Where Samson slew Philistines / MON 7-20-20 / Like ideal poker straight

Monday, July 20, 2020

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (?) (3:14) (20 seconds over my average ... 20 seconds on a Monday is a lot)

THEME: ??? — RIGHT and LEFT, and then FRONT and BACK, I have no idea what is being documented / illustrated / celebrated here, and I honestly don't care

Theme answers:
  • RIGHT ON THE MONEY (17A: Exact)
  • LEFT IN THE LURCH (31A: Abandoned and helpless)
  • FRONT OF THE LINE (37A: Where someone who goes next is standing)
  • "BACK TO THE FUTURE" (57A: Classic Michael J. Fox movie)
Word of the Day: NARWHAL (1D: Tusked marine mammal) —
The narwhal or narwhale (Monodon monoceros) is a medium-sized toothed whale that possesses a large "tusk" from a protruding canine tooth. It lives year-round in the Arctic waters around GreenlandCanada, and Russia. It is one of two living species of whale in the familyMonodontidae, along with the beluga whale. The narwhal males are distinguished by a long, straight, helical tusk, which is an elongated upper left canine. The narwhal was one of many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his publication Systema Naturae in 1758. (wikipedia)
• • •

If you're gonna make things a *little* tougher than usual on a Monday there better be a Pay Off and man was there not one. There's nothing playful or fun or even coherent about this themer set. FRONT OF THE LINE isn't even a particularly solid phrase. Why are we being subjected to this half-assed stab at whimsy? Am I supposed to ooh and aah at the fact that they all have prepositional phrases in them. Thrill to the wonders of ON THE, swoon at the litheness of IN THE ... I have no idea why a puzzle like this makes the cut? Are you telling me that in the 6000 submissions you brag about getting every year there aren't Monday puzzles, maybe by women (?) that are At Least as good as this? Or better? There's a group of male constructors who just take up space and don't offer much else. Don't seem very thoughtful about the quality or inclusiveness of their fill, don't seem interested in doing much besides putting forth merely passable product. The question is: why does it keep getting accepted? I mean, where's the wow here, Best Puzzle On the Planet? Is it ARFS? LIL? HERA crossing HORA? EVIE? DHL? ANO? Stop me when I hit it. HEH? Must be HEH. Who Doesn't Love a Laugh Syllable!? LEHI? KPH? AMIE? H-BOMB? HAHAS? ALFA? IWO? ETTE? OPS? [continues listing fill until he nods off...]

Big open corners made it harder to navigate this one as quickly as I do most Mondays—which would be *fine* if the theme or fill was good. But the theme, as we've established, was a gigantic nothing. So then the question is: does the fill offset the thematic weakness? And the answer is just no. See the list I ended the last paragraph with. See also the fact that NARWHAL and ICECUBE and maybe FLUSHOT were the only answers I kinda sorta liked. I also just like the word DISHY, so that was fun. But not fun enough to offset the harder-than-usualness of the puzzle and the irksome non-theme and the overall low quality of the fill. HANDVAC? What? I can't get excited about that. Just can't. I hate poker, so your "ideal poker" blah blah blah was nothing to me (ACE HIGH). LEHI, again, what? I cannot keep all the four-letter Biblical places straight. NO CARBS remains absolutely not a thing. Not at all a thing. Forget "ketosis," you literally cannot avoid eating all carbs, stop perpetrating this dumb mythological dumbness on society. You can go extremely, stupidly low, but "NO"? No. That = death. Stop. Even meat contains some carbs. Ugh. There's nothing non-annoying about the puzzle today? I'm going to redo Wyna Liu's puzzle from yesterday, because it has the playful energy I *expect* to see on a Monday. I hope Tuesday out-Mondays Monday. Stop the Mediocre Crossword Boys Club!!!! If you insist on mediocrity, surely women can do that as well as men. S u r e l y!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:08 AM  

Much as @Rex hated this puzzle, I suspect a novice solver would have enjoyed it. And isn't the novice more the Monday target demo rather than the Rexes of this world?

Frantic Sloth 12:10 AM  

Easy-peasy, make mine cheesy! Good, clean fun. Just the ticket for a new solver. And another tilde fiasco avoided to boot!

Can't ask for more than that, so I shan't.


David Attenborough 12:14 AM  

Pity the narwhal. Imagine trying to navigate a revolving door with that.

N 12:27 AM  

I really think this constructor's puzzles are consistently among the worst from the NYT. For all his "negativity," I get the sense Rex is perhaps being polite in never explicitly saying so because he pretty much says everything else (negative reviews on these puzzles, usually accompanied with calls for better constructors.)

I sometimes think about whether they're really that bad, and in general the difficulty of separating the puzzle from the constructor once you start to know the constructors (this is probably tougher for me who has been doing them for under a year, than for Rex who has done them for so long.) That said, I took some of Rex's advice and started doing the New Yorker's puzzles... and wow, they really do consistently seem to just be fun. I don't know what it is - there's just some creativity, energy, and playfulness in the puzzles and word choices that justifies criticism of the NYT for not reaching similar levels.

So with that, agree again with Rex's questioning featuring the same constructors over and over in the puzzle. I really don't get it. I mean, either there just aren't that many people actually submitting puzzles (which is on the puzzle's leadership) or we're supposed to believe that these repeated constructors are truly the best of the best. And I'll concede that I can't refute that for sure, because it's subjective and I'm a novice... but again, having done the New Yorker puzzles, I personally feel like there's clearly better out there.

ghkozen 1:08 AM  

Despite all the problems, this puzzle is will go down as special to me. I’ve been following this blog for about 5 years and this is the first time ever that I’ve beaten Rex’s time. Huzzah!!

