't like.

Graham 10:11 AM  

I love doing the puzzle each day, although I’m not good enough yet to give Saturday a go consistently. Sunday, though, is such a slog. I always try it but it takes forever and is rarely fun. I have a few Sunday gold finishes under my belt but I usually feel “why bother?” and just look forward to Monday.

deerfencer 1:20 PM  

Kissed this thing goodbye after getting tortured for a LONG half hour. Zero joy.

StellaBlue 9:51 PM  

Adored the mention of Martin MILNER. Don't remember Route 66 but I had a crush on him in Adam-12. As a child he was in the great film "Life With Father".

StellaBlue 9:52 PM  

I enjoyed the Molly Ivins reference also, but I wonder if the clue should have read "the late Molly Ivins".

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

Except that Lion is now the lowest rank...

GAJ 6:32 PM  

Funny, but I pretty much agree with Rex on this one, as with mostothers!

Paul Rippey 10:22 AM  

Yes! Lenticular clouds.

Burma Shave 1:31 PM  




Diana, LIW 1:59 PM  

Took a little while, and a few changes on my part, but it all came together, like ABC. And I got the added bonus of hearing the phrase BELOWMACARONI - which I doubt I'll ever run across again. ABET you won't, either!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 3:58 PM  

Hey, a kind of fun puzzle for a big Sunday, and not a slog in the slightest. I figured out that the circled letters were in alphabetical order at the second themer, but had to get to ABET AROUND THE BUSH before understanding that anagrams were involved. There was a bit of wackiness involed, but the star of the show was BELOW MACARONI-har!.

Definitely a competently constructed puzzle, and fun for me.

rondo 4:06 PM  

Well, it is kinda interesting that the remixed word is in ABC order. Non-factor during the solve though. RENEE Fleming has earned a yeah bay. MY CALL: kinda EASY.

spacecraft 4:33 PM  

Count me among those who didn't realize the circled words were in ABC order--and now that I find out, I find I agree with OFC: so what? It's like, your dog has just done an extra trick, say, flipping the light switch. Wow, I guess I'm supposed to be impressed. Okay, I am. But why?

This extra trick deserves something, so with AVA Gardner (one of my boyhood flames) for DOD, we can go from bogey to par.

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

I just went to the BSA site, and every kid when he first joins the cub scouts, no matter the age is a bobcat.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP