Swaying just before disaster / THU 7-23-20 / Original airer of Monkees / Heineken alternative / Hindu avatar / Leader typically appearing shirtless in SNL parodies

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (5:23)

THEME: NOW (30D: Present ... or a concise explanation of this puzzle's theme) — every time you see a "W" in the clues, you have to pretend it's not there, i.e. pretend there is NO "W"; then the clue makes sense. The grid also contains instructions, in case both your own deductive reasoning *and* the revealer both fail you: REMOVE THE / LETTER "W" / FROM CLUES (20A, 40A, 61A)

Word of the Day: ELIHU Root (6D: Peace Nobelist Root) —
Elihu Root (/ˈɛlɪhjuː ˈrt/; February 15, 1845 – February 7, 1937) was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt and as Secretary of War under Roosevelt and President William McKinley. He moved frequently between high-level appointed government positions in Washington, D.C. and private-sector legal practice in New York City. For that reason, he is sometimes considered to be the prototype of the 20th century political "wise man," advising presidents on a range of foreign and domestic issues. He was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. Senator from New York and served one term, 1909–1915. Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. (wikipedia)
• • •

I kept waiting for the *point* of it all to be driven home—by the instructions, by a revealer, by something. But there is no point (that I can see). "W" is just an arbitrary letter that has been removed from some clues (I don't know how many, I didn't go back and check). I figured out the gimmick early, still in the NW, when neither S-N nor -SH-R made any sense for their clues (1A: Major source of wheat and 2D: Job that involves a lot of sweating, respectively). It was only *after* I figured it out that I saw that the "themers" were going to be instructions—instructions which by that point were totally unnecessary. There was no joy or interest or any good feelings involved in just writing in the very straightforward instructions. I guess there was some question over how the instructions were going to be phrased, precisely, but essentially I knew what they were going to say. And the revealer—well, doubly redundant. Again, I got it. I got it before the instructions, and I definitely got it before the revealer. So what looks like some kind of accomplishment—working both instructions *and* a revealer into the grid—actually felt like wasted real estate. I would've enjoyed this much Much more if the instructions were not here. Put NOW down in the lower right and just open this baby up. Go full themeless; at least then your fill will be good, because you'll have more room and your fill won't be compromised by the structural limitations imposed by the instructions. I always find instructions-as-answers kinda grim, and today wasn't any different. I enjoyed the little bits of wordplay involved in de-"W"-ing the clues, but the grid is pretty plain, and the theme, as I say, once you get it, it's gotten, and there's nothing much more to discover.

Here's a little note Robyn just sent me about the construction of the puzzle:

She may be right about the "average solver"—I don't know who the "average solver" is, but I would be curious to know if the instructions actually proved necessary or had an "Aha!" effect on solvers. It could just be that this puzzle wasn't meant for *me*—these things happen.

Puzzle felt very easy except for "OSO"—wow, that was rough. Nothing in the clue to help at all. I assume the Special Agent of the title is a bear ... a Spanish bear. But my kid was never really into Disney stuff, ("Special Agent OSO" ran 2009-12), so that little nook was way harder to work out than any other part of the grid. I also couldn't put together -CENTRIC (44D: Ending that's in the middle?). I get the clue now (it's a suffix, i.e. "ending," that *means* "middle"), but that was really hard to see while solving. Second suffix of the puzzle, which is ... not ideal (65A: Ending for patri- (-OTIC)). I don't really know why that OTIC / ASCOT crossing wasn't OTIS / ASSET. That corner feels pretty wobbly in general. I really liked "EYES ON ME!" and wanted more of that energy (which I'm very used to from Robyn's themelesses). Themes are hard! Anyway, see you tomorrow for (I hope) a themeless!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Melrose 12:05 AM  

Brilliant! Great fun! Clever clues, lots of moving parts. Try not to be a grinch, Rex.

jae 12:06 AM  

Easy-medium. I bounced around on this one until I hit the Hawn clue and Goldie wouldn’t work but SOLO did and...AHA! I did not need the instructions and filled them in last.

Fun and just about right for a Thurs., liked it a bunch!

Jeff gave it POW.

Pamela 12:07 AM  

OMG, this puzzle is so cool! Even after I got the trick, I kept getting tripped up. I tried so hard for arN at 1A, desperate for anything that had to do with a grain, then roared when I realized how stupid that was. Had no idea what AMERICA had to do with Away WithOut Leave. And Shrewd? Puhlease! Sharp was the only thing that fit— except for the letters, but I clung to it anyway. How sharp was that?

What about Wads? Anyone else have have trouble there? All I could picture was either a giant roll of bills or what you get when you stuff a whole package of bubble gum in your mouth!

I couldn’t think of a word the Times would print that described a Wedgy. The only sewer I remembered was Betsy Ross, and it wasn’t a Drain, either.

Then there were the others, just normal misdirects, like Labor Day. That’s how I read it, with the capital D. But it wasn’t. I wanted Party, even though we already had PARTYHAT. Well today, mine was a Dunce Cap.

I did finish, eventually solving the reveal and picking my way through my mistakes, laughing all the way at how determined I’d been in all the wrong directions. What fun, hands down the best Thursday since I started doing the dailies a few months ago.

Thank you, Robyn Weintraub!

Cliff 12:14 AM  

I an your "average" solver. But I had the instructions as "remove the letter[s] from the clues"; which made no sense; I nearly gave up. I finally sussed out that I had to ignore the W's in the clues, and then I went back and corrected the instructions, which led getting the revealer. So, no, neither the revealer nor the instructions helped this average solver. I think you had to know about the W's before you could see the instructions!

Harryp 12:15 AM  

I got quite a few answers filled in from the NE down, when I noticed the last four letters of 40A were TERW. Filling in LETT, I realized the breakout, and from there it was fill in the blanks. Fast solve, fun puzzle.

Pamela 12:16 AM  

I wrote my previous comments just after solving the puzzle, and posted it before reading Rex. OK, so I’m the Average Solver he doesn’t know anything about. The single word reveal would not have done it for me, I’m pretty sure, and I know that without anything at all I would have dnf’d. Having it spelled out Revealers For Dummies style was what made it fun for me, and not just an exercise of frustration.

So thanks again Robyn, for thinking of me and my puzzle peers.

astrotrav 12:17 AM  

I was sure Rex would like this one. It's Robyn Weintraub. The gimmick was simple and yet required a second thought each time you encountered it. A bunch of great cluing, e.g., those for ROTC, BIRTH, UHOH, and TBSP, breathed life even into so-so fill. I guess I'm just one of the average solvers that needed the help. I struggled mightily, knowing I wasn't able to find answers because I didn't yet know the gimmick. But once LETTERW came into view the rest of the puzzle fell out. Maybe that makes it too easy. But for me this was one of the funnest puzzles of the year.

GHarris 12:22 AM  

Very tough until I got the revealer, then it was off two the _____

Joaquin 12:38 AM  

Crosswords do two things for me: Provide me with new facts and vocabulary, and provide a few minutes of fun. Today was all in the "fun" category; I didn't learn any new words or facts but I did have a boatload of fun solving the puzzle. And who can't use some fun at this point?

Lindandc 12:45 AM  

Fresh & fun. 👍🏼👍🏼

egsforbreakfast 12:51 AM  

Ms. Eintraub,

Ay to go, Robin. Ell done, ith a hole elter of itty clues and ansers. Hich is hy I can’t ait to poer through each of your ne puzzles. I sear your ork is too onderful for ords. Hope you’re alays around and never go aay. You toer over most men and omen ho are tharted by the seet art of the crossord. Sell job, and an aesome P.O! from Jeff Chen on wordinfo.com!!!

poslfit 12:52 AM  

I'm not a puzzle person, except in the narrow sense of someone who keeps track of his NYTXW times everyday in a spreadsheet. I also don't know what an average solver is. I was on my guard for something tricky though as soon as I saw Robyn's name, and figured it out from ① the large number of clues that seemed impossible, and ② LETTERW. It took me 43% longer than usual for a Thursday to solve today's, and I experienced a reasonably strong "Aha!" when I figured out the theme, tinged with mild head-desk for not seeing it sooner.

egsforbreakfast 12:53 AM  

Just realized that I meant for Jeff Chen’s site to be xordinfo.com.

Anonymous 12:56 AM  

Bonus points for not having any W’s in the grid except for the revealer/s. Nice touch and very elegant.

staydetuned 1:04 AM  

This was great. Haven’t had this much fun with a puzzle in a while. Creative, adventurous. And of course beaten down by “fearless leader”. I can’t help but feel like the lack of joy Rex gets from a puzzle like this is telling; I hope I never get to that lever of crossword puzzle mastery 🙄

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

The original clues were so wonderfully natural that even after I got the theme, I kept forgetting to ignore the 'W.'Glad the instruction was in the puzzle, too. Super easy but so much fun. Perfect for gimmick Thursday.

Indypendant 1:09 AM  

I thought it was great! Clever theme that I didn’t get until I figured out the revealer. Fun odd clues throughout. Overall an excellent Thursday puzzle.

William of Ockham 1:15 AM  


I liked that

Rick 1:16 AM  

One of the funnest puzzles I've ever done!

Ken Freeland 1:38 AM  

Agree with the masses... pretty challenging and a bit diabolical, lol. But it all cleared up in the end. I'll give it five stars!

Alyssa 1:42 AM  

I 100% agree with Robyn Weintaub’s comment. I don’t know if I’m an “average” solver or better or worse, but it sure helped me. I flailed around the puzzle with some clearly wrong answers ... that had to be there? How are HENS “certain lawyers”??? ... and then I got FROM CLUES followed by LETTERS (oops, that was wrong, but I doubted NOW as the revealer), followed eventually by REMOVE THE, and then finally got it. And then it just opened up and felt like a Monday to finish everything out and verify the answers. Rather than just mindless fill, it was a puzzle that required another puzzle to solve, and it was fun. Still overall about average difficulty for a Thursday, and yeah, if you figured out the revealer early, I can imagine it would be easy and not very interesting. But as a member of the crossword proletariat, and certainly not any sort of royalty, I thought this was pretty darned fun!

Ann Howell 2:00 AM  

I can't describe how much I hated this puzzle! So strange to have such a different experience from other enthusiasts. I was actually shouting at the screen as I filled in what seemed to be random answers... it didn't help once I finally got the theme. Glad others enjoyed it - not for me!

LenFuego 2:30 AM  

Seems like not too many puzzles are "meant for" Rex ... for the life of me, I cannot understand why he does not take up badminton or woodworking instead.

I certainly enjoyed this one. The solve was difficult until I got enough of a toehold in the revealer(s) answers to figure out what was going on ... from there it was fairly easy. That is *exactly* how a theme and revealer are supposed to work -- do the work to understand how the theme works to unlock the puzzle.

As a constructor, Rex should appreciate the difficulty in coming up with a number of clues that make enough sense with the extra 'W's to hide the fact that they are subterfuge. I mean who else did not confidently put in WITHOUT for "AWOL part" and SPIT for "Wads are made to do this" without suspecting anything was amiss. And Ms. Weintraub knew we would all puzzle over how GOLDIE did not fit in the grid for "Hawn of the silver screen". Great fun.

GILL I. 2:41 AM  

Oh good gravy....Here I was about to scream bloody murder. Well yeah...the SUN is also the source of my tan but why clue it as wheat? Just to be perfectly clear, I didn't get it before the instructions. Nosireebob....I wanted to know what Robyn was drinking while making this thing. Like @jae, it finally took me reaching out to SOLO instead of Goldie to see the W light. WOW and WOW and WOW. This was tres brilliant . Here I had to almost get to the end for that lightbulb moment and W HEN I saw It, I stood up an applauded. Ay, @Rex, what can make you happy and put a smile on your face..other than a cocktail?
This was so different and fun. Robyn is super cool and knows her onions.
My favorite was PUTIN. Did anyone else think POTUS? I did. I kept thinking how SNL would do a shirtless Trump and I almost lost my TUNA.
Best Thursday in ages.....

JOHN X 2:57 AM  

Meh, this was pretty easy for a Thursday.

Fiona 3:14 AM  

I disagree with Rex and stand in solidarity with the "average solver". The instructions were helpful, especially as I figured them out before the gimmick. And I loved going back and seeing all the misdirection in the "w" words and getting so many of them quickly.

Whats off to you, Robyn

Engine Ear 3:20 AM  

Maybe the most fun I’ve had doing a NYTXW among the 4-500 I’ve done to date. Looked forward to each clue hoping to find another double-u double-meaning, and enjoyed them all.

SOLO clue gave it away, so I was pretty far in before going back to fill in the w-clues, which were certainly difficult at first! Gave me a chance to kind of enjoy two different puzzle experiences in a single grid.

Well done, Ms. Weintraub, and thank you! Take a wrest!

Jim H 3:53 AM  

Average solver here. I did not get the no "w" theme until I was about 3/4 of the way through this one. I couldn't understand why so many clues were completely wrong. Solving the 3-part mega-hint almost requires that you know the trick already. In your case, Rex, you had that advantage. I can confirm that without it the puzzle was tricky.

Did I enjoy the experience? I did not. Over 30 mins.

Z 4:30 AM  

Is there anything better than being up at 3:00 am cleaning up dog diarrhea? Well, sure. A quote puzzle. Blrrgh. Saw “Part 1...” and went “Ugh.” NOW isn’t enough of a revealer? It’s hard to prove a counter-factual, so we will never know NOW, but I think NOW clued properly would have been enough.

And what do the instructions force on us? SMEE and his attorney ELIHU. and lots of threes and OTIC and SSTs. I like the NO W idea in the cluing (would the reverse work, removing the W in the clue making us have to add it to get the proper clue?), but the next quote/instructions puzzle I like will be the first that I like.

Z 4:37 AM  

@Joe Dipinto late yesterday - Did you try to preview? For whatever reason, if you preview first the emojis don’t display, but if you just hit publish they work. Just another wonderful thing about Blogger. 🎼🎵🎶🌋

ChuckD 6:12 AM  

Never a fan of the multi part instruction or quote puzzle. The trick here has been done before - and it only leaves room for odd length fill. Her clueing and wordplay are typically so strong - but this grid hampers all that. Really liked EYES ON ME, ELABORATE and MINUTEMEN but just too much short glue.

Mr. Cheese 6:32 AM  

I’ve been following Rex for about a year. I still can’t figure out how he thinks. I was sure he’d love this puzzle... I sure did!
Would he have liked it better if there were no “B’s”? Just asking...

Lewis 6:48 AM  

One of the answers, CENTRIC, reminds me of "Cedric", which reminds me of "the Entertainer", which, to bring it full circle, reminds me of Robyn -- who I think of as Robyn the Entertainer.

Until the trick wacky-whacked me, I kept thinking, over and over, "I know I'm going to love this when I figure it out." Then post-aha, I kept thinking, over and over, "I love this!"

Quintessential smile-producing Thursday from the master entertainer. High praise and gratitude, Robyn!

Jonathan 6:49 AM  

Worked my way to “letter W.” Something about the letter “W.” The mystery was solved and a few minutes later, so was the puzzle. Liked it.

Anonymous 6:59 AM  

Clue: Twat. Answer: INK

kitshef 7:13 AM  

This was brilliant. And I was all primed to hate it when I realized it would have “instructions” in the puzzle, which I normally don’t like.

Must have been a bear (OSO) to create this puzzle, which in this case in translated into complete solving joy. This is “three-year” puzzle. We get one this good about once every three years.

If I had a nit – which I always do – it would be the clue for OSO. Go with a Spanish bear clue. Or if for some reason you really want to avoid that, redo the section. ACES/CAR/MAL or APES/PAR/MAL or AMO/MIL/ADES/DIR or UTES/TAR/USA/SAL or … something.

pabloinnh 7:14 AM  

I'm with the group that figured out the instructions before I figured out the gimmick, so I didn't have to figure out the gimmick. Good thing, as some clues were making no sense, and then they did, and I found that to be great fun. Also found that entering LTD for LLC is not a good idea. Also missed some of the fun answers because I had things filled in by crosses and didn't go back to look for them.

So for Robyn, no W, for Rex, no joy. The local expression is "he's enjoying his misery".

Thanks for the fun, RW. Some of us think that considering the experience of your solvers is a very nice idea.

amyyanni 7:19 AM  

A curtsey to the Queen of Crosswords.

Leslie 7:21 AM  

Loved the struggle and I’m a veteran solver!

MarthaCatherine 7:26 AM  

Lots of fun. the middle west made it a DNF for me, though. Last time there was a "Cardinals on the scoreboard" clue, I confidently entered STL, only to find it shoulda been ARI. So when I saw the clue today, I confidently entered ARI.


Plus I had rahS for 31A. and LTD for 40D, which made 43A and 47A impossible. Couldn't untangle it. Oof.

And the clue for 8D. Did anyone else spend trying to suss out whether the "lts." in the clue was "[lower case]ell"ts or "[capital]EYE"ts?

tompdavis 7:29 AM  

Had a nice aha moment and the answers came readily after. I'm usually with Rex but not today.

DeeJay 7:38 AM  

I think his point was the "instructions" were unnecessary. They are superfluous, with the NO W answer, and they muck up the grid. I agree, tho that would have made it a cruelly difficult puzzle.

kenji 7:38 AM  

For those of us who are occasionally, usually, or always baffled by OFL's assessment of puzzles, or even question why he keeps at the whole enterprise of solving and blogging about them, consider this (which I have to remind myself to do daily): We all have quirks or more (some call them "pathologies") to our personalities. And we can't help putting out clues to them with everything we say and do. Like breadcrumbs. People, in turn, pick up on those clues, and their own quirks and pathologies determine how those of the other land. Our reactions to OFL are ALL correct in a sense. They tell us about him, they tell us about ourselves. And here's what I think should be appreciated: How many of us would be as willing as Rex to expose oneself to such judgment daily? That takes tremendous...something. You WILL be the judge who fills in that blank. And meanwhile, thankfully, he'll just keep on anyway.

Snoble 7:39 AM  

Like others, I stumbled around, getting answers that didn't make any sense. Finally realized a bit of what was going on with HAWN but thought maybe it was a puzzle of homophone clues. Got it at NOW and guffawed out loud. Like @PAMELA I kept getting caught even after I knew the gimmic, CERTAIN LAWYERS--ha!!
Thanks @anonymous (12:56) for pointing out he elegance of no other w's in the grid.
What a fun challenge!!

QuasiMojo 7:49 AM  

This would have been a difficult puzzle to clue in French.

I kept struggling to recall who was Donna Shalala's predecessor! My longest Thursday in years.

Ell Done!! OLE. Brava!

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

The theme was really given away at 19A: I can't think of a context other than doing something with the words in the clues where it would be spelled "wedgy" instead of "wedgie."

KnittyContessa 8:25 AM  

I needed every bit of the instructions. I had no idea what was going on until Hawn. Once I got it it was Monday easy. I did keep looking around and wondering if I missed something, though. Why no Ws? Just random? Ok. Very clever.

Dan 8:28 AM  

Couldn’t figure out what was going on until I had enough crosses to see CLUES in the final instruction, then was like “oh, nothings wrong with the grid, there’s something wrong with the clues” and figured it out from there. So count me in as someone who has done lots and lots of Thursdays but needed the instructions. (Though over the years I’ve also picked up Rex’s hatred of puzzles with instructions...)

Pat B. 8:36 AM  

One of the most ingenious puzzles I have seen in years. Perfect for a Thursday. Robyn- do not listen to Rex Parker

Frantic Sloth 8:45 AM  

🎤 💧


JD 8:49 AM  

Dislike broken apart answers, and here the answer was instructions. Got Remove The W relatively quickly though.

Went back and cleaned it up and done.

So that's a different Thursday experience, like dreading a dental appointment and then leaving afterward and thinking it wasn't all that painful afterall. And these days, that's what I call a happy ending!

Nancy 8:56 AM  

Brilliant!! Absolutely fiendish!! My "Aha Moment" was huge.

And not a moment too soon. I was thinking that I had lost my everloving mind.

This is what a trick puzzle is at its very best: Unless and until you've figured out the trick, there is no way on earth that you're going to solve the puzzle.

Now, let's look at fairness. This puzzle was entirely fair, when it could so easily have been completely UNfair. I'm talking about 30D. Without the word "present", if NOW had only been clued by "a concise explanation of the puzzle's theme", NOW would have been much harder to get. And it's the "W" of NOW that puts "LETTER W" smack dab in the middle of the puzzle. And, boy, did I need that!! I certainly wasn't picking it up from the clues. Once I saw it, however, even in the absence of having filled in any of the rest of the instructions, I thought: "Watch your "W"s, Nancy!" And thus, after a long stretch of complete bafflement and frustration and feeling very stupid, it was smooth sailing from then on. For example, I finally understood why 9D was AMERICA and not ABSENT.

The incredibly clever way in which the superfluous "W"s were disguised -- brilliant! I cannot say enough good things about this puzzle. At this point in time, Robyn Weintraub is probably my favorite constructor. BRAVA!

Average Solver 9:03 AM  

Perfect! Thank you, Robyn Weintraub, for knowing and appreciating your audience.

Norma 9:05 AM  

This a bit better than average solver needed the instruction. Enjoyed the puzzle once I got it.

Whatsername 9:06 AM  

What can I say about a puzzle as brilliant as this one? Absolutely loved it, the most enjoyment I’ve had with a Crossword in a long time. Took me until 68A/SOLO to get the trick but then it was so much fun looking for the rest of them - even the ones I’d already filled in without realizing the theme. Liked AMERICA right next to MINUTEMEN and then patriOTIC thrown in there. Some dynamite clues that jumped out at me were DINERO, THOMAS, BIRTH but many others too. Just sheer genius!

As an average solver, I agree that the instructions were helpful and enhanced my overall solving experience. Otherwise I think I would have stared at 30D without seeing NO W, which would have made it frustrating instead of fun. So good call on that Robyn and BRAVA!!

blinker474 9:20 AM  

I've been doing the NYT crosswords on my computer for about 20 years, and used to do them pen on paper on the train to Grand Central back in the late '50s. Today's puzzle was a real treat, since it took me quite some long time to get the gimmick. Lovely puzzle that I'll remember for a long time. Rex predictably hates this puzzle. Who cares?

Andrea 9:21 AM  

Well, I for one was still confused about the few different parts where things wouldn’t fit (like Goldie for Hawn) when I went back and tried to finish the revealer. I got to “remove letter _” , moved to NOW for the concise explanation, got it then (oh, it’s the W’s fault!) and voilà!
So, yes, thank you Robyn for this fun puzzle and for knowing your audience!

Unknown 9:26 AM  

I don't know if I'm an average solver, but it took me 13:55, and it's one of my favorite puzzles in a long time. I don't think I'd have gotten it without the instructions. I found it absolutely brutal, knew I was missing something but couldn't imagine what, and slowly poked at the instructions but was able to make very little progress, in part because I kept writing in what looked like they had to be correct answers, but then deleting them because they didn't make any sense with the clues. So I went through the entire grid twice, pecking at it here and there until I had enough to make sense of the revealer--and then once I made sense of the revealer, a true aha moment, and the rest of the puzzle fell really easily, which was very satisfying.

Loren Muse Smith 9:31 AM  

I. Loved. This.

Commenting via iPhone while visiting NC sans dying laptop.

This is one I’ll remember for a long time. Brilliant.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@kenji 7:38 Too bad we can't get Republicans to think that way. They only think that the way they think is the only way. Like blinders on a horse.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

why are the "notes" never on the NYT crossword website or app?

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Great puzzle Robyn. Thank you. How you’re able to be so generous toward Rex is beyond me.
Seems pretty clear to me that the majority of people here really liked it. And if it passes muster here, you can confident it’ll poll even better outside this bubble.

Anon 6:59, there’s a twat here, but he’s not worth spending ink on.

Joe Welling 9:48 AM  

This puzzle would have been appropriate in January 2009.

Elizabeth 9:56 AM  

I laughed out loud with “lawyers” and “hens.” I’m average on a good day and I thought this was fun.

JD 9:57 AM  

@Frantic! Ha, your rating made it all worthwhile. Now I'm certifiably joyful ... among other things.

@Pamela, Does it gross you out if I say Spit for Wad? Spit Wad. Cause that's what I was thinking.

I just Googled to see if it's an actual thing or just something we just made up in elementary school and got this at #1 from Wiktionary:

"A wad of spittle that has been spat by someone."

A sentence for the ages.

RooMonster 10:00 AM  

Hey All !
Put me in the "mystified" group until I figured out what in tarhooties was happening. Unfortunately, had LETTERs in the Center, and thought that NOs would be correct. Still hadn't got theme at that point. I believe I figured it out at SOLO. But, I had erR for 21D, which left me __M_EETHE for Part 1 of the instructions. Scratched the ole head, but continued on. After having filled in a couple of the extra W answers, it finally clicked at TENSE, and the I did have a "oh, cool!" moment, realizing that W was taken out of the clues. Looked through all the other clues to find the W ones, and filled most of them in.

Eventually back-revealed the Revealer, as by then I had __M_EETHE LETTERs FRIM CLUES. Erasedy err erR, through in VAR, finally saw REMOVE, and said "Ah". Full confession: "Finished" puz with LETTERs, even though I thought it wasn't specific enough, since all the clues took out the W, "Almost There" popped up, went back, reread 30D clue, then the "D'oh" headslap of "It's LETTER W/NO W!"

So a technical DNF that I'm not counting. 😀 Enjoyed the puz after puzzling for quite a while.

AWOL is Absent Without Official Leave, but I did like your VAR!

One F (in theme)

Joe Welling 10:05 AM  

Anonymous said: "I can't think of a context other than doing something with the words in the clues where it would be spelled "wedgy" instead of "wedgie.""

Yesterday was Pi Approximation Day (22/7). Maybe you talk about a food that is not a real pie, but is sort of wedgy? ;)

Carola 10:08 AM  

Robyn Weintraub really led me down the garden path with this one....or maybe I mean she had me wandering in the wilderness. I sensed that some of the clues were fishy and that some words (e.g., ERA) didn't fit, but couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on (end of mixed metaphors). Like many others here, it wasn't until I stumbled on SOLO that I had my personal reveal. Then I remembered the "W" I'd erased above, because I'd judged my partial entry -ERW impossible (@harry p 12:15, I should have kept the faith), and then had great fun going back and subtracting Ws and completing the grid. Super job at faking out the solver, at least this one, in the best Thursday fashion.
Tiny footnote: @Rex features the National Organization for Women, which I noticed is just around the corner from the Equal Rights Amendment.

Kathy 10:08 AM  

I’m still laughing and marveling at this brilliant puzzle.
No spit wads here because the W went AWOL!
I grokked the theme before I had filled in the instructions and revealer, which made it even more satisfying. Lawyers/Layers unlocked it for me.
But the capper had to be AWOL because both Absence and AMERICA fit perfectly.

Rex, you are a party pooper.
This is one of the best puzzles I’ve seen.
5 @Frantic PARTYHATS from me!

Eric 10:09 AM  

I'm guessing this puzzle was much more fun for people like me who didn't get the gimmick right away. I spent 15 minutes picking my way around, feeling like nothing made sense, and thinking that I may be an idiot. Discovering the gimmick, having everything click into place, and learning that I may not be an idiot after all (the jury is still out) was a nice experience.

tbrax 10:30 AM  

I like to think of my self as an above average solver, but I needed the instructions today, so perhaps I'm more average than I thought!

In any case, my only real quibble is that the placement of "w" in the clues seemed random and arbitrary and so eventually I just figured that any clue I was struggling with probably had a "w" in it. And I was right.

jd 10:32 AM  

"Whatever your name is" who writes this column, your ego bleeds from the words you write. What a disgusting display of puzzle review for an absolutely delightful entry by Robyn.

Hartley70 10:33 AM  

What a romp! I was stumped until I came to LETTERW and then I still wandered around trying to remind myself to ignore those pesky Ws. I like that the clues were the focus today and not just the answers. This was different, and challenging until you had the theme. It’s not often I don’t long for a Thursday rebus, but today I’m thinking “Rebus who?”.

Mary McCarty 10:33 AM  

@Ed; similar experience for me; 2D and 17A broke it open for me, but unfortunately not til I’d struggled through the whole puzzle, Googling a couple of proper nouns (ELIHU? THOMAS PEWTER? I don’t call that cheating, just boring. I caught on to the instruction “REMOVE THE...LETTER” then tried “first” “last” even “double”—yeah, that desperate, til I figured out “Present” was not a verb...Finished in reasonable (for me) time for a Thursday, scanned the review, and was still trying to figure out how tiny NEwTS could eat enormous tuna. (Sigh)

Whatsername 10:34 AM  

@GILL (2:41) A shirtless Trump?? Dang! NOW I can’t unsee that. 😳

@Frantic (8:45) 👍

pmdm 10:39 AM  

Never went from LETTES to LETTERW. Never noticed it was a W that was always removed. In a way, it made the solving experience more fun, since I had to figure out which clues had an extra letter.

Since Sharp alway demands a reason when none is necessary, and since Z has expressed his distaste for "quote" puzzles, their pronouncements were predictable. Like most here, I enjoyed the puzzle, which is actually unusual for this constructor.

Certainly a POW deserved puzzle.

By the way, Sharp often complains that the puzzle was no fun. Well, in general, write-ups like today's strike me as no fun. Probably because I stop reading before the more playful stuff.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

no rebus, all good.

Gulliver Foyle 10:42 AM  

I am a below-average solver, and need every bit of help. I thought the puzzle was brilliant and creative.

Unknown 10:44 AM  

I'm an average solver that needed the instructions and also had an "aha" moment. Enjoyed it! Thanks Robyn!

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

As a below-average solver, I too was surprised by Prof Sharp’s 3-sneer rating today.


Mary McCarty 10:56 AM  

(Round 2) here I was feeling so smug about sassing out misdirects like “fiat”(commands or cars?) “sewer” isn’t always a drain (I consider myself a sewist 🧵); Hook can be a noun or verb, but often leads to Peter Pan and SMEE; “labor” in two senses (having been through one of them twice, and the other for 36 yrs before retirement)...and while revisiting the puzzle realized a “wink” wasn’t some specialized jargon for DYER, which I was totally willing to accept, since it got me the finish. You really got me, Weintraub. And NOW I gotta read more about ELIHU Root, since he sounds like an interesting guy...

Paul & Kathy 11:03 AM  

Well, I guess I'm your average solver. Or below average. I had to do something I never have to do, which is read the entirety of Deb Amlen's article about the puzzle to figure out what on earth was going on.

Once given that I had to mentally edit the clues, the puzzle came together quickly, but I was utterly lost in my first pass through it until I gave in and read the article.

Sir Hillary 11:13 AM  

Google translates the German ein traub to "a grave" -- which this absolutely was not.

A TRULY fun Thursday with a gimmick that felt like one you might see in a variety cryptic. Nice change for the NYT, and certainly a different offering than I'm used to from RW.

After scuffing for a bit, I sussed the theme from SOLO and NOW, so the instructions were unnecessary.

Favorite theme clues: Hawn of the silver screen and Certain lawyers. I also loved the clues for ETNA, BIRTH and TBSP.

I have to be fair: I've been recently getting after @Rex for what I see as his constructor bias, but he definitely didn't show any today.

Swagomatic 11:15 AM  

I liked this puzzle. About halfway through, I had figured it out. It was just what I needed. Two pencils up.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

@GILL (2:41) A shirtless Trump?? Dang! NOW I can’t unsee that. 😳

now you went and done it; planted a repulsive scene in my lower brain stem that will never go away. and, BTW, did you see the clip in the teeVee news yesterday? Biden walks down a hall, kinda portly, followed by Obama looking fully studly? where's the Dad Bod, anyway?

Z 11:26 AM  

@Self-described below-average and average solvers - if a three letter entry in the middle of the puzzle had been clued Present... or what you have to do to understand the clues and the answer had been NOW/NO W the puzzle would have been more difficult? It seems like several are saying that even with the instructional answers the trick evaded you, so what purpose did the instructional answers serve? My thought is the doubled-up revealer didn’t actually help anyone any more than a single NO W revealer would have. Full disclosure, though, I really really dislike quote puzzles and this is really close to a quote puzzle, so it started off with three strikes for me.

Anyway, I’m glad many loved this. The underlying premise is excellent, I just wish the execution had been different.

Ethan Taliesin 11:26 AM  

Great puzzle. I found it a bit of a slog, especially having to go back and fix a few wild stabs I had taken before I got the reveal.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

I don't remember (failing though it may be) any quote puzzles (if we concur that this one really is) in the NYT. Is the resident historian around? When was the last? (A scan of the comments didn't say.)

As it happens, I have a book of LA Times puzzles, made back when they were done by that couple, and quotes were used, if not commonly.

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

I count about 17 cwues in this nifty ThursPuz. Three of em were in the openin NW corner, which severely battered my solvequest nanoseconds, right outta the gate. I suspected we were in for a fight, with possible overturned furniture.

I got no big problem with the 3-part instructions dealy. The NOW revealer was more of a humorous tack-on, for m&e. Gettin its W part was kinda essential, tho -- to know which letter was somehow to be "removed". So, a real cool instructions/revealer intersection on the one W in the puz, I'd grant.

OTIC? harg [har VAR.]. Mighta gone with OTIS/ASSET, down there'bouts.
staff weeject pick: NOW. That lil pup was smack-center in the wheat of the theme action.

sparkly fillins included: AMERICA [longball with a cwue]. EYESONM&E. MINUTEMEN.

Thanx for the RW [Remove W's] fun, RW darlin. And congratz on yer first ThursPuz debut. Great job.

Masked & Anonym8Us


mathgent 11:49 AM  

Most fun I’ve had with a puzzle for ages. Absolutely brilliant!

I didn’t need the revealer to get the gimmick. Saw it at SOLO. Actually, I needed the gimmick to get the revealer. I knew that a letter was dropped out of many clues, but until I filled in the revealer I didn’t realize that the dropped letter was always a W.

Also, brilliant work by the Shortz crew. They changed five of Ms. Weintraub’s clues to conform to the gimmick.

I don’t remember seeing DINERO in a puzzle before. It reminds me of a bilingual pun that Gill might like. My father was born in Spain and worked as a free-lance gardener in this country. He put in ten-hour days, six days a week. We said that it was “hard dinero.” That’s how you pronounce the Spanish word for “gardener.”

Chip Hilton 11:52 AM  

Average here, but got it without filling in the three long explanation answers. For that matter, I had NOs for quite a while, too. I knew something was up early on when I happened on Hawn of the silver screen. A couple of crosses and SOLO fell. Aha! Let’s get rid of W’s and see what happens!

I TRULY loved this. Just another example of the brilliance of xword constructors. Thank you, Ms. Weintraub. So many of us, avg. and otherwise, had a great morning with this.

TJS 11:55 AM  

I have been a puzzler of one level or another for about 65 years..I loved, loved, loved this one and it kicked my butt for about 33 minutes until the "America" "tense" crossing just had to be right. Pulled the "S" out of "letters" and just stared at the grid until "no-W" broke it open. Wow, this was fun.
Rex seems to be having a bad week...month...school closing ?? But I have come around to the idea that doing this every day and providing a jumping off point for our discussions is a real service to be appreciated. Even if I disagree with just about every opinion he has.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

I loved today's puzzle! First time in years when the "Congrats" message popped up on my computer that I let out a yelp of glee!

I'm probably better than the average solver, but not an expert. My preferred method is to go through the puzzle in across then down order, and figure out a theme once I've plugged in enough. Was having a heck of a time trying to answer much of anything today, but eventually got "THELETTER_" -- and had "N__" for the corresponding down clue. And then wondered about the clue "Some lawyers", for which I couldn't get anything to fit (and I'm a lawyer!) but wondered if 'lawyers' was meant to elude to 'layers', and then the whole "W" thing came together for me. So I didn't officially need the instructions, except I might not have figured it out if not for the instruction clue that crossed with the "NOW" answer.

All in all, lots of fun for me!!

Defender 12:06 PM  

As a less than average solver I was surprised what positive reviews this puzzle got.
I was thinking good grief these people are so unchallenged by crossword puzzles they need false clues to make it fun for them.
So now the puzzle isn’t the answer but why the clues given don’t make sense?
New to me but I guess the lesson is the clue may be intentionally false and that’s part of the “fun”.
I hated it but was very glad the explanation was in the puzzle so I didn’t have to read Rex to finally know what was going on.
Now I’m warned there can be clue puzzles not just crossword puzzles.

What? 12:06 PM  

Got NOW, then TURRET. So what ends in RW? W must be separate. A letter? Then LTD (corrected to LLC), which gave me the L for LETTER. Then mostly zoom zoom.
Clever and fun.

David 12:09 PM  

PSAT before LSAT, mony before otic, paper before party

This puzzle should have been run on the 4th without the instructions. A Saturday themeless. I consider myself an average solver and I got the W thing very early on. The first part of the instruction solved my paper/party answer but those instruction answers were the only things I winced at besides the century old "Negro" vernacular that no one sings ever.

Also, in the app, I couldn't tell if 8D was "lts." or "Its." since they use a sans serif font and puzzle constructors are notorious for just making up abbreviations to fill their grids (really, you don't make an abbreviation with the first 4 letters of a 6 letter word).

Even though I got it very early, pretty much every W clue tripped me up at first, so that part was real fun, and funny. I really loved a lot of the cluing and answers, especially for "birth" and "spare."

Despite quibbles, altogether enjoyable, Ms eintraub. Thanks

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Z, what? Your criticism is both gratuitous and bankrupt. That folks didn’t grok the concept even with the instructional answers doesn’t mean the answers don’t serve a purpose. The fault There lies with the solver.
But so what? Why takE others to task for their shortcomings. If your question is genuine, you are being dim. If, as I suspect, your question isn’t genuine, but rather a way to lord it over others and carry Rex’s water, you are a knave.

Smith 12:18 PM  

Can't access puzzle today. Tried 2 phones and 2 computers. Sigh.

Ernonymous 12:18 PM  

I've been reading this blog about 4 months and there is a lot of complaining about what does Rex like or not like.
It's obvious to me that Friday and Saturday themeless that contain very current, slangy phrases are what he loves. Anything else sucks.
A puzzle containing these answers would get an A plus from Rex: SpillTheTeaGirl, ByeFelicia, ImGagging, youredeadtome, thatsSoGucci, YassQueen, DoDaRatchet, CulturalAppropriation, JBSmoove, YaFeelMe, OcasioCortez, SocialDistancing

This is the type of grid he craves, not the periodic table. Any time a grid has 2 or 3 of slangy phrases and current TV shows, movies and stars, he is over the moon. Everything else is a stale old man white people fail. He did like that Sunday one a bit last week with the double letters,and the Sunday one with the Dad and his Kid, so it's not always. He gets the most upset when a Friday puzzle has nothing from after 2005.

pabloinnh 12:24 PM  


Thumb way up for "hard dinero". I taught Spanish for about (coughs) years and hadn't run into that one. It's a beaut, and something other than "Jose can you see" is most welcome.

Crimson Devil 12:32 PM  

Onderful puz Ms Eintraub.
Only improvement I’d have suggested is for WS to have so-spelled her name in byline.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

I think that @Rex would only liked this puzzle if it was with the NO M rule.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Giovanni.spot on!

Lewis 12:36 PM  

One that will be remembered for the wages.

JC66 12:41 PM  

Hand up for loving this one!

Hanedawg 12:46 PM  

A bit miffed at the elitist suggestion by the constructor that the “average solver” might require additional instruction. Having hacked away at the NY Times xword puzzle for better than 45 years I would consider myself to be at least, “a little better than average” solver. I labored and managed to complete 85 percent of the puzzle confidently and accurately with the 30 Down clue yet unsolved and not understanding how 52 Down (RIPUP) was “shrewd”.

Whatsername 12:54 PM  

@Z (11:26) My comment was that without the added instructions, I might have only seen 30D as the word NOW and never envisioned NO W. So the purpose the instructional answers served was they more clearly defined the trick as opposed to leaving me to interpret it from one three-letter revealer. Your suggested clue would have made it more difficult for me as an average solver because from “what you have to do” I would infer the usage of that word as a verb - preSENT - as opposed to the noun - PRESent [at this time]. And FWIW, I also dislike quote puzzles but didn’t think of this as one.

Ms. Goldberg 12:55 PM  

I disagree with Rex (not the first time and won't be the last!). Enjoyed this puzzle, including its clues of confirmation. Fun to solve. Since I never assumed that all w's would be removed I had to keep reminding myself when clues didn't make sense for the answers I wanted, or is that anted. Anyay - a Thursday to savor.

Unknown 12:57 PM  

LOVED it! Had a real aha moment.

GILL I. 12:58 PM  

Whatsername 10:34. I know, right? When I first started out in Sales management with Mexicana Airlines, part of my job was to give presentations to our travel agents and Tour Operators. My first was a disaster. I memorized every thing I was going to say and forgot every single word. This was in front of about 200 people. Well meaning agents came up to me and smiled and said I did a fine job....HAH!. A good friend told me that to get over the stage jitters, I had to imagine everyone in the audience naked. So I did. Next presentation, sitting in the front row, was our very best tour operator. Unfortunately, he was extremely obese. He made Jabba the Hut look like Paul Newman. Well, I pictured him naked and I couldn't stop giggling. I don't recall what I even really talked about . My eyes kept watering up because of my stifled laughter. Try selling the beaches of Cancun to a naked audience.
@mathgent 11:49. Hahahahahaha. Hard dinero. Good one. For you folks that don't speak el espanol, jardinero is a Gardner. Get it?

Crimson Devil 1:00 PM  

Not puzzle related: KUDOS to MLB, Nats & Yankees for having Dr.Fauci throw out first pitch this eve, 7:00 EDT ESPN.

Lurking....Just Behind You 1:03 PM  

Someone need to take the rock out of Rex’ s shoe.....seems like it’s there fairly permanently...

jberg 1:05 PM  

As @Nancy says, the clue for 30D is a little present for solvers. I got there pretty quickly, with no idea about the instructions. Then once I had NO W, I went back to 1A. I hadn't been able to think of any 3-letter sources of wheat, but if I took out the W from Iowa, it would fit! (They grow corn more than wheat, but close enough). 12A had to end in AT, so maybe that Judd person was named Aaron? Fortunately, I didn't write any of that in and worked my way down to SOLO. I still thought it was a homophone, but then I could see that the instructions were going to end with CLUES, and eventually the penny dropped. Back I went to figure out the other trick clues. You know what? It's remarkably hard to notice that a word has a W in it unless you really concentrate your mind!

Other than that, my biggest problem was Ltd instead of LLC, suggesting some very strange brand of beer.

You can clue OTIC so many ways: ear-related, first two words of an ode about spasms, working long hours in intensive care.. but this one was original!

So I loved the puzzle. Particularly nice that the dropped Ws were not symmetrical, so you had to be on the lookout for them at all times.

Teedmn 1:17 PM  

I needed the instructions to get this. I had the last part, FROM CLUES, and then LETTERs. Since it crossed NOs, I was trying to do something with the clue numbers (ignoring the "Present" part of the 30D clue, obviously). My __M_V_T__ at 20A finally screamed REMOVE to me and I went right back down to the answer which had confounded me the most, TUNA, as "Fish frequently caught by ne[w]ts" and realized the W could come out, creating sense of the answer.

I then went through and crossed out all of the W's in all of the clues and it all went swimmingly from there.

Before my aha moment, I had Ha[w]n SOLO in the grid and wondered if there was some soft-porn version of Star Wars out there, har.

Robyn, I loved this, thanks!