NB 2:16 AM  

Pretty boring Monday with a lot of crosswordese.

The most interesting bit for me was finding out DISHY means "Like good gossip" in the US... in the UK it means someone's attractive.

McD 2:34 AM  

on the, in the, of the, to the... why the...?

chefwen 2:50 AM  

I zipped through this thing so quickly I didn’t even notice a theme and didn’t bother to go back and look for one.
Biggest problem, if you can call it that, was remembering where the H goes in NARWHAL.

Good puzzle for a beginner.

jae 3:49 AM  

Easy. At the risk of being repetitive, liked it more than @Rex did.

GILL I. 3:57 AM  

Well, here's the wow.....You start me off with The one L lama, he's a priest NASH and the feet do a happy dance.
Ay, @Rex....perhaps you need to find another kitten? I'm betting if the constructor's name was Alexa you might've liked this? Was it the BRO that got you down?
I thought this was a fun, whimsical little Monday. I think I was looking for a center after the RIGHT and LEFT but I settled nicely for a FRONT and BACK.
Did anyone else think Mustang before FERRARI? I'll take that as ANO. I liked the ALFA and JEEPS as well.
NARWHAL's look like something went wrong when God designed them. How do they eat? Talk about a tooth ache. I had a bottom tooth that sorta stuck out like that but my mom got me braces.
I enjoyed this one. En HORA buena, Alex.

Ann Howell 4:52 AM  

This was a very solid Monday, I thought, especially throwing in a light theme. As is often the case, I enjoyed it much more than Rex!

Qosmonaut 4:54 AM  

Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 14 seven-letter words in addition to the four themers made it unusual in its variety. I usually agree with Rex, but I think he's just grumpy today.

Anonymous 5:04 AM  

Hmm. I enjoyed and zipped through it without even noticing what might be a theme. I suppose after many years I still count as a new solver, but for me it answered what I expect on a Monday, and my coffee didn't even get cold.

Anonymous 5:38 AM  

This was a fine puzzle.
The clues were appropriate for a Monday

Karl 5:53 AM  

Something is fishy about DISHY.

ChuckD 6:17 AM  

It’s like clockwork when we see this constructor or Haight, Krozel et al - a subjective rant from Rex about blah blah blah. Meanwhile - the hot mess that was yesterday’s entry gets a pass. I’d hate to be one of his students.

This was a typical - if not slightly more complex Monday. Theme was tight but boring - the rest of the fill was decent. Like to see NASH to start but don’t like the AMIE/AMIABLE crossing. A lot of this was not your normal Monday fare - but it all went in quickly. Overall - not so much fun - but very workmanlike.

Lewis 6:18 AM  

It's a tight theme, with each theme answer having a different preposition, and all the theme answers being common phrases. The only other theme answer I could come up with is MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, but "of" has already been used. I think new solvers would feel good about tackling and conquering this puzzle.

Meanwhile, I started thinking about repurposing some of the puzzle's answers:
ENTR'EAT -- A fast
I, CON -- Madoff bio
I WASH AD -- Soap commercial
AM I ABLE -- Thought in a moment of doubt
A VON -- Bismarck or Trapp
FLUSH O.T. -- Being red in the face beyond the normal time

amyyanni 6:30 AM  

Monday Monday. OK for Monday. Sigh. When you work from home, there's no one to race to the front of the line. Perhaps I'll go count backwards from 100 by 7....93....

OffTheGrid 6:31 AM  

This might be the nicest Monday ever. 1A was the easiest 1A ever. You had me at Ogden. The 4 grid spanners were awesome. Then add the RIGHT, LEFT, etc. with four different prepositions. Wow! I have never been further from @Rex.

Eddie 7:00 AM  


David Fabish 7:07 AM  

I agree with everything Rex said except for the difficulty. I flew through this one, but I kept thinking, "Really?" Hahas? My tablet just autocorrected that, so I'm pretty sure it ain't a thing. And he didn't even mention "ESC" crossing "USC", which I didn't even notice until after I finished.

pabloinnh 7:08 AM  

@amyyanni-I see what you're up to there. Seems that one of our national leaders can do this, which makes him a very stable genius. Thought it was interesting because the last time I had eye surgery they had me do that in Spanish--think I got somewhere into the 60's before the lights went out. Maybe I should run for office.

After LEFT/RIGHT I was wondering what the last two would be--FRONT/BACK were fine with me. As others have said, I thought this was fine for a Monday, good gateway stuff for beginners, and a pleasant diversion from a sea of troubles. Ain't no OFL gonna harsh my mellow.

Thanks AE-S. Nice little Mondecito, and good work on ANO (hola GILL I).

Z 7:19 AM  

OATTEN? Seems like an odd revealer.

kitshef 7:36 AM  

@Gill I - hand up for mustAng. When that didn't work, there was no plan B. Finally got it at FER_ARI, which was good because I had been really, really resisting putting BRO in there. BRO and DISHY made that SW corner irky. N.b. to @NB - DISHY means attractive in the US, too. The gossip meaning is a more recent additional usage.

SouthsideJohnny 7:38 AM  

Classic Rex Rant - which in and of itself is worth the price of admission. Lots of valid criticism included with the venom as well. The inclusion of LEHI and things like HERA crossing HORA, while not criminal, should be out of bounds on a Monday. Some quintessential Rex today though - from the requisite whining about the gender of the constructor, to the “I don’t like it so it shouldn’t be included (poker), to the fixation on something meaningless (sorry Rex - yes there are Low Carb diets which generally restrict Carb intake to below some threshold, say 60 grams and there are Ultra, Ultra Low Carb diets - referred to as NO CARB which intend to limit ingested carbs to the lowest level possible). You would think a a guy who teaches literature for a living would recognize the difference between a word that is used figuratively as opposed to literally - but like I said - some classic Rex-isms today.

