Spicy condiment from North Africa / FRI 8-7-20 / Crunchy candy bar since 1930 / Broadway hit informally / Drink that's hard on the stomach / High-risk bond rating / Breaker of celebrity breakup maybe / Symptom Checker offerer / Line-skipping option at airport for short

Friday, August 7, 2020

Constructor: Tom Pepper

Relative difficulty: Medium (not sure, solved on paper in leisurely fashion)

Theme: none

Word of the Day:
NOYES (32D: Poet whose name consists of side-by-side opposites) —
Alfred Noyes CBE (16 September 1880 – 25 June 1958) was an English poet, short-story writer and playwright. [...] "The Highwayman" is a romantic ballad poem written by Alfred Noyes, first published in the August 1906 issue of Blackwood's Magazine, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The following year it was included in Noyes' collection, Forty Singing Seamen and Other Poems, becoming an immediate success. In 1995 it was voted 15th in the BBC's poll for "The Nation's Favourite Poems". (wikipedia)
• • •

I see that this grid has a bunch of reasonably modern answers, and yet the smell of mothballs and mildew and staleness on this one is Strong. Puzzle started losing me almost immediately with a. a "?" clue at 1-Across (I wasn't in the mood to start that way) and (more substantively) b. BOFF. If I have to think of this (olde-timey, right?) bit of Broadway slang, it's BOFFO, isn't it? Yes, yes it is. "Extremely sensational," says merriam-webster.com. But BOFF ... BOFF is a verb, and, uh, not a verb you'd expect to see in the NYTXW. 
The informal term is BOFF*O* and BOFF is vulgar slang. Maybe somebody sipping SANKA while reading Alfred NOYES and tsking "THAT'S A SHAME" calls a Broadway hit a BOFF, but that answer feels like insular, musty slang. The old-fashioned AURA kept creeping back into this puzzle. I think it's an editorial oldness, like the frame of reference for the clues is super-familiar and 20th-century. High-risk bonds and minor poets and quaint slang and twee French phrases and the like. In short, "youthful" answers like FAN SITES and UBERED and TMZ and POPO are fooling no one. I very much liked SCOOCH OVER (though spelling SCOOCH was an adventure), and ROLEPLAY and BODYSHOT are just fine, but most of the rest of it was without snap crackle or pop. The construction is solid enough, I guess, but the whole frame of reference, in the fill and particularly in the cluing, just felt ... unfresh. Tippi HEDREN, DANNY OCEAN and "ZELIG"—they're all fine, but with no modern cultural counterbalance, they really anchor this grid in the long-ago and the far-away. The EPIGRAMS of Martial and the [Ancient Greek birthplace of Parmenides] aren't helping. The bar is high on Fridays, and this one just didn't clear it. Not enough delight. 

I posted my hand-filled grid today so you could be reminded of my terrible handwriting and so that you could see both my annotations and my hesitations. For instance, if you look closely, you can see where I wanted 5D: "C'mon, tell me!" to be SPILL ... something (it's "SPIT IT OUT"), and also where I wanted THEN to be THUS (39D: "And so ..."). Erasures are a map back in time, traces of your solving path and your struggle. The immaculate, software-smooth final grid is fine for public consumption, but there is this way that it hides yourself from yourself. Look up your errors, ye mighty, and despair! Also, if I'm solving in pencil, I can make my puzzle annotations in real time. For instance, that "UGH" pointing to NOYES is very authentic. Could not wait til I was done to write that bit of marginalia in there. Also, you can see how I wrote an "ugh" out of frustration and then changed it to "OK" after I got the actual answer at 41A: "Too bad" (THAT'S A SHAME). I had "THAT'S ..." and it seemed like infinity things could follow, so I wrote an annoyed "ugh" in the margin. But later I had to admit that that was just a frustration ugh and not a "this is genuinely terrible" ugh. As much as software-solving makes my life easier, there's something to be said about the personality-revealing aspects of hand-solving.

The thing that actually made me write profanity in the margins, though (not pictured), is the clue on TENURED (42D: Hard to let go of, in a way). There's something about living through a crisis in which teachers are being denigrated and demeaned, in which huge swaths of the public want to use teachers as lab rats in a return-to-school experiment, in which the OPED PAGE contains condescending calls for teachers to "do their jobs" in the fall, as if "subject yourself to disease and death" were in the job description, as if most teachers weren't actually working twice as hard to figure out how to  "do their jobs," as well as *take care* of their students emotionally (which is work nobody talks enough about), yes, there's something about being alive now and being married to a teacher now that makes me not want any part of your cutesy-clued fantasy of firing teachers. Oh, are TENURED teachers "hard to let go"? Are they? THAT'S A SHAME. Hey, you want to know who's *really* "hard to let go," let's talk about the editor of the NYTXW. I mean, if we're being honest. In short, tax billionaires, feed / educate / love children, vote for competent leadership, and STFU. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. an EASTER EGG is a hidden / bonus feature on a DVD / Blu-Ray, in my experience, though the term might apply elsewhere (35D: Bonus feature, of a sort)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 7:04 AM  


Conrad 7:07 AM  

Like @Rex, I wanted THus before THEN. Unlike @Rex, I wanted ergo before THus. Otherwise, a normal Friday. One cheat, two lookups to verify answers that turned out to be correct.

amyyanni 7:12 AM  

No love, sad to say. The 1A/1D combo is less than charming. Never got out of the rut. Cluing felt stiff.
As for teachers, I'm on the bandwagon. News last night had a story about a school system that was going back, then bam! Now virtual. Good for care and caution, but teachers have about two minutes to revamp/convert their lesson plans. There are deep problems in the way school reopening is being handled and we are losing too many good people as a result. Sorry, this is a friendly spot we come to most of the time to enjoy a respite from real life. Have long felt we turn to schools to do too much with too little and am saddened to witness it continuing as it is at present.

kitshef 7:16 AM  

I know some people have difficulty separating the artist from the art, and I respect that. I don’t have that particular difficulty, which I’m happy about because I can still watch ZELIG and enjoy it. Second to Sleeper on the [he who shall not be named] movie list.

Also, this was a really fine puzzle. Lots of fun long entries, decent amount of challenge, and none of the over-the-top cluing we saw yesterday.

Lewis 7:16 AM  

Plenty of rub, which made my brain smile, and a big spill of freshness, with 10 NYT debuts, and they are so solid, I'm going to repeat them here: BODY SHOT, DANNY OCEAN, DOGGED IT, HARISSA, SCOOCH OVER, SKATE BY, SPIT IT OUT, THAT'S A SHAME, UBERED, and ZAGNUT.

Plus a freshness EASTER EGG: A new clue for ODE, which has appeared more than 800 times -- [Lines of credit?]. Coming up with a new clue for answers like ODE, ONO, and OREO is tough, and props for that!

Amazing to me how letters strewn in a box can be so involving! I thoroughly enjoyed cracking this, Tom. Thank you!

JD 7:37 AM  

In dedication to Rex's marathon sentence.