Anonymoose 1:20 PM  

Like the children in Lake Wobegon, I think all solvers are above average.

Kathy 1:22 PM  

@Giovanni 12:18

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

I guess it's my Russian heritage that my initial reaction to patri- was NYMS. Da!

Rug Crazy 1:31 PM  

I had SPURP and PSAT. Had top Google SPURP, and it still worked for me

Newboy 1:46 PM  

@Nancy (8:56) said it for me already. Thanks Robyn for a wonderful time. Appropriately my only disaster came with oHOH before UH🥴. And a paper solve today would have made it easier to X out those cryptic “w” detractors than did the iPad.

ow a paper cut 1:52 PM  

I felt like a horse’s patoot until I got the trick.

Nancy 1:53 PM  

I just had another thought about this brilliant, wildly entertaining puzzle. It's not just the puzzlement caused by the clues that don't go with their answers. It's also that certain clues just by themselves led me to much scratching of the head.

My favorite is the one that drove me craziest: "Pewter accompanier in the Bible". What on earth could that possibly be? All I could think of was Jewish Dietary Laws and that maybe certain food items had to be served on pewter? (Bitter herbs, maybe?) Or perhaps you had to serve the dairy on pewter so it didn't mix with the meat that had to be served on...what? Glass? Stoneware? Wood? Did pewter even exist back in Biblical times? Beats me.

All this thinking and wondering and guessing about just one clue! And there were all those other clues. Which is what made this puzzle such an unmitigated joy.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Astonishingly good puzzle. I solve every day and I read Rex every day. This was one of the best solving experiences I can remember, after hitting the light bulb moment with "SOLO" and "NOW" and then backtracking to discovery how all of the nonsense answers ("America" as part of AWOL?) made perfect sense.

I know Rex likes to critique and demand perfection of contructors, but I really thought he would gve Robyn her rightful due for this gem. Stunned by his off-kilter critique, even in the face of Robyn's sensible (and correct) note about why the instructions needed to be in the puzzle.

Thank you, Robyn, for the terrific solving experience.

EdFromHackensack 2:07 PM  

LOVED it thanks Robyn. different and fun!

webwinger 2:08 PM  

This was one wonderful puzzle! I was about 2/3 through, scratching my head repeatedly, when the lightbulb lit. Finishing was still somewhat challenging, but pure joy from then on. That the only W in the puzzle was at the cross of the revealer and the hint phrase (without which I, like others who’ve commented above, would never have been able to finish) was truly brilliant. Can’t believe @Rex was a sourpuss today. Hats off, again, to Robyn Weintraub!

Barbara S. 2:19 PM  

I'm usually very uncritical of puzzles, but when I first saw clues like "Part 1 of an instruction for solving this puzzle," then "Part 2," then "End of instruction," I groaned and thought, "Robyn, how could you??" These are my least favorite sorts of clues because you haven't a prayer of solving them on their own merits without getting probably several crosses each. But I carried on, filling in the fillable, and gradually the instruction began to appear. I'd noticed the Ha(w)n SOLO anomaly, but had let it pass for the nonce. I filled in the end of the instruction first: FROM CLUES. I had the LETTERs/LETTERW problem for a while, but when I finally had ____VE THE as the first part of the instruction, everything fell into place. Glorious "Aha!" leading to the conclusion: I love this puzzle!!

***SB ALERT***
I'm definitely in a mid-season slump. I'm not hitting any homeruns so far today, and yesterday I missed by 3 words that were *all* extremely gettable. But I couldn't completely dislike yesterday's Bee because you could use the letters to spell "Betty Boop". Which leads me to...

She rides through the city breakin' hearts all around
(Betty Boop Boop Boop Boop-Boop)
Knockin' great big fellas dead on the ground
(Betty Boop Boop Boop Boop-Boop)
The cats all love her and they don't forget her
(Betty Boop Boop Boop Boop-Boop)
'Cuz she's a beauty queen and a real go-gettah
(Betty Boop Boop Boop "Boop-oop-a-doop!")

I'll go quietly.

Space Is Deep 2:30 PM  

Fantastic puzzle! One of my favorite gimmick puzzles. It took me too long to figure out the gimmick, but once I did, it truly was an Aha moment. Loved it.

bertoray 2:54 PM  

Tried solving in the middle of the night, and got just about everything but theme answers. Looking at you CENTRIC. The ensuing morning aha was delightful.

What? 3:02 PM  

Re NOW or not. I wonder what Shortz had to say about that, if anything.

Elmer Fudd says... 3:06 PM  

I hated this, what's wong with double-u's

burtonkd 3:09 PM  

Loved this: really tough slog until it opened up somewhere mid-solve, then easy.
Revealer clues definitely helped my sleep-deprived apparently average solver brain this morning.

Dave S 3:16 PM  

A lot of fun. and yeah, I didn't "get" it until I solved the clue clues. Much easier after that, of course, although I don't want to mention how much time I continued to waste searching for impossible answers until I remembered to kick myself to remind me, "oh yeah, no Ws."

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

Great fun. Was a complete head scratcher until the revealer. I was getting worried since I was agreeing with Rex a lot the last few days.

Glad we’re back on track!

aeevans 4:25 PM  

I enjoyed this one a lot. Liked the revealer. Thanks, Robyn! Rex, hope tomorrow is more enjoyable for you, and thanks for your blog!

Havana Man 4:30 PM  

Shouldn't 7-down have a "?" at the end, or a "maybe"? Cool puzzle.

NY Composer 5:26 PM  

Loved it... in the end. Needed the clue clues, and once I got them, it was fun filling in all the blanks. So went from hard to, “whew”
Rex is too harsh, and maybe just too fast to appreciate this one. I did.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

No clue should have a "?".

Grouch 5:35 PM  

I see that tonight's baseball game is on ESPN. It should be on every frickin' channel! F*** ESPN.

Elizabeth Sandifer 5:39 PM  

I definitely had the instructions as my revealer. I struggled mightily with the grid, though part of that was probably trying to do it while very tired at 3am. Came back to it early evening and finally worked the lower right enough to get FROM CLUES, then had enough of RIP UP to get it and infer that I’m removing Ws. At that point the grid went from painfully empty to mostly full, and I proceeded pretty straightforwardly to come in appreciably below my average. I agree that the fill is ho-hum, but figuring out the theme was deeply satisfying. As the sort of person whose Thursday times are double digit, I suspect I’m something closer to the elusive average solver here, and I appreciated it.

Charles Emerson Winchester III 6:02 PM  

I certainly needed the instructions. Had enough of them filled in, though not all, when SOLO emerged from crosses and flagged there was something funny about W. Up to that point I had been speculating furiously about in which universe newts could possibly be catching TUNA.

Was finally fought to a standstill in the Southwest. Have never seen TRON, nor have I ever come across OSO, and I somehow missed the ‘w’ in Shrewd (had sharP as an answer). That all left me with a Gordian knot in that corner that today’s free time did not allow me to winkle out . Hence the sword solution of coming to this blog.

syracusesolver 6:08 PM  

I give Robyn a big W(in) for this one!

I happened on the trick early so didn’t need the revealer but agree that without it the puzzle would have been too hard for a Thursday.

I did struggle some out West with the olé/rah, LLC/Ltd, STL/ARI choices and elaborate and centric not clear right away. But some trial and error fixed that.

This is not a quote puzzle. It is the constructor reaching out directly to the solver, an elegant connection.