Edward 7:44 AM  

PORSCHE would have fit for FERRARI as well but the crosses made that one obvious. Porsche's logo features a prancing horse in the middle of the crest of Baden-Württemberg while Ferrari's features the horse alone.

kruskin 7:54 AM  

And one more complaint - it's impossible to undress before changing clothes.

BarbieBarbie 8:06 AM  

Rex’s review is predicated on the non-Monday difficulty of this puzzle, and I disagree about that, so I can’t comment on the rest. Made me think, but not too hard; easier than average for a Monday... maybe a wheelhouse thing?

Feeling grumpy about DISHY since it was my only writeover (had juicYj. But you guys all love it, so it’s ok.

Wm. C. 8:07 AM  

I agree with OFL that this was a bit more difficult than the average Monday, but that's a good thing for me because Monday's are usually too easy for full enjoyment. Me, I Thursday-difficulty best, Friday's and Saturdays are Google-days for me.

An issue I have to disagree with him on ... That Shortz is biased in favor of male puzzle authors. As hard to believe as it is, there must be far fewer submissions from females than males. Because it makes sense to me that the primary criterion for puzzle selection must be the appeal it makes to the NYT's potential subscribers and readers, largely independent of author.

Now I say "largely" here because it seems likely to me that veteran submitters get an edge because of historical ties, and after all, a puzzle's "quality" has a good deal of subjectivity, so go with your buds. But again, why haven't females made it onto the historical "bud list"?

I seem to recall that Shortz once published a rebuttal to the anti-feminist claims. In it, did he disclose the male/female breakdown of the 6,000 annual submissions?

George 8:11 AM  

Mostly junk except ALFA and FERRARI.

Unknown 8:37 AM  

I wish it had been a bit harder than normal. Just an easy breezy Monday with no offensive words. I wish they would recall that the folks who pay the fee do a lot of puzzles and through in a few challenging clues for us...a bit of word play for fun.

Or return to the glory days and expand our vocabulary. Old puzzles do.

57stratocaster 8:41 AM  

Rex, could you please show us what a perfect Monday puzzle looks like? That perfect balance of this 'n' that you are looking for.

Nancy 8:51 AM  

I guess I don't live close enough to Sea World, but when I had the NASH "N" to begin the "tusked marine mammal", I couldn't think of one. And when 1A stumps you, however temporarily, it makes a puzzle seem harder.

Which is why this Monday seemed a bit more challenging than most -- always a good thing in my book.

I also learned that you tap the screen on a camera to REFOCUS. Who knew? No wonder everyone today is a photographer. Why, maybe even I could do it.

Last week's GAROTTE instead of GARROTE made me very cautious in entering FERRARI. I waited for the crosses. "You're not going to fool me twice in a week with dicey spelling, NYT!" I thought to myself.

HEH and HAHAS in the same puzzle is at least two too many laugh syllables. But not a big deal. A perfectly pleasant Monday. Favorite clue/answer: UNDRESS.

pyroclasts 8:52 AM  

Living life as Rex must just be utterly exasperating

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

OK, who's going to go to the front of the line with a dirty NARWHAL observation? revolving door? way too tame. as OFL said, "there better be a Pay Off and man was there not one."

Whatsername 9:13 AM  

DISHY and RIGHTONTHEMONEY for a Monday morning. I’m no fan of rap, but I liked LIL Kim next to ICECUBE. I love whales and was happy to learn more about the NARWHAL. Had no idea they had that huge tusk thing going on. That would be a pretty intimidating sight to meet up with in the murky depths.

There was absolutely nothing inferior about this puzzle and IMO Rex’s tirade against it was totally unjustified. And I really don’t understand dragging the tired old issue of women constructors into it. I don’t normally critique his critique because it is his blog and he can say what he wants, but he was so vicious in his attack against this one that I felt a need to come to the defense of the constructor. I mean, seriously, if you can’t be generous at least be fair.

EdFromHackensack 9:14 AM  

Seems to me Rex would have like the puzzle better if it was written by a woman

Lewis 9:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 9:39 AM  

My favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Bird whose head doesn't make a sound (4)
2. L x w x h (3)
3. What's found on a couple of plates in Italy? (2)(4)
4. A as in April? (8)
5. Places for coasters (8)(5)


jberg 9:50 AM  

This was kind of boring—needed a snappy revealer, if one exists. Maybe EVERY WHICH WAY? No.

I once memorized Lycidas— long ago but I think there’s something like “tempered to the OATen flute/ rough satyrs danced...”

Did anyone have DISsY/KPs? If your idea o “good gossip” is putdowns, that would work.

All for now.

Z 9:53 AM  

@Wm C - “In it, did he disclose the male/female breakdown of the 6,000 annual submissions?” Yes, or the equivalent. I’ll let you do the research on how the fact that Shortz receives fewer submissions from women (and non-white males generally) is an indictment, not a defense.

blinker474 9:53 AM  

Nice Monday puzzle. Had a lot of ugly fill, but so what - there will always be fill. Rex goes over the top on his criticisms because that is his shtick, and he's stuck with it. He doesn't mean most of it. But would you read his blog every day if he offered a bland critique of the puzzle?

Clueless 9:57 AM  

Not knowing who’s in the boys or girls club —

Could Alex be short for Alexandra?

mathgent 9:59 AM  

Always happy to see Lewis’s list. Slim pickin’s last week. Nothing today will make next week’s list.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

bland critique

Now, isn't that an oxymoron, like happily married?

Nancy 10:20 AM  

Let me give a shout-out to yesterday's Acrostic in the Sunday Magazine. I seldom do Acrostics since I find all that backing-and-forthing extremely tedious, but a couple of comments yesterday made me decide to try it.

What a treat!! I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that the peculiar and baffling way the puzzle is clued ties into the theme of the quotation in a way that's ingenious and highly amusing. And that the quotation itself is delicious and makes me want to read the book from which it's taken. An Acrostic that's quite different -- one that's even worth the irritating backing-and-forthing I hate so much. Highly recommended.

rosebud 10:24 AM  

Lots of vehicles; VANS, ALFA Romeo, JEEPS, FERRARI and other driving references Bus Driver, Meas of Speed, Tows, DHL, even BACK to the FUTURE. Sounds like the constructor likes cars! Oh, well, Happy Monday. I do enjoy Ogden Nash...

Chad 10:39 AM  

I think they should have more trans constructors of color.

McKay Hinckley 10:41 AM  

OMG can you please explain VOL to me (l x w x h)??

egsforbreakfast 10:41 AM  

Yesterday, I went OVER THE TOP and had a SIDE OF FRIES from the BOTTOM OF THE BARREL.

I think you need to work at finding anything seriously wrong with this puzzle. Yes it’s easy and no, the theme (or might we say the conceit) doesn’t gobsmack you. But GGLOUISE, it’s a Monday puzzle. Given that Alex Eaton-Salners set out to incorporate his favorite movie, BACKTOTHEFUTURE, into a puzzle, it is a fine and, for me, enjoyable way to do it.

Joaquin 10:49 AM  

@Rosebud (10:24) Don't forget: NASH is (or was) also a car.

JD 10:50 AM  

Right on the Mon(day). Good little start to the week. Hope the day-appropriate trend continues.

Appropriate for the times too. Lots of people will be Left In The Lurch if congress doesn't get it in gear this week. And it would be great to be getting Back To The Future way of thinking instead of treading water.

Sir Hillary 11:00 AM  

Ignore @Rex's righteous indignation today. Any Monday puzzle with 14 non-theme answers of seven letters is far more interesting than the usual fare. Last week a theme was denigrated as "thin" because there were many alternative theme answers (wonderfully enumerated by @Lewis). Today, that same @Lewis has demonstrated that there few, if any, other theme possibilities if the prepositions are to remain unique. This would seem to demonstrate "tightness" but OFL rips the puzzle anyway. I am not usually one to harp on his critiques, but this one seems particularly over-the-top. Ah well, I can somewhat sympathize -- late on a Sunday night, it can be hard to REFOCUS after a fun weekend.

Favorite entry: NARWHAL. Least favorite: EVIE.

@rosebud -- Even an old NASH among the cars.

kitshef 11:09 AM  

I would like to second @Nancy's recommendation for yesterday's Acrostic. Took the form to a new level.

Also, it was co-constructed by Nick Lowe. Yes, this Nick Lowe.

Wm. C. 11:09 AM  

@Z9:53 --

You said that Shortz DID publish that he receives a lower proportion of submissions from woman, but did not say what that was. So, what is the proportion?

You also said that this was more of an indictment than a defense. Why is that?

If fewer women do the XWd than men, which would at least partially explain fewer submissions, why would that be true?

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Wait there’s more than one? God help us.

JC66 11:11 AM  

For a couple of nano-seconds (hi, M&A) I couldn't remember if Alex Eaton-Salners was one of Rex's bros or nos. I'll never forget again.

@McKay Hinckley

Length X Width X Height = VOLume

Carola 11:23 AM  

I was surprised at @Rex's evisceration of the puzzle. I found it an enjoyable Monday will a little bite of difficulty, always welcome. While the RIGHT and LEFT combo (see: JABBED) was easy to get, I had to wait a bit to see that we were then headed for the FRONT and BACK rather than the center. Add me to the admirers of the four different prepositions. Thanks to those who enumerated all of the CAR references - fun to have as a complement to the implicit Delorean.

Unknown 11:28 AM  

REX - Love this blog, but why the poker antipathy? Poker and crossword-solving have a lot in common. In both, one must extrapolate from imperfect information, connect dots, etc. Anyway, thank you for your wisdom and wit, and for being the voice of inclusion.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

No idea how your supposed to spell it, but EVIE sounds as eh-vee to me, thus had iVIE until the cross demanded otherwise.

Eve has only one long vowel (trailing vowel elongates the leader), so EVIE the last E elongates the I, leaving the leading E as short. what do the grammarians, or whatever a pronounciator is called, think?

Or consider 'every': no trailing vowel elongates any leading vowel. Ain't English, esp. the American bastardized version, grand?

Sgreennyc 11:46 AM  

Note to Will Shortz: Rex doesn’t like poker so don’t include poker references in the puzzle. Because, as we are quite aware of by now, it is always all about Rex.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Easy! Loved it! -newbie

Whatsername 12:12 PM  

@blinker474 (9:53) Would I read this blog every day if he only offered a bland critique? Yes I would because Rex unfailingly offers an intelligent, informative analysis which enhances my overall puzzle experience. I’m always curious about his viewpoint, regardless of whether or not I agree, and generally I accept it without judgment. I did think he was unfairly critical today and said so in my previous post, but that rarely happens. So I’d say whether good or bad, bland or spicy, it’s always entertaining, but I will admit that the days he goes on a tear about something do generate the most entertaining feedback. Which brings me to the commentariat and the camaraderie among the other bloggers which is really the main attraction for me to be honest. But bottom line, it feels like home and is a place I look forward to returning to every day.