Sanka, the coffee that Dogged It, the coffee-like substance that will just Skate By (and That's A Shame because imagine that you just woke up, maybe Morose, or On Cloud Nine if only because one through eight were occupied, and you take that first sip, that Body Shot of battery acid and instantly, no pun intended, like a breakfast, you're toast), a coffee to wash down those Rashly purchased Cronuts from Trader Joe's Mon Ami, will set your Teeth on edge while you read the OpEd page especially a piece on that Indiana school that stayed open just one day after someone tested positive and the principle said we knew it could happen but not so fast and you'll just sigh because where in any teacher's contract is a clause that covers hazard pay and the duty to endanger yourself, the people you love, and the students you set out to nurture.

Petsounds 7:37 AM  

This is what I hate about the Shortz era: Started off this puzzle reading 1D and thinking, "He means boffo. But there are only four squares. Is this some kind of trick puzzle?" Wracked my brain, trying to think of some four-letter word that would fit. Failed. So I started off with a big blank on the first clue, even though the answer in my head was right.

I didn't know the slang definition of BOFF, but having looked it up, I do know that it is not what the clue says it is, and that got me off to a poor and confusing start and soured my solving mood.

Tripped on the ancient Greek city and the "poet Martial," a complete stranger to me until today, but that's not a criticism--I learned something. Some lovely clues here, as others have already described, but not enough to get me over my disappointment--and lengthy dawdling in the NW--thanks to the bad or lazy editing, a Shortz trademark.

Teedmn 8:00 AM  

Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday. It's much appreciated!

ChuckD 8:03 AM  

Tricky Friday - well constructed and clued. A couple of duds as Rex points out but most of the longs here were really nice. SCOOCH OVER crossing ON CLOUD NINE and the SE corner three stack stood out to me. Read “The Highwayman” in high school but haven’t seen NOYES since - liked the clue. Backed into BOFF and ELEA so got lucky there. Local bakery specializes in CRONUTS - crunchy and delicious.

I agree with Rex’s connoted take on TENURED - but the only reason we do have tenure for teachers is to make it difficult to let them go so I have no problem with the clue.

Thankfully got power back overnight.

Ted 8:11 AM  

Surprised to NOT see a rant about "Straight" for HETERO.

Sure, it's in common use, but "Straight" always implied that if you were other than heterosexual, you were "bent" or "wrong."

Not a big deal, we all know the lingo, just another dated reference that's probably ready to fade away.

Carola 8:15 AM  

For me, this one registered in the "just right" zone for a Friday: nicely resistant with rewarding answers. Nice crosses of RITE and CENSE, OCEAN and SKATE; itchy cross of HARISSA and RASH (nightshade allergy); lovely placement of BESOT atop CLOUD NINE.

Help from previous puzzles: FANSITES; the association of Australia with OPALs, OGEE. No idea: BODY SHOT, BOFF. No help from previous existence: TENURED (with all but the R I needed an alphabet run; good thing I'm no longer in the classroom).

GILL I. 8:17 AM  

Oh, what a tangled web I wove. An UTHER fail in so may places.
BOFF? Sure, why not...ZAGNUT? If you say so. Kraft makes SANKA? Well, I'll be a monkeys uncle. And look! poet Martial wrote EPIGRAMS....Oh...not to be outdone by "I don't know what" AURA. Oh, wait....I can't leave out poet NOYES. Look at that. He has a NO YES in his name. How about that?
I'm going to go pour me some BODY SHOT and see if it's hard on my stomach.
My MON AMI got up and left with the EMUS.

Adam Cooperman 8:31 AM  

Easter Eggs are extremely common in Video Games as well.

EJames 8:36 AM  

Thanks for the teacher rant. I'm starting the first day of remote learning with all my kiddos today, and nearly stood up and cheered after reading it.

I'm grateful to be in a district that has chosen remote learning as the only viable option right now, but the amount of work it has taken is overwhelming and harder than anything else I've done in my 16 years of teaching.

T-minus 25 minutes and counting. Wish me luck.

Oh yeah...the puzzle. Completely out of my wheelhouse and a struggle from beginning to end. But, at least it did end. Here's hoping tomorrow is more enjoyable.

Seth Joseph 8:38 AM  

Isn't it spelled "bocce" and not "bocci?" That one slowed me down a bit and had me wondering if "ench" was a specific snail term.

KrystineM 8:49 AM  

How about the additional fact that “Hetero” is an abbreviation not clued as such?

KrystineM 8:51 AM  

It’s a variant because Americans can’t.

FearlessKim 9:02 AM  

I’m reminded of Jack Kerouac. Thank you!

Ciclista21 9:03 AM  

ELEA should be a gimme by now for veteran solvers. We see it in grids often enough, though usually associated with Zeno, not Parmenides. A little Friday trickiness, probably. Anyway, I know nothing about Zeno or Parmenides, but if I need a four-letter place name in Ancient Greece that’s not clued as a mountain, ELEA is my first choice.

More four-letter frequent fill from Ancient Greece: If it’s a mountain, try OSSA. If it’s a walkway or place where Zeno lectured, try STOA. What a guy, that Zeno. So BOFFO. He was also a Stoic, you know. Does that mean he didn’t like to BOFF?

POPO, like a bad penny, is back today. I only met it a week ago, also in a New York Times crossword puzzle. Per Lexico.com, it’s a “1990s reduplicated abbreviation of police,” so also dated. Wiktionary, however, traces it to the 2019 Hong Kong protests. So perhaps it has some currency somewhere in the world. It still sounds like baby talk to me.

P.S.: Rex, your handwriting sucks!

Ellen 9:12 AM  

Yes, I was offended by tenured at this time. I’m a retired teacher and so glad that I don’t have to make the choice to teach, and risk my health, or to quit. Not even a viable choice for the vast majority of teachers. I know so many and worry about the risks they are taking. Thank you for your continued support of teachers.

WordDog 9:16 AM  

Actually, according to the testimony given by Brett Kavanaugh, to boff means to drink beer. This was in reference to a question posed to him regarding a yearbook mention of him and some of his classmates belonging to a group that claimed to have "boffed" a particular female classmate. And every Senator in the chamber just nodded their heads in agreement. Hard to believe their wasn't a single congressional aid who couldn't advise their boss that this was an obvious piece of BS. That statement by Kavenaugh alone could have collapsed his entirely lame house of cards defense of his college behavior, as well as offered support of the rape accusations against him.

Ernonymous 9:19 AM  

@eJames are you able to do your remote teaching from your home, or do you have to go into the school? Where I live they are requiring the teachers to go into the school. This is nice because they can all congregate and share the restroom. Some teachers quit over this as they have school aged kids too and it would be easier if they could teach remotely from home. What's the difference?
Good luck, my son is also starting this week teaching High School Physics online. He thinks it's going to be a shitshow.

Sane guy 9:22 AM  

Tesla has Easter Eggs. Surprises hidden - it’s in the owners‘ manual.

Birchbark 9:23 AM  

HARISSA was my favorite answer. I see it on menus sometimes but wouldn't be able to identify it. That was once true of cardamom and turmeric and, farther back, cumin and coriander. Now they're old friends to the palate. So there is hope for HARISSA.

EASTER EGG: I liked this line buried in the middle of @Rex's otherwise par-for-the-course review: "The immaculate, software-smooth final grid is fine for public consumption, but there is this way that it hides yourself from yourself. Look up your errors, ye mighty, and despair!" He speaks to the wind, and we are better for it.

Sheep Launcher 9:28 AM  

I first encountered easter eggs watching Homestar Runner

Unknown 9:31 AM  

God bless you for the tenure rant.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

I used to find this blog interesting and helpful, but it now seems dominated by whiners and crybabies. Between the rants and the handwriting, I fear that poor Rex's head is about to explode. What happened to the crossword puzzle as fun and relaxation? Is Will Shortz really the devil incarnate?

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Not liking BOCCI, either. Should have a “var” attached.

EJames 9:40 AM  

@Giovanni Teachers here have the choice to work from home or from their classrooms. Thanks to that, the building isn't too crowded, everyone wears masks, and there are hand sanitizer stations everywhere.

I'm working from home a lot, but it's nice to have the option to use the building (safely) when needed.

I'm slightly more optimistic than your son, it seems, but that's mainly because our district jumped on the remote learning thing early and is fairly well prepared. Fingers crossed.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

The game is BOCCE. How did that error get past the editors? And how on earth did Tom Pepper think that was ok? Will Shortz out.

Andrea 9:42 AM  

I did not like this at all. Plenty of colloquialisms (that are hard for us who’s first language isn’t English) and slang, paired with food names that are completely unknown to me, did not make this a fun experience.
And the worst was the alternate spelling of BOCCE. It’s as if I one day decided to call tennis TENIS because... why not? That extra N is unnecessary and I can’t pronounce it. I mean....

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

I agree with Rex, this was incredibly stale, and when they tried to be relevant they just fell flat with clues like Symptom Checker Offerer. Feel like that phase has never been written before.

Sir Hillary 9:49 AM  

Hard to get too excited about this one. SCOOCHOVER is excellent, and we're big HARISSA lovers, but those two are miles ahead of anything else in this grid. BOFF is BS (as a Broadway term and a Kavanaugh dodge). ZAGNUT -- sure, whatever you say. CCC -- just stop. The UTHER/ELEA cross is dreadful. I totally don't understand how a BODYSHOT is a drink (probably my issue, not the clue's). Oh, and any OPEDPAGE these days is hardly a "place to get a variety of views"; it's mostly an echo chamber, and you have to read more than one OPEDPAGE to get any variety.

Funny that the CEO and COO have symmetrically opposed offices. Or maybe prison cells, if it's the ENRON losers.

I agree with @Rex's and others' positions regarding teachers, but the clue for TENURED is quite good in pure crossword terms, so I am choosing to appreciate it in that narrow context.

Errata: tOte >> HOBO and THus >> THEN.

@Ciclista21 9:03AM-- LOL at "POPO, like a bad penny"...I initially thought of Abes for 53D, even though that usually refers to $5 bills, not pennies.

Z 9:53 AM  

Rex nailed it. I finished and was wondering why I didn’t like it more because there was a lot to like, but the ughly turned the good stuff into pig lipstick. The one that bugs me the most is the double whac-a-vowel at ELEA (yes, I got it, but I do lots of puzzles). Crossing ELEA at Arthur’s dad and at an uncommon spice is bad enough, but to do both at vowels is faux difficult and off-putting. I don’t know enough about dated theater slang to know that BOFF is missing a letter, but I am having a hard time not calling PRE “wrong.” It is PREcheck, often displayed as PRE✔️ at the airport. But you don’t get to pretend the ✔️ isn’t there and it is just PRE. Ugh.

Having worked as a public school administrator and serving as union president for school administrators I want to clarify one thing about TENURED. TENURE doesn’t make teachers and professors hard to let go, it makes them hard to let go of arbitrarily. Any administrator, school board member, or dean who complains about TENURED teachers is really just saying “I want to get rid of that person but I don’t have just cause.”

Hungry Mother 10:02 AM  

DNF: had rATER and BODYSrOT, both of which seemed semi-reasonable in this slogfest. Went to red letters and then had to reveal square to get it right. Big DOH today (or maybe DUH).

Nancy 10:12 AM  

Pure stubbornness got me through this one as I stared at a ridiculous amount of white space in the NE and an equal amount of white space in the SE. Because, unlike puzzles strewn with PPP, this one had very little* and I kept saying to myself "You should be able to figure this out! You should be able to figure this out!"

But nothing was coming to me. It didn't help that I had THus instead of THEN at 39D.

After futzing around with maybe ACNE, maybe RASH, maybe ITCH for the dermatological concern, I hit on CYST. Which gave me the Y that gave me PLAY that led me to ROLEPLAY which helped open up the SE.

And "merci, MON AMI" to my beloved Hercule Poirot who enabled me to [finally, finally] see MON AMI (16A). And this opened up the equally pesky NE. And so I finished.*

*Well, no, actually I didn't. I had TMc (for The Movie Channel) at 9D instead of TMZ, whatever that is. Giving me cAGNUT instead of ZAGNUT for the candy brand. Which strikes me as being an equally acceptable name for a candy bar. So I'm calling this a "Solve!" Y'all can call it anything you like :)

Z 10:13 AM  

BOCCI is the anglicized spelling of an Italian word. Sometimes we anglicize, sometimes we don’t, sometimes we do both. A quick perusal online found plenty of Italian restaurants that use BOCCI in their names. Going off memory, I think a preference for the Italian spelling is relatively recent and for most of my life all I would see in the U.S. was the anglicized spelling, so BOCCe would have needed a hint that it was a foreign word. Of late, though, the reverse seems true. Personally, I had to correct it to I, but it fazed me not at all.

RooMonster 10:22 AM  

Hey All !
Don't think puz DOGGED IT as much as some of y'all. Not overly BOFF about it, either. I thought a typical themeless. Two cents, and all that.

Deciding twixt the A or E for ELEA, went with E because it looked "cleaner", but still had my one-letter DNF. (Which is OK today, as my mini-streak of three puzs with no mistakes came to a self-imposed end, as I had to Goog a couple of answers.) It was at BESeT/KeLN. I call "Natick!" Maybe KOLN should be known, but BESET or BESOT is just mean. ☺️

Today's seemed a tad tougher than PREV FriPuzs. SUPER for some. Kinda made my TEETH hurt. Approaching an hour to solve, which for me wears me out. I know, 1)Stop complaining, 2) First world problems, and 3) COVID/politics/POPO more demanding subjects than some silly crossword.

Anyway, looking at finished grid, not too much junk. CCC does jump out and and BOFF you over the head, though. It's just PLUM odd.

Two F's

Unknown 10:26 AM  

I was able to solve but still don’t understand the body shot clue. Can anyone help?

JD 10:26 AM  

@Birchbark, I was so taken with his 126-word sentence that I missed that gem. Notice the contrasting transition to the next sentence:

"Look up your errors, ye mighty, and despair! Also, if I'm solving in pencil, I can make my puzzle annotations in real time."

Imagine Ahab:

“Speak, thou vast and venerable head which, though ungarnished with a beard ... speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee! Also, when whaling, I prefer red sky at night.