Encountering so many clues whose w's had to be removed provided a lot of little thrills of joy throughout, from top to bottom.

Best puzzle in [w]ages and [w]ages. Thanks!

bauskern 6:37 PM  

I broke my vow and read rex's critique, figuring he would love today's puzzle. Boy what a letdown. And if he has no clue who the common solver is or what he/she would enjoy, then he's really in the wrong line of work.

I thought today's was brilliant!

Pamela 6:46 PM  

@GILL I. 2:41am- Shirtless POTUS? Perish forbid, as my siblings and I used to say when we were still brats (we’re all more or less respectable these days). I’d lose more than TUNA!

@egsforbreakfast- Hat a onderful comment. I ish she ould read it.

@ Anon 6:59- clue idea of the day.

@MarthCatherine 7:26 am- Yes. And not knowing 8A didn’t help. Eventually I had OTC from the crosses, so the R became obvoious.

@JD 957:am- Nope, not grossed out at all. I would have put that in if I’d thought of it. Love Wikipedia.

So glad as an average solver to have so much company today. Especially since I’m clearly not the only one who had so many WTF moments before solving the revealer- not so easy in itself!

Today wasn’t just fun- it was hilarious! I never knew a puzzle could do that.

TexanPenny 6:54 PM  

I prefer gimmick-free puzzles, so I treat gimmicks like my appendix—ignore it until it won’t let you ignore it. Therefore, I didn’t “get” the trick until almost the end. I see why some people enjoyed the puzzle—just not my cup of tea.

Pamela 6:59 PM  

I was out all day, came back and experienced the joy of the puzzle again while reading all your comments. Then...


...I settled down to tackle SB again, searching for the last 2 words I needed. One popped into my head, was accepted, then a big blank. I made wilder and wilder guesses, knew I was wasting time for nothing and stuck in just one more... and Bingo! That was it! I am stunned. But there it is, QB for a Day.🙃

Mickey Bell 8:22 PM  

The worst ever. I have never been so frustrated by a crossword puzzle.

Marlene M. 8:39 PM  

Fun fact: if you remove the "w" from the revealer, you get my reaction to the puzzle.

Bruce Fieggen 10:47 PM  

Not all Republicans are mindless. Those of us in the Lincoln Project think.

Pamela 11:14 PM  

@Bruce Fieggen- Bravo! The videos I’ve seen are brilliant. Keep up the good work!

JC66 11:21 PM  

@Bruce F

What @Pamela said.

TAB2TAB 12:18 AM  

Absolutely loved this puzzle... one of the very best I've come across since I got hooked on the NYTXW a few years ago. Lots of aha's and found it that much more brilliant to have the three line instructions in the grid, for this average solver. Will not forget this one anytime soon, and will looking for Robyn's name on future puzzles.

Jayme 2:05 AM  

I was fortunate to get ELIHU straight away (even though I had a hard time believing he was the answer) because he was my grandmother's great-uncle.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

I know i’m Late to this party, but I have never hated a puzzle more than I hate this one. A joyless stupid slog.

Unknown 3:12 PM  

I have always understood AWOL to be an acronym for "absent without official leave."
Live and learn.

JC66 3:27 PM  

@Unknown 3:12

You forgot there are NO W's in the clues.

It's AMERICA On Line.

Coudal 8:19 PM  

Best Thursday of the year. Totally fun. More from RW please.

Daniel Fogel 12:19 AM  

I had that in as well but then figured out the revealer and that completely unlocked the puzzle for me! From there everything fell quickly

Scott D. 1:01 PM  

Super fun! Great job, Robyn Weintraub. I actually did appreciate the instructions in the solve. More like this, please!

Brian Joseph Bushaw 4:30 PM  

Same. So many corrections. This puzzle was maddening.

Burma Shave 10:59 AM  




rondo 11:16 AM  

I started in the N and SPED down to the SE, getting the trick at SOLO, then filled in the W in NOW, PUT_IN the instructions, and fini. NAOMI gets a yeah baby. Happy BIRTH day to me. Multiple of two numeri PRIMA.

spacecraft 11:46 AM  

Different people here have said: you'd get a lot more enjoyment out of this blog if you skip the lead writeup. I'm thinking they're right. Here we go again: championing the cause of female constructors--and then trashing them when they deliver. I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

I was ready to throw in the towel; 9-down, as clued, had two and only two possibilities: ABSENCE or WITHOUT. Neither fit with any sense for the rest of the corner. I put it down and went to make breakfast. Then, in mid-flip of a pancake (gluten-free, of course), it came to me. It was the CLUES! AWOL becomes AOL--hence AMERICA! Almost burned those suckers, I was so eager to get back to solving.

This is a wonderful puzzle, not a rebus but requiring a genuine "McGuffin." But even after I found it, there were some really cool clues: "Labor day event" = BIRTH. I love that stuff. ERIN takes a DOD curtain call. Eagle!

thefogman 1:01 PM  

I liked this one. Easy, yes, but fun to solve.

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Not bad, but imo not that great like some of the commenters rate the puzzle.

Instead of removing the w, I would favor removing military/industrial advocates like ELIHU Root. Like Obama, Kissinger, Wilson, T. Roosevelt and some others who have won the Nobel "Peace" Prize he had much blood on his hands. War prize, yes. Peace Prize, hardly. And a cross like ELIHU/YURT hurts !

Don 1:11 PM  

Which, of course, made it fun to solve. Rex needs to take a vacation......

Diana, LIW 2:06 PM  

At first it made no sense at all in places. Then I got it...never mind. Fun.

Happy day to @Rondo - you're a card! ;-)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 3:47 PM  

At first, this puzzle was undoable, but I put in what I "knew" to be right and thought that there was something about the pronunciation of some of the clues, like "sewer" and "own". Like @rondo, the light dawned for me at Hawn, where SOLO had to be correct. Thus I went back to 1A and 2D and was off. Still even with figuring out the "W" thing, I still had to deal with "winks", "newts", AWOL, and "chewers". Tricky little sucker.

This is just another puzzle where, judging from some of the comments, I'm glad I didn't read Rex, because I found this to be a brilliant puzzle with a novel theme that provided a genuine "AHA" moment and was just plain fun to solve. Memorable with a capital "MEM".

leftcoaster 4:08 PM  

Unlike @spacecraft, I stayed in the kitchen, pondered AWOL and ROTC and eschewed the gimmick.

manitoba 7:10 PM  

What does America have to do with AWOL?

Diana, LIW 7:46 PM  

@manitoba - AOL - America On Line (AWOL W/O the W)

Lady Di

Unknown 7:36 PM  

Rex: when is grin > grinch? NOW.
Robyn: how about this clue and 15-letter fill
Weasel. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Unknown 7:38 PM  

Manitoba: it’s AOL

akpeds 3:03 AM  

I loved this! Grinning from ear to ear. Have been doing NYTXW for maybe 8 years and still Robyn totally fooled me. It did not help that I wrote in HAWN for Goldie HAWN. Brain not engaged. Anyway, I then tried to do the downs (I do acrosses then downs) and could not get SE to work. Had to get all 4 letters of SOLO (writing over my original HAWN) and THEN I got the gimmick. I agree with a previous poster, I kept forgetting it even after I got it. Favorite was AWOL, where I had confidently written in WITHOUT, and slowly, letter by letter, figured out all W's had to go throughout all the clues. Then I couldn't remember what AOL stood for.
Anyway, thank you for pleasant experience. Really needed it tonight.

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