TTrimble 12:14 PM  

I saw nothing really wrong with today's puzzle, and don't understand what Rex is on about. Okay, I think maybe I agree with him about HAND VAC, but much of it feels like overreaching for things to nit about. So you "hate" poker -- who cares? The outrage over NO CARBS feels overdone. It reminds me of someone who gets apoplectic if you write "starfish" instead of "sea star". Why? "Because it's not a fish, damn it! Stop spreading that disinformation!"

The readily available explanation, as always, is that Rex is pissed largely because he didn't post a time to his liking. Can it be so simple as that? He starts off a paragraph complaining how the big open corners made it hard for him to navigate (the poor baby), so then the king had better be "wowed" or else. I dunno, to me the difficulty level seemed approximately right for a Monday, and maybe he was just a little off or something? It's been ages since I've tried my hand at crossword construction, so what do I know, but for a Monday I'd think you'd want a lot of the fill to be homey and familiar, which would seem to pull in a different direction from having a big wow factor.

I'm still pretty new around here, so let me ask the veterans: have Rex's posts gotten more ill-tempered over time?

Onto other things:

Nice to get your reaction to the acrostic! On acrostics generally, I heard it said from various people what you said, the dislike of going back and forth. Actually, that's sort of what I like about it. What I mean is that very often it's the case where I can confidently answer maybe three clues and then I hit my first wall, and initially the thing looks hopeless. So then I'll have to examine what this means for the quotation, and do a little detective work, not unlike the process of solving a cryptogram. There emerges a kind of dialectic between the quotation and the answers, and then the train begins to pick up speed, until at some point there is excitement that the thing is going to be solved no matter what, and my fingers can't keep up with everything coming together so quickly. Anyway, I really dig that dialectical process.

Now, if I were really a puzzle and trivia whiz, where entering answers is a mere triviality, then it would be a chore having to duplicate every letter within the quotation. But my knowledge base, being what it is, doesn't permit that, and that's where analysis kicks in, which better plays to my strengths.

---[SB Alert]---
Argh, I didn't make QB yesterday. I missed RIYAL. Which you'd think is strange since I had RIAL. Drat.

Although I have three more to go today, somehow the answers I have make me feel smart. Which is probably not a good thing for my soul, but it's a welcome feeling anyhow.

Doc John 12:27 PM  

And here Rex missed his chance to play a cool music video with NARWHAL in it.

Mary McCarty 12:31 PM  

Perfect Monday for beginners (tho I’m not one.). Easy tastes of what we usually look for in a puzzle (if we’re not looking merely for speed)
See color highlights in my avatar (it would be so much easier if we could post photos in our comments)
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A NYT X-WORD PUZZLE: (I’m guessing ?s are not allowed on Mondays)
1. A little theme: RIGHT, LEFT, FRONT, BACK (blue) especially in long Acrosses
2. Mini-theme CAR ALPHA, FERRARI, JEEP, VANS (yellow)
3. Twins/triplets: HEH/HAHAS; ENACT/ELECT (red)
4. X-word standards: (purple) easy foreign word, rapper name, pop culture, Roman numeral, the ubiquitous ERR, ABBA, LEI,OAT ( look forward to OATen, OATey in your future) BRO (usually accompanied by a Rex-rant on masculine bias- yep! Covered it!)
5. Coincidental crosses: HERA/HORA; ESC/USC (lime green) commenters often like these; definitely not Naticks!
6. Easy geography: ASIA, IWO, AVON (Sorry, forgot to highlight)
7. Easy science: IONS, NARWHAL- tho that’s a great WOTD (Sorry, ditto)
8. The ever-popular HBOMB/aBOMB conundrum
9. The equally un-popular ANO -without-a-tilde discussion (dodged a bullet there!)
10. Equivalent expression I WAS HAD (aqua)
11. Computer-related: ICON, EDU (I’ve run out of colors!)
12. Sound-play EVIE ....For an even dozen!

Eric 12:32 PM  

I hate lima beans. If I were forced to eat them every day and write a blog about that experience, I imagine it would read a lot like Rex's does. The poor man is clearly being held against his will... who is forcing him to do this every day??

This is what Monday puzzles are - a getable theme, mostly easy clues, and fairly limited crossword nonsense. If there is a reservoir of easy puzzles that are also super clever and fun, then by all means please show them in. But I don't know that they're out there - I've been doing the USA today puzzle every day per Rex's recommendation, and those puzzles are not better than this on average. The New Yorker puzzle is great but also consistently much harder, so not really comparable.

This was not the best Monday puzzle I've ever done, but until the person (a woman, I suppose) comes forward with all the snazzy, easy puzzles that she's hiding, I'll take it.

tea73 12:35 PM  

I would have finished this in record time if I hadn't written in Mustang. I thought it was a pretty decent Monday. Not the most exciting theme, but it seemed good enough to me.

That said, it the last year for mystery reasons the Wall Street Journal has been bundled with our local paper and I'd say most of the time it provides more fun than the NYT. Better more inventive wordplay and themes.

I like the pattern recognition aspect of acrostics and the fact that they get easier as you go along, even more so than crosswords, but they are tedious to fill in so I don't do them often. I don't think acrostics used to have clues that related to the quotation, but they often do now, which can be a big help.