@Roo from yesterday, Ha! Phases, I should've realized it. I must be in Phase III, This is Bulls**t, I quit!

BTW, puzzle was easy except for the SE corner because I've never heard the phrased Dogged It and couldn't suss the rest. Oh, and Boff threw me off from the start for reasons already mentioned.

burtonkd 10:28 AM  

In defense of ZAGNUT: It is the only candy bar worth the calories. As an adult who enjoys chocolate, most processed candy bars taste like plastic or wax with some chocolate hint. ZAGNUT has a great toasted coconut exterior, with a crisp snap to the bite and layers of peanuty goodness inside. They are hard to find, but still exist in candy specialty shops or sometimes old-timey general stores. Fun to learn they have been around since 1930.

I get that a SHOT is a drink, but the clue was a stretch since BODYSHOT clearly isn't.
I'd put that in the too cutesy by half category.

Good mix of new and old.

Whatsername 10:32 AM  

Something of a struggle for me today, finally asked uncle google to finish. Worst trouble was in the SE which was just a mess. Never heard DOGGEDIT or EASTEREGG used in that sense and couldn’t see TENURED because I had SWEET at 52A. Also at 55D had TANK, a four-letter word for “sleeveless garment,” a term I would argue is not the greatest clue for CAMI which traditionally has thin straps and is considered an undergarment. I know, I know, they are sometimes worn as a top but IMO, that’s in the same category pjs - do so at your own risk.

I bit of Friday trivia: Tippi HEDREN is Melanie Griffith’s mother and Dakota Johnson’s grandmother. I never think of her without visualizing huge masses of hysterical murderous Birds. That film left me at a young age with trauma scars like some people were talking about recently from the Wizard of Oz. To this day, I get twitchy if I see a sinister looking crow giving me the stink eye.

I join in the condemnation of “using teachers as lab rats” as Rex put it, in TEST RUNs to see what happens. Sadly the governor of my state thinks it’s okay because hey, the kids are going to get it anyways but they’ll get over it, so no worries. Yes he really said that. Truly. Deplorable. Most people have an opinion about it and mine is that if it’s feasible to use technology and teach remotely why not do it and be safe. NO YES, MON AMI?

mathgent 10:36 AM  

Excellent! Some flaws, as have been pointed out above, but it does everything right. Enough crunch to make me fear that I wasn’t going to be able to finish without cheating. Sparkly. More than a third of the entries were six letters or more. Very happy with it.

Is it one word or two? Is it in CLAD or CLAD in or neither? Does “Inclad” mean dressed like the In Crowd.

I read the recent Woody Allen memoir. I liked it even though I only like a handful of his movies. He makes a strong case for his having never molested the child.

@Z (9:53). I was also an officer in the teacher’s union and later an administrator. In the San Francisco public schools. Under California law when I was working, it was extremely difficult to terminate a grossly incompetent tenured teacher. If you would like details, email me.

Newboy 10:38 AM  

@kitshef & @Lewis said all I had to add, so I was able to skip right on down here. Thanks to both and Tom for a Friday-worthy grid.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

in my memory, EASTER EGGs came into being at least with early, early PC programs, the regular olde fashion kind. let's see what the wiki says...
"In the TOPS-10 operating system (for the DEC PDP-10 computer), the make command is used to invoke the TECO editor to create a file. If given the file name argument love, so that the command reads make love, it will pause and respond not war? before creating the file."

so, even earlier. used as the term for such 'hidden' functions is another chapter.

Barbara S. 10:41 AM  

Important note to @RooMonster
I feel you shouldn't fail to fulfill yourself today -- face the SB and fill it in! (Have faith!)

egsforbreakfast 10:43 AM  

I agree with most of today’s comments, including Rex’s. Particularly about tenure.

On the lighter side, did you notice the coo/coo intersection in in40A/28D? Someone must be COOCOO for CRONUTS.

I believe that Trump’s action while malevolently stalking Hillary on the debate stage might qualify as a SCOOC HOVER.

BOFF in the NYT feels about like a nationwide release of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me did 20 years ago. Like, do they not know what it means?

Anonymous 10:44 AM  


The teachers union in this country is a disgrace. An absolute appalling disgrace. Telling me to shut the fuck up because I disagree is churlish, boorish and doesn't engage in reasonable discourse. In short, you sire are a maniac.

Folks in Atlantic County NJ. know the name Noyce well. Fred and Ethel Noyce founded the town of Smithville, and the nearby Noyce art museum.

pmdm 10:51 AM  

If I were to write about my reaction to this puzzle, I guess I would damn it with faint praise. Or possibly shrug my shoulders and remark that tomorrow is another day and another puzzle.

Alternate spellings are fair game in a crossword, and in a difficult crossword warnings such as "VAR" are usually missing. At least hard puzzles include the "?" after a clue such as 1A. I am surprised that the 4D clue included "ABBR" since spec could imply the answer is an abbreviation. I am a little surprised at what some commented today considering this topic.

What Z says about teachers is also true about federal employees. Neither is immune to being fired (and as a former shop steward I am well aware of that). But the bargaining contract specifies what management has to do (and, in the case of federal employees, federal civil service laws). And it's not particularly difficult, but it does require an effort. And termination requires justification, which doesn't include "I don't like how you sound." And I found many supervisors etc. did not want to make the required effort.

I suspect Shortz is similarly protected from being arbitrarily fired. If income and readership of the puzzle has increased, I don't think he could be fired because some dislike his choice of puzzles. (Seems like most who comment here.) Sexism? Unless egregious, retraining rather than termination. For better or worse.

Another Anon 10:52 AM  

@Anon 9:33. You can choose to just do the puzzle for fun and relaxation and not add the aggravation of coming here.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Love complaining? Is your disappointment (and the undeniable need to share it) a fundamental part of who you are? You're in the right place!

TJS 10:59 AM  

I liked the challenge today. True Friday level, but there was also alot to not like. The killer "B"s Boff and Bocci. Not sure every "aura" qualifies as a "je ne sais quoi". I would think some auras can be very disagreeable. And the Greek city crossing Uther with an "E" did me in. But lots of good stuff to, as @Lewis, of course, pointed out.

Big fan of teachers, but @Z, I am pretty sure that some egregious behavior of teachers has been protected by some very puzzling interpretations of tenured protections. Your definition doesn't seem to leave any room for differing opinion.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Z's wrong. NY public schools have room, several actually for teachers so bad even the grossly negligent administrators wont let them back in a classroom. they're called rubber rooms. The teachers sit in em all day doing whatever they want--but not teaching--and getting paid. Many have been in the room for years. Google;e NYC teachers rubber room.

jae 11:51 AM  

Easy-medium. No real problems with this one although hand up for THus and BOCCe. HARISSA was a total WOE as was the poet Martial. Smooth (except for CCC) with some find long downs, liked it a bit more than Rex did.

Nancy 11:52 AM  

@mathgent -- That baffled me for the longest time, too. But it's not IN CLAD; its CLAD IN. He's sporting a tan jacket. He's CLAD IN a tan jacket.

Masked and Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Toughie, at our house. Had no idea on BODYSHOT, so the NW started out awful slow, even tho I got BOFF, OPAL, DENY, & YDS, with minimal nanosecond burn. Also had no earthly idea on HARISSA. Wrote in KOHN instead of KOLN. Couldn't remember UTHER, tho it's a cool name on many levels.

In uther RASHLY news, M&A had TOUGHTOTAKE where THATSASHAME resided. Did know DANNYOCEAN right away [off just the "D", I think], tho. Sooo … lotsa ups & downs, durin my solvequest.

staff weeject pick: TMZ. Can never remember this puppy. Not part of my remotely-carin wheelhouse, I guess. Does it stand for Theater-DMZ, or some uther such?
Honrable mention to CCC. Better CCC clue: {Constructioneer Burnikel on steroids??}.

Solvin with paper/pencil is definitely my style. I don't write quite as much stuff in the margins as @RP does. Just checks off to the right end, for each "U".
Seems like U could expend many extra precious nanoseconds, writin out yer puznotes while in mid-solve mode. But @RP did say "leisurely" solvequest, which btw is a good way to go, in my book … gives yah time to stop and smell the ZAGNUTS/CRONUTS.

Thanx for the challenge, Mr. Pepper. Good job, with a nice openin punch to the gut.
Primo illustrated blog write-up, @RP. Always fun to see how the sausage gets made, at yer house.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Love complaining about other people complaining? Dumb hypocrite

Rube 11:59 AM  

Wonderfully difficult for a change. BOFF is awful. NOYES was hard. Spelling BOCCi was not obvious. Same for HEDREN. Obscurities are the challenge, even if some clues and answers seem or are wrong.

As for Rex, a real pro solves in pen.

DenverLou 12:00 PM  

Please explain coppers = popo???

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

RE: teachers and tenure. do any of you who think teaching, at any level, is a sinecure ever, ever put in the effort to compare the level of mendacity from The Boss Class, private and public, with the occasional lousy teacher? do you understand that the half life of a newly minted teacher is but 5 years? if it's such a cushy job, why is it that newly minted home schooling adults find it impossible to do? if it's such a cushy job, why don't the complainers just go do a better job of it, and collect all that easy money? and so on.

or, as they say in da sout: "you don't need no book larnin to walk behind a mule." that's the view that's turned the da sout into a vast killing field. note that the states run by folks with substantial book larnin are doing far, far better. not to mention all of Europe.

JC66 12:11 PM  

Every once in a while, upon successfully completing the puzzle, there's a correct answer that I don't quite "get." I read @Rex and the comments. If my confusion isn't cleared up, I go on the interweb to see what I can find. Today it was BODY SHOT. This is what I found.

I wonder why so many posters, when faced with the same situation, come here to ask for an explanation rather than doing to the same kind of research. BTW, I've gone to the interweb, but haven't found an answer to this.

Nancy 12:17 PM  

@Whatsername (10:32) -- "The Birds" scared the you-know-what out of me, too, when I saw it. It's not as though I didn't have enough natural fears already; this movie gave me a manufactured fear of birds -- something I had never once in my life been remotely afraid of. Not even hawks. Like you, I spent something like the entire following year with my heart leaping into my chest every time something as harmless as a single sparrow flew anywhere near me. Fortunately, this artificially manipulated fear did vanish completely.

You might ask why, avoiding horror films as I do, I even went to this movie in the first place. Blame the guy I was dating at the time. "How would you like to see the new Alfred Hitchcock film?" he asked me, when it had just opened and before I had any idea what it was about. I'm pretty sure he didn't even mention the title. I'm thinking "To Catch a Thief" and "Rear Window". At that point in time, Hitch had never made a horror flick. So I replied: "Love to!!!!! How wonderful!!!"

As the lights were coming back on, I turned to him and said: Why didn't you warn me ahead of time what this movie was about??? And I remember his answer as though it were yesterday: "Because I knew you wouldn't go."

JC66 12:25 PM  


Did you marry him? ;-)

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Nancy-sorry about that date. My experience with The Birds is the complete opposite. My father has always railed against the abject silliness of it. He is a life-long birder and actually scoffs at what he considers, and frankly I agree, the absurdity of the film. I do like Suzanne Pleshette though and I like seeing Bodega bay.

Ethan Taliesin 12:30 PM  

Great to see ZELIG in the grid.

Here's an interesting read by Mia Farrow's son Moses who speaks about the abuse allegations and describes his upbringing.

It's well written and describes a vindictive and dysfunctional mother who physically and mentally abused her children and coached them to lie.

Sadly, I think Dylan probably now really believes she was fondled but I also doubt Mia has any compunction for any affected party so long as Woody is punished.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

TCM recently ran "The Birds", and during the before/after commentary it was said that the scene where TH hears sounds coming from the attic, and goes to investigate -
1 - TH asked Hitch why she (the character) would go up the stairs, Hitch says, "Because I tell you to."
2 - the scene from opening the door to being pulled out took a week to shoot and those were real, live birds, not the puppet ones that had been stated.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Uther/elea cross was awful.

longsufferingmetsfan 12:52 PM  

Still again, OFL segues away from whats supposed to be the actual meaning of this board, to lecture us about his opinions and politics. Pay attention from our tenured leader: especially those about to be home schooled next month. My two nephews, ages 10 and 14, have an urgent need to go back to at least a part time brick and mortar school. The consequences of this home schooling are becoming evident when speaking to them. They are 2 very bright boys, who are suffering academically and socially. THEY NEED THE STRUCTURE OF SCHOOL.

In uncanny timeliness, our genius "lets mandate that all the nursing homes must accept all patients regardless whether or not they have corona so the virus can run rampant like wildfire through them, killing many" Emperor of the beloved Empire State came out today and stated that all kids in NY should go back to a brick and mortar school. Apparently, the latest check from the NEA into the emperor's coffers hasn't been received yet.

My son goes to college and has worked in a supermarket for the last 3 years. Of course, I worry about him contracting this virus. Has he been "subjected to disease and death", possibly, but he made the decision that he needs to serve the community by keeping the stores open and the shelves stocked. Like so many others, who come into contact with the public on a daily basis, its time for teachers to step it up and get back in the classroom

old timer 12:52 PM  

BOCCI struck me as inexcusably Bad. Yet my dictionary lists it without so much as a (var). So the puzzle was not so Bad after all. No, I take that back. BOFF is just wrong. And I have yet to understand BODY SHOT, as a drink.

Finished with no lookups, but it certainly wasn't Easy. Worked the L and Bottom. ROLEPLAY was a gimme, and EPIGRAMS too, probably because our school library had a much-thumbed copy of Martial's works, thanks to his, um, earthy language full of snide references to Roman sexual practices. All students want to learn the dirty words in the foreign languages they study, and I can assure you my Latin teachers did not discuss those words.

I think the rant is misplaced. New York has done a good job with the virus, after that horrifying initial spike. Teachers are needed, every bit as much as nurses and firefighters. Especially for children 10 and under. That's why in all previous pandemics, schools remained open. Even though some kids (my wife included) got polio, and others in previous years got other dire diseases.