Mary McCarty 12:36 PM  

Oops! Forgot the poker/bridge terminology and some of the CAR references (thanks rosebud & Sir Hillary)

Hartley70 12:39 PM  

I think this Monday puzzle is stellar. To start off with NARWAHL was an awesome treat. The name was familiar but I just had to see a picture and WOW! They call that a tusk? How wonderful and strange to have a flag pole poking out right through one’s upper lip! I wonder how they avoid smacking each other when they congregate in groups.

On top of that, we got a tip on how to refocus your phone camera? I’m in love with this puzzle.

The vernacular themers were easy, except I personally use nose instead of MONEY, and the directional starts were just fine with me.

Mary McCarty 12:44 PM  

@Ttrimble: [Acrostics and cryptograms] I do a lot of the same process you describe, and it really drives me crazy when I try to use letters crossing down as hints! IMHO, that process is the fun; otherwise, it's just a string of trivia questions, as you said.

Pete 12:45 PM  

@57stratocaster - Here you go: a perfect Monday in the form of a New Yorker Friday.

Masked and Anonymous 12:47 PM  

This MonPuz had m&e at NARWHAL, even tho the theme was a bit on the HEH-hum side(s).
And re: NARWHAL write-up … "an elongated upper left canine" … well, yeah -- yah think? He'da probably had that looked at sooner, if we weren't hostin Pandemic Central around here.

Had EDIE before EVIE. Wrong again, M&A breath. HANDDAC soon signaled trouble, tho. Overall, very few nanoseconds were harmed in the solvequest, at our house.
Kinda liked ARFS. It was my fave fill, along with IWASHAD [short for eye wash advertisement].

staff weeject pick: LIL. Cuz it has got the front of the LIne, for starters.
fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {Roman numeral X} = TEN.

HERA/HORA? har-a

Thanx for all them sides, for our entree, Mr. E-S dude. If BACKTOTHEFUTURE is yer fave flick, U might also like "Primer". Time travel presented as an ever-increasinly mind-blowin rodeo. By the end, it forces U to draw diagrams. Just sayin.

Masked & Anonym007Us


Anonymoose 12:52 PM  

I've noticed recently that some SB's have three vowels. It seems like in the past it was always 2 with an occasional 1, maybe with Y thrown in.

JC66 12:59 PM  


FWIW, doing the acrostic online is much easier than doing it in the paper because it's not necessary to enter a letter in multiple places. For example, when a letter is entered in the quotation, it automatically appears in the definition and the author (if it's the first letter of the definition).

Smith 1:00 PM  

@anon 11:31

Yes. For that reason I thought it was ElIE, "ell- eee" and had to run the alphabet to get VAC.

kitshef 1:01 PM  

@TTrimble - on the whole, Rex's commentaries have become more negative over them. [Or it that the puzzles have gotten worse?]

Here is his first one ever.

Smith 1:02 PM  

Hand up for the acrostic yesterday, very clever.

JD 1:14 PM  

The Five Stages of Rex

This is a work in progress based on my own evolution and experience, but reading, and then commenting on, this blog seems to follow this progression.

1. Following the blog for a while, love Rex and the commentariat and have decided to participate!

2. Noting that Rex as a college instructor of literature should know (*****)!

3. Arguing with a troll or another commenter on a fine point based on your particular knowledge, experience, or professional specialty.

4. Noting that Rex is depressing and will now be skipped.

5. Acceptance.

Obviously, I could be wrong.

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

An easy AE-S puzzle seems oxymoronic but I finished in a few seconds under my Monday average so I'll agree with Rex on that at least. Otherwise, I thought the puzzle was fine and I didn't even notice the -ese he complains about.

From the B-52's Rock Lobster:

Here comes a stingray
There goes a manta-ray
In walked a jelly fish
There goes a dog-fish
Chased by a cat-fish
In flew a sea robin
Watch out for that piranha
There goes a narwhal
Here comes a bikini whale!

(Full disclosure - my husband and I do this at karaoke as our signature song. Everybody does Love Shack.)


Thanks, Alex Eaton-Salners, I liked this.

What? 1:22 PM  

Easy but fun.
I wonder if Trump could have identified a NARWHAL.

RooMonster 1:39 PM  

Hey All !
Lost my post. DAMN. Posting on a phone has that "Comment as:" clickable thing right below the comment box, and trying to fix a misspell sometimes gets hit and goes to a different screen, and your post is lost in the ether forever.

I found this puz OK for a Monday. The theme to me is the first word and the connector (apathetic word before the "THE")(preposition? Notice my English rules aren't on top of the ole brain), as in RIGHT ON, LEFT IN, FRONT OF, BACK TO.

I think AES gets his puzs published just because. I also think Will has a set of rules he has made over the years for his acceptances. If a puz meets the all, it gets published. IMO.

Six F's (Four in themers)

Frantic Sloth 1:53 PM  

I sorta get the confusion over EVIE. Then again, I sorta don't. It's not a name one typically sees written, but it makes sense. John-Johnny. Steve-Stevie. Eve-EVIE.

Or am I underthinking it??

@Pete 1245pm - Thanks for that link. I could do RW puzzles until the cows come home. And then I'd shoo them away so they'd have to come home again.

@GILL, et.al. - Oddly, my first reaction was FERRARI. Odder still, just glancing at the squares made me think it was too long (???and spelled correctly in my alleged mind???) so immediately went to mustAng. I guess that's kind of the same thing...🤷‍♀️

✋⬆️ for yesterday's Acrostic and great quote!

@JD 114pm Nice progression. EKR would be impressed. 😉 My personal journey has gone directly from step 3 to 5 because, you know, S&M.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  


Well.... given the 'Access Hollywood' tape he'd be irritated that he can't claim, 'nothing like it has ever been done before'. What? sort of person names a kid Barron? Proto-dictator.

Nancy 2:06 PM  

**Acrostic alert** @TTrimble -- Actually, my experience of solving acrostics is very similar to yours. Generally, I have only three, maybe four answers to start -- but I know from experience that it's enough to plunge in, that the quotation in the grid will help me, even when I'm starting with so very little. (I consider it a big difference when my 3-4 answers are "sure" answers as opposed to "I think this is right, but it could be something else.")

Like you, I love the way the two sections work together and help each other out. If only there were someone (a sherpa, maybe) to do the grunt work of filling it in for me. When I say I find the process tedious, it's the process I'm talking about, not the concept. Trying to locate 62 or 37 or 106 in the grid, letter by letter, one at a time, filling it in, then going to the next letter to do it all over again-- it's enough to make me burst into tears. This is not the sort of puzzle for a lazy person and I'm nothing if not lazy.

@JC66 -- Re your suggestion of doing acrostics online where the software fills in both letters at the same time sounds wonderful, except...

I just found a free one online and brought it up to my screen. And, as with all puzzles online, I couldn't see the entire grid and the clues at the same time. Even without the grid, I couldn't see all the clues simultaneously. And, alas, this highly segmented aspect of online solving annoys me even more than the tedium of filling in acrostics on paper. So, unfortunately, that's not going to work for me either. But thanks for letting me know.

Marlene M. 2:18 PM  

I honestly found that really easy. I got basically everything on the first pass except for ICON (I had written in LOGO).

Karin 2:27 PM  

Seems like a record number of solvers bragging about how quickly they did a Monday puzzle, (?) I mean, like it's supposed to be easy - that its purpose in life.

This goddamn virus thing is doing a good job of sharpening my grouchy side. I am trying to fight back and think happy, upbeat thoughts - but its getting tougher by the day. Well, being comfortably on the far side of 70 and still walking upright - kind of - and still capable of doing the NYT puzzles (almost) every day (occasionally a Friday or Saturday derails me a little): well, that should be enough, and, dagnabbit, it is! There, I feel better already - I have earned the right to move up the day's first cocktail by a couple of hours to celebrate!!

And you guys: go ahead and brag about your swift solve times - I offer my praise. (This last statement reminded me of one of my oldest remembered jokes: when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip readied for bed on their wedding night, Price Phillip formally stated: "Madam, I offer my honor;" Elizabeth responded, "Sir, I honor your offer." And so it went all night long: honor and offer, honor and offer ...)

SharonAK 3:03 PM  

Greetings from the far west coast.
Geography makes me late in the posting day, but wanted to speak up to agree with all those who liked this puzzle and thought it just right for a Monday. I thought the theme was lightly playful and pleasant and just what I loved about themes before I ever heard them called that.

I thought of them as bits of additional word play in the midst of the puzzle and liked the puzzles more because of them.

In response to whomever raised the question. YES. Rex has gotten more shrill and negative, by far, over the years. I didn't see the blog until 2008. At that time he used to have a small amount of negative criticism. More of humorous comments or posted pictures, etc - the humor sometimes so sly that it took a while to get the joke.

The tirade today was extraordinary, I felt - going on hysterically about the "no carbs" as if he just had to find something to scream about.

Joe Dipinto 3:16 PM  

@JC66 → doing the acrostic online is much easier than doing it in the paper because it's not necessary to enter a letter in multiple places.

That's no fun. Part of the experience is realizing at some point that you put a letter in the wrong box or slot somewhere, and having to figure out where it went.

Sunday's overarching theme was cute, but the puzzle wasn't challenging at all. Usually Cox & Rathvon make much more subtle thematic connections between the answers and the quotation. But, they got to collaborate with Nick Lowe.

I have a friend who, after watching me do the acrostics for a number of years, decided he wanted to try it. So he took his Sunday acrostic and proceeded to fill in answers on the bottom that he felt were probably correct, and then...kept doing that. I said "aren't you going to put the letters up top as well?" He said, "Nah, I can do that later." I said, "I don't think you're getting into the spirit of the puzzle – see, that's what's gonna help you solve it." He just waved me away.

Well eventually he did start doing them the normal way, and became very good at them. So, yay me – I made a convert.

JC66 3:29 PM  

@Joe D

I go to my optometrist once a year for an eye test...that's often enough for me.

jberg 4:01 PM  

I don't get the objections to HAND VAC. Using one is so much simpler than washing with soap and water.

As for Acrostics, I love them, and have all the same problems as @Nancy -- plus, the numbers in the little squares are so small that I have to take off my glasses and hold the paper close to my face to read them -- frequently leading to the experience @Joe DiPinto reports, putting a letter in the wrong square. But what a thrill to overcome all those challenges and finally get the solution!

I still don't have much more to say about this puzzle.

RooMonster 4:16 PM  

Well, in my first post, apathetic snuck in by some unknown force. I can't even remember what word it was supposed to be. Probably just "the".

And I meant also that Will's set of rules are ones that he made himself as guidelines for his accepting puzs. Since he receives so many. I would like to think some of mine were at least as good as this one.