But then, I married into a family in the Ed Biz. My MIL was a teacher. My wife worked in schools. My eldest daughter could have been a teacher, but ended up a nurse. My next daughter is a school psychologist, and her husband was a teacher, works for a high school, and thanks to TENURE, may have to go back to classrooms for a while. They agree there is no substitute for the eagle eye of a teacher in the classroom, spotting early the kids who are DOGGING IT.

TJS 12:56 PM  

"The Birds"
based upon a short story of about 6 pages, by Daphne Dumaurier, if I remember correctly. Not sure about my spelling either.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

My father has always railed against the abject silliness of it.

also during that TCM commentary, it was mentioned that some considered the film Hitch's subversive statement on ecology. what I noted during this recent viewing was the placement of the caged love birds in scene at critical points, esp. the end where they all squeeze into Melanie's car to escape. a hint that the motivation of The Birds was this captivity. there is never an explicit explanation for the attack, nor is there closure among the various relationships of the main characters.

also, this was not a bespoke screenplay, but based on a du Maurier short story. it seemed that all the attacks follow TH because she has the caged birds.

Blackbird 1:24 PM  

Interesting puzzle. By the way, Rex, "popo" is not a "youthful" answer, it is old school slang. I am 78 years old, and I heard "popo" in my teens and 20's. It's about as youthful as "fuzz" for police. Poor Rex, dealing with all that "unfresh" frame of reference. Hey, might as well lump all the "old stuff" together: Danny Ocean, Tippi Hedren, Leo Zelig, Alfred Noyes, Martial, Parmenides. Yikes, such old stuff. I very much like the range of the references -- three American movies, a thoroughly 20th century poet, a Roman-Hispanic poet, an ancient Greek philosopher. I can happily live in a universe without "bodyshop", though. And I do not use Uber, as I think the company is corrupt, underpays the drivers, and steals business from licensed cab drivers in areas like New York City. Now we use "uber" as a verb? And do we "lyft" as well?

Ernonymous 1:24 PM  

@longsuffering I agree that our children need to be back in school. I agree this harms them and they need the structure. I agree with all the reasons why not being in school is bad.
Too bad when they INSISTED on opening up bars and restaurants before the virus was dealt with they didn't think about this! They didn't think about the kids! Just that the bars would make money. They sacrificed our kids for the economy. These Red State governors like Kemp in GA who has yet to close the bars and still allows 50 people inside restaurants snd gyms are still open against medical experts advice, is blaming Democrats for not opening the schools.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  


Katzzz 1:34 PM  

Boff? Boo.

BurnThis 1:38 PM  

Hated the crossing of two proper names (Uther and Elea), BOCCI should be clued as an alternative spelling, and just NO on BOFF—not a word! Other than that, pretty easy with a couple of fun clues.

burtonkd 1:39 PM  

@JC66, thanks for looking up BODYSHOT (I was thinking boxing, and suppressing porn). Clue better than I thought (the "hard" referring to liquor) if it is in fact referring to something so racy for the NYT, especially crossing BOFF. I'm not sure what imagined solver would know this usage of BODYSHOT, but not the slang usage of BOFF.

Teedmn 1:39 PM  

As far as I'm concerned the constructor's name should have been Mr. Hyde. I associate Tom Pepper with clever, on-the-easy-side themed puzzles, not this should-have-been-a-Stumper thing. He must be ROLE PLAYing today!

So I loved it but still... The black ink on this thing is SOWN everywhere. Leonard Nimoy, Rex's THus. kitkaT bars, not being able to get Frank OCEAN out of my head (though I left the first name blank). I'm definitely on Team BOCCe. And because I was anticipating 28D to be SquisH OVER, my snails were briefly eNsHing.

And I understand Rex's rant on teachers, but that doesn't change the fact that the clue for TENURED was brilliant. T?NU___ sat for a long, long time and I tenuously considered TENUous, just because.

baGGED IT - don't look it up on the Urban Dictionary.

Great job, Tom, at making a classically hard Friday. I haven't struggled that hard on a Friday since around the year 2000!

DigitalDan 1:42 PM  

I thought it was hard, but I did it!
Rex: "Long ago and far away" == "before my time."
For some of us, this stuff was quite current, using that standard. More's the pity.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

all this yakking about opening schools is kind of amusing:
1 - for decades the Christian Right has promoted both small segregated schools and parent driven home schooling, ditto
2 - also, for decades (well a couple at least) there has been the on-line teaching cabal. "it's free just like your public school!!!"

both, or three depending on how you count, claim to be the antidote to Liberal Teachers' Unions. the Righteous Right should be happy with no open public schools. OTOH, Barron's private school is closed. fancy that?

it's clear from the regional difference in experience with the pandemic (bars and such in particular) that exposing adults to dozens or hundreds of Typhoid Jacks and Jills is a death sentence for more than a handful of said adults. the data makes clear that those past puberty (which may be consequential or not) spread just like full blown adults. I guess if you're not a teacher, not related to one, or not a neighbor to one, it's all good.

Mary McCarty 1:47 PM  

Re: NOYES and The Highwayman, I memorized that poem back in 8th grade

Check out Alfred Noyes “The Highwayman” recited by Jeff Goldblum and Stephen Colbert here. https://youtu.be/QpvkPoW8hxc

oisk17 1:48 PM  

While an assistant principal in NYC, I WAS able to get rid of a tenured teacher on grounds of incompetence. But it took three years.

As to the puzzle - it was so far from my wheelhouse that it would have been a miracle to have finished it correctly, and so many answers either meant nothing at all, or were (for me) unacceptably twisted, contrived, and containing unfamiliar slang. Body shot? Boff? OK, got it from "Boffo," but both terms are foreign... TMZ with Zagnut?? A total guess, but I guessed right. I think I have seen TMZ before, but don't know what it is... Web MD ? Noyes? - Got it from No + Yes, but don't know the poet... Elea? Harissa? My wife knew the latter... Cronuts? Easter egg?? Pre is "short" for preboarding? Well, OK... But all my guesses were good ones until..... I misspelled Zelig. I wrote "Selig" which gave me the meaningless "Sen" for "Totally relaxed.." Can't blame the constructor for that one; I saw "Zelig" more than once. But "Zen" for "totally relaxed is one of those "cute" colloquialisms that I neither use or hear.

Very little fun here for me. Worst puzzle in weeks, mes amis...

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Anon 1:03,
Not sure what about ecology is being subverted. But if the film is supposed to be some sort of statement on ecology it's an even bigger pile of nonsense. The love birds are the only ones which don't attack. They're the aggrieved party in this purported scenario. All the others birds are as free as a ... well you know. What exactly are you saying? That the free birds are attacking men, because some birds have beene kept in cages as pets? Hmm. ok.
As far as main characters and their relationship remaining unresolved, that's a bit of guano too. Anyone not a birdbrain understands that Rod and Tippi are flying off as a couple, birds of a feather now, and nesting will commence shortly.
It's abject silliness. But hardly oblique, deep or hard to fathom.

Ann Hedonia 2:03 PM  

@denverLou Popo = police i.e. coppers.

Rex - loved your shade aimed at Shortz. I could not agree more. He needs to GO.
Coincidentally, I began to watch The Birds last night for the umpteenth time but decided against it. I had recorded it to my Hulu DVD space. This world is just one big ol' coincidence.

Love you!

Doxma33 2:05 PM  

Really? BOCCI is anglicized? If I were anglicizing BOCCE, I'd spell it BOTCHY. BOCCI is either a variant or just wrong.

Doxma33 2:09 PM  

Kavanaugh referred to "boofing," not "boffing." The latter is vulgar enough, but the former is a very specific prep school vulgarity.

jberg 2:11 PM  

I dunno, Rex, you complain that ALFRED NOYES is too old, and then you go do a takeoff on a poem published in 1818. (I'll concede that Shelley is a little more famous.) (btw, @anon 10:44, it's not "Noyce.")

In my early teens I often worked as the checkout cashier in my father's drugstore, which sold basically everything, including candy. Unfortunately, that initial Z led me to Zigzag, rather than ZAGNUT -- that one was harder to pull up from the depths, for some reason.

I have no idea who PARMENIDES was. It is wrong of me, I know, but I don't. I thought of ELon, because it's in the Bible, and some of the Bible happens in Greece; or ELhi, because it's a puzzle. But I needed TENURED to remember.

Coincidentally, I just saw a tween by Stella Zawistowski commenting that it is at least as bad to omit an umlau (as in Köln) as a tilde -- perhaps worse, since there is an easy English convention, just writing Koeln. So here the tilde is dropped just for the length.

INCH bothered me; isn't that how inchworms move? Snails move differently -- just sort of slither along on their single, slimy foot.

CENSE was hard for me to get. My grandson sings in the boys' choir at a very high-church Episcopal parish. I used to go to hear him occasionally, when we were still doing things like that. The choir would come in followed by a a bunch of priests and other people wearing robes, one of whom would be swinging a CENSEr around; on especially holy days he would make it loop the loop every once in a while. But the point was to immerse everyone in the scented smoke, not to cover us in perfume, which is a different substance. Pretty loose, OK in a puzzle, I guess, but I was blocked from seeing it until I got the C.

I'm not sure, but my take is that BODY SHOT is just a pun. What it means is a punch to the torso, which is hard on the stomach; but I don't think it is a real drink, it just sounds like one. I'm not going to bars at the moment, but if you are, try asking the bartender for a BODY SHOT and see what happens. (Be ready to dodge.)

Way back in the days when I had a Palm Pilot, if you dragged two fingers across the screen on one of the diagonals (can't remember which one) a camel would dance across the screen. That was my first experience of an EASTER EGG.

I figured maybe BOFFo was the formal term, but BOFF the familiar one. I stand corrected.

Austin's mom 2:25 PM  

TMZ stands for thirty mile zone, miles from center of Hollywood before you have to pay actors for their travel time to the filming location.

Dave S 2:31 PM  

Absolutely loved this until I went back to fill in the northwest. Lots of hard stuff that seemed impossible then finally came together, I really liked the cluing (sorry, especialy "tenure"), liked that reading Martial in college had some relevance and just had a lot of fun.

Then I realized NW was still wide open. Eventually arrived at opal and then oped page was obvious and that should have been it. Refuse gave me more trouble than it should have, largely because I had "camsites" which, , I understand, have "many followers online" though not me, of course. Finally straightened that out, but had the same problem that , really, boff doesn't seem right at at all. Kept thinking that maybe it was some sort of abbreviation that all the insiders called some famous show, like B[irds] of[a] F[eather] or something. anyway, by the time I had consigned myself to Boff, I'd forgotten that I'd written in Rater instead of Hater long ago, thinking that the hard drink on a stomach might be some kind of rot, and since my handwriting is good sight worse than @Rex I never noticed, so I guess technically a DNF. ah well. I just finished Otessa Moshfegh's Death in her Hands and really liked the process even though it didn't have a satisfying ending. Same here.

bauskern 2:36 PM  

Even before i came to this site I knew two things, [1] that w/ a male constructor, Rex would hate this puz, and [2] because it was clearly a hard Friday, Rex would not post his time.
@Z [9:53] The fact that you're not familiar with harissa tells me you don't do a whole lot of cooking, or certainly haven't picked up a cooking magazine in the past five years or so. Harissa is one of the "new" hip spices.
I thought the cluing for TENURED was brilliant, and reflects what *most* of us think about incompetent teachers. I'm guessing that those of you offended by the clue have some sort of skin in the game.
I will agree w/ rex that the cluing for THEN was misguided. In fact, until I changed THUS for THEN, it had the whole SE corner stuck. But the E in THEN opened up TENDS for me, and everything fell pretty swiftly after that. Lots of misdirection, and none of the typical fill (ELLA, ETTA, ENO) made this a five-star puzzle for me!

GILL I. 2:36 PM  

I decided to really read @Rex today. Sometimes I skim his comments because I'm getting pretty good at figuring out which way he will swing.
So teachers are denigrated and demented and used as lab rats? Did I read that correctly? Did I miss something? At least not here in California. Lots and lots of precautions are taking place. I wish though, that we could strictly adhere to the temperature taking, hand washing, distancing and teachers wearing face shields as they do in Japan. Unfortunately, there will always be the anti's....
Yes....the children/kids/young adults need to go back to school. Precautions are in place in schools here. Teachers are a noble lot - always have been - always will be. Like @oldtimer, I come from a very big family of teachers...Mother, grandmother, brother, sisters, nieces....on down the line. They have been exposed to every single disease imaginable. Parents just couldn't keep a sick child at home. I worked at ASM for over two years and I saw every conceivable illness being passed around. Wow, I survived. Of course we have to be careful - common sense. But our future adults need to be in school. they need to see their friends. They need to interact with someone other than their parent. The parents have to get back to work. Look at Denmark, Israel, Japan (to name a few countries) and they have been fairly successful.
I won't even touch TENURED....heaven forbid!

Gene 2:41 PM  

**Story alert**

"The Birds" is a story. That's it. Like it or don't like it. It really isn't complicated.

pmdm 2:43 PM  

There is a lot of conversation here about things other than the crossword. Perhaps that follows from what Mike writes in his write-ups. Whatever, I would like to add my two cents worth.

I recently watched all of Hitchcock's movies that are available on optical disk. A few are lost, and I think one or two have not been released. Hitchcock tended to make movies that would entertain audiences while allowing him the opportunity to comment on deeper issues than most would recognize. I consider The Birds to be his way of stating that nature goes about its own way not considering human logic and reasoning. No reason was given for the birds' revolt because there was no reason. To forcce a reason for what happens in a fictitious movie is perhaps analogous to forcing logic onto a crossword theme. Might be true, but then again ...

Those like myself who never read the essay written by Moses Allen should click the link and read it. It is very well written and makes a number of very good points. For those who rely more on public opinion than concrete evidence, I don't think their beliefs will be shaken by the essay. But for others, it may influence how they stand on the matter.

Hungocar 2:46 PM  

I thought horrible - boff/o noted, body shot usually licking salt off body (see urban dictionary), random alt spellings on bocce and Uthor but most importantly I think morose and doggedit are misdefined - I can be morose for a short then not always and dogged it means “didnt try” not underperformed

Frantic Sloth 2:47 PM  

Oh, for dog's sake! The way this puzzle has been going/edited lately we're gonna hafta open a BLINDPIG for crosswords.