RooMonster I'd Like To Think So Guy 😋

egsforbreakfast 4:37 PM  

@JD 1:14. I substituted an alternate Step 3 in my progression. I never went through your pedantically argumentative stage, but instead went through what might be called the “Reveal the Logic” phase. In this phase, one responds to commenters who do not understand the difference between “or” and “and” in a revealer. For example, let’s suppose that the revealer clue says, “Went nuts, or a clue to the starred answers”. The revealer being FLIPPEDOUT. And further suppose that the word “out” is flipped off of the page in the starred answers, so that instead of an answer being GUINESSEXTRASTOUT, it was GUINESSEXTRAST (I know this is a bad example, but I’m making it up as I type). On 100% of the occasions where this type of revealer occurs, one or more commenters will say something like, “ It’s preposterous to say that Guinness Extra Stout went nuts. How would a beer go nuts? If you can’t edit a puzzle better than that, just retire.“

During my Reveal the Logic phase, I would patiently explain the logic of such a clue, taking it from a number of different directions. On the few occasions when I got any acknowledgement from the original commenter, it was always something like, “if you think beer can go nuts, I’d suggest that you’ve had more than a few too many.”

So, I’m progressing toward Step 6. Don’t read Rex or the commenters.

mathgent 4:49 PM  

Doing the NYT didn’t satisfy my need for some crossword fun, so I printed up today’s New Yorker puzzle. I’ve heard that their Monday is the best.

Good puzzle. Like a NYT Friday. The seed entry was a 15 spanning the width in the middle. It was a Quentin Tarantino movie I didn’t remember. My favorite entry was a ten, “Rapturous receptions, informally.”

The byline was Natan Last. Is that a typo?

Joe Dipinto 4:58 PM  

@mathgent – Not a typo. In fact, his nickname is Natan "No-H" Last.

(Ok, I just made that Last part up.)

Anonymous 5:06 PM  


Now stop it!! The anonymice will come after you for talking about not-about-this-puzzle!!! Just like in Portland.

Joe Dipinto 5:28 PM  

@tea73 – the Acrostic never had "tie-ins" between the answers and the quote until Cox/Rathvon took it over. At first I wasn't sure I liked the idea, but eventually I didn't mind. It isn't always noticeable while you're doing it, anyway. Sunday's little gimmick was only apparent once you had most of the quote; it wasn't of any help in solving it.

JD 6:13 PM  

Would you mind if Article 3 is amended as follows? It allows us to adhere to The Five Stages of Death Model. It isn't carved in stone so feel free to edit Article 3 as you see fit. But don't skip the comments section, it's the best part.

3. Arguing with a troll or another commenter on a fine point based on your particular knowledge, experience, or professional specialty. A similar manifestation is the Reveal the Logic response, characterized by patient explanation of the logic of an ambiguous revealer clue, which logic will most likely be rejected.

I think @Z had something too, if that can be restated before the filing date.

I may be starting to miss my job.

egsforbreakfast 6:40 PM  

@JD. I like your new Article 3. However, the word “ambiguous” is inappropriate, since the clue actually isn’t. Perhaps substitute “erroneously interpreted”?

DeeJay 8:19 PM  


JD 9:00 PM  

@egs, I'll have that typed up.

ow a paper cut 9:23 PM  

Good for a Monday : )

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

Delighted to see that Rex called the this one verged on challenging as I zipped right through it, less delighted to see him peck, pick and generally tear it apart as he seems to do more often than not. Wonder if he enjoys the job or whether it’s his nature but like the guy at bottom so . . . Peace to him.

kroobey 5:23 PM  

I was delighted that RP felt this was tough as I zipped right through it. Less delighted that he picked, pecked and tore the thing apart. Favorable remarks are few and far between, unless it’s a Robyn Weitzman (or Tuesday’s puzzle (which I just solved.). Hope he likes the job. I’ll keep coming back, though, partly because it’s a grid and not the endless clue by clue endeavor, and mostly because deep down I kind of like the guy.

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

Why put down the novice solver Joaquin? Doesn’t everybody have to start somewhere? You are part of the problem. Stop kissing rex’s butt we all know he is the king.

thefogman 10:17 AM  

Rex is RIGHTONTHEMONEY on this one. Lots of mediocre stuff is making it to the FRONTOFTHELINE lately and good constructors are LEFTINTHELURCH. I wish we could go BACKTOTHEFUTURE to a time when the NY Times was the greatest puzzle in the world.

spacecraft 10:50 AM  

INTRUTH, this one didn't deserve OFC's rant. The theme phrases are all very much "in the language," something that counts heavily at this house. And the fill? Really not all that bad. Worst thing about it is the HBOMB--but at least we can jump into our FERRARI and try to outrun it. There is also the Delorean...

Beautiful EVIE Clair wins DOD. Hand up for the NOCARBS misnomer, but that's really nitpicking. As for poker:

SPOCK: Interesting game, this "poker." You'll have to teach it to me.
KIRK: It does have advantages over chess.

[From "The Corbomite Maneuver]

Finally, our constructor even manages to include a PSA: Get your FLUSHOT! Birdie.

Diana, LIW 12:57 PM  

Yes it was a tad more challenging than the average Monday - especially when deciding which BOMB to cross with the unknown tusked mammal. Hooray for NARWHALs! I loved learning about them, and seeing that tusked tooth. Reminded me that I'm still a bit leery of heading back to the dentist in the age of corona.

Oddly enough, BACKTOTHEFUTURE is playing on the tele today.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rainforest 4:09 PM  

This fit the bill for Monday, in my opinion. The themer phrases, as a group, held up fine, and added a certain panache to the grid.

Really, the puzzle overall was quite enjoyable, which isn't always attainable in an easy construction. Liked it.

leftcoaster 4:22 PM  

Not at the front of the line, waited my (late) turn.

Pauses on NARWHAL (sp.), EVIE, and the abutting ETTE and LEHI.

Nice Monday, AES.

leftcoaster 6:14 PM  

@Burma Shave -- Where are you?

Burma Shave 7:11 PM  




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