BOFF? Seriously? I am wholly with Rex on this – it is BOFFO. Period.

And though I don't usually drink the crossword-puzzle-as-social-conscience Kool-Aid, I fully understand his feelings on the plight of teachers (and children and support staff and anyone else who's been cowed into submission). Like they've been on some kind of extended vacation during COVID-19. That clue disgusts me.

Enough soapboxing. The puzzle itself was, I thought, easy for a Friday and therefore, a bit of a letdown. While the resultant thrill of (faux)-intelligence can be BESOTting, it is still delusional.


But, it was mostly enjoyable with some standouts: ENRON (as clued!), SCOOCHOVER, CRONUT (still haven't tried one!), SPITITOUT, and EASTEREGGS are always fun to discover.

I'll give it

Gonna have to read y'all later – so forgive me if I stepped on any toes!

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

My kid goes to binghamton. If Rex doesn't want to work at Binghamton, we can find a teacher who does want to and would be glad to have his job. and would probably do a better job too.

Chance 2:58 PM  

Why don't you guys understand the pun in BODYSHOT? It's pretty clever. A body shot is a shot taken off a girl's stomach.

Tom in Nashville 3:06 PM  

Despised this puzzle. Couldn't finish it - I was doomed because there were areas where I had absolutely no clue what to put in. Never heard of 'cronuts', "harissa', 'hedren','zagnut', 'elea', 'sanka', 'zelig', 'koln', 'kir', or 'cami.' I couldn't even guess at these. 'Scooch' never entered my mind as a word i have ever heard of nor have I ever heard of 'plum' for 'choice'. Just totally "dogged it" but never had a chance.

Whatsername 3:07 PM  

@Nancy (12:17) What a dirty trick! I hope you dumped him shortly after. I don’t remember the particular circumstances when I saw it. Most likely my older sister dragged me along because she wanted to see it.

@TJS (12:56) I never realized it was based on a work by du Maurier. Hitchcock also produced the films Jamaica Inn (1939) and Rebecca (1940) based on her novels. Rebecca is an all-time favorite of mine and the first serious work of literature I ever read as a teenager.

@Anons: I knew that several different types of birds were used in the filming - crows, ravens, seagulls, sparrows and some black birds - all wild caught. However, I’d never heard the theory about the caged lovebirds. It would be interesting to watch it again just to look for those particular scenes, but I probably won’t be doing that.

Unknown 3:13 PM  

Totally agree!!

Christopher Jones 3:16 PM  

I will be one of those teachers that Rex is talking about in a few weeks, where I will be returning to the classroom in full on in-person teaching. Luckily I am teaching for the Catholic School System so they have (ahem) God on their side. Or at least that's what they think.

This puzzle was a hard one or me mainly due to the really old references and "Boff" totally has nothing to do with Broadway.

Anonymous 3:35 PM  

Right viz Noyce. Sorry. However my point is correct though my spelling was not. Fred Noyes did create the town of Smithville and his eponymous museum.

And the NEA and AFT are a wicked and venal lot. American teachers are a disgrace, and absolute scandal.

And The Birds is ludicrous.

Birchbark 3:36 PM  

@JD (10:26) -- Until now, I didn't think it possible to improve on Melville. Then I read your rewrite. Bravo --

Nancy 4:06 PM  

@Anon 12:31 -- What Hitchcock did to TH would be prosecuted today. It's not just the predatory sexual behavior and the subsequent destruction of her career; it's the filming of The Birds. What he subjected her to during the making of the movie is depraved!

@JC66 (12:25)-- Amusing query. My answer: Not exactly.

Z 4:28 PM  

@bauskern - Did I say I wasn’t familiar with HARISSA? Why, no, no I didn’t. You are right about me not opening a cooking magazine ever. Both the NYT and my local Gannett owned paper provide more interesting recipes than I have time or inclination to try out. I try maybe two new recipes a month. I know I haven’t cooked with HARISSA because it’s not readily available at my local grocer because, you know, it is still pretty uncommon. I actually got it off the HA but wasn’t sure if it was HARISSA or HARISSe. I think I first ran into HARISSA in Batata Harra at some Lebanese restaurants around Dearborn 20 years ago or so. I use cayenne and smoked paprika when I make my version of Batata Harra.

@Chance - Only off a girl’s stomach?

@TJS - Well, yeah, guilty. I have some strong opinions in my field and tend to think people from outside the profession should listen more and opine less. There’s a whole lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking around education and most of it is just as insightful as Sports Talk Radio.

@mathgent and @oisk17 - I hear you. But I’ve also seen admins, superintendents, and especially school boards and parents act pretty capriciously. As I said earlier, I see the major problems rooted at the administrative level as opposed to the teaching level.

JC66 4:41 PM  


Fascinating. Can you tell us more?

Wanderlust 4:50 PM  

Me too! That’s the main thing I’m looking for here but haven’t found the answer yet. Thus may be the first time the very first square was the last I filled in, as BOFF was unknown to me too. (Would have gotten BOFFO.)

Gorelick 5:00 PM  

The only time I seriously tried to construct a NY Times Crossword puzzle was about 25 years ago. I'm guessing. I forget now what on what ancient discussion board it was that I met a constructor (I really think it was Elizabeth Gorski but maybe it wasn't) who offered to vet my puzzle as I was working on it.

I ended up with ZAGNUT in the grid. Gorski (or maybe not Gorski) said that there was no way ZAGNUT would fly. But I coudn't pry ZAGNUT out of the puzzle and I eventually gave up.

And, now, 25 years later (or is it 30 or 20?) ZAGNUT makes its debut.

Anoa Bob 5:08 PM  

I eked out a living by teaching college courses (psychology) starting as a teaching assistant and going through the various levels and ended as a tenured professor. This was at various colleges and universities, some small, some large, over the years. The big deal about TENURE is that, as Z @9:53 says, it makes it difficult to fire a teacher without just cause. Before I got TENURE, I could have been let go with just a "Your yearly contract will not be renewed" notice. That happened to me once. No reason was required or given. TENURE means there must be a demonstrable reason, one that would stand up in a court of law, in order to terminate a faculty member.

Yeah, it makes teachers hard to let go of. Just not easily so.

Even with TENURE you're still vulnerable. One of the positions I got was because the previous TENURED teacher was incompetent an rather than go through a possible court case by firing the teacher, the position was simply terminated! Changing student enrollments and budget allocations, so they said, necessitated doing away with that position. Problem solved. Couple of years later and for the same reasons, the position was again opened. I got that job but only found out about the circumstances a few years later.

I could tell you faculty-administration-TENURE stories that would make your skin crawl, but I'll stop now.

Lewis 5:11 PM  

For those wondering about BODY SHOT and its clue, in WordPlay, after reading the comments, I wrote:
"Regarding BODY SHOT, there are two camps, as I see it, emerging in the comments. One, that it is a pun on the boxing term, playing on the word SHOT, and two, that it refers to an erotic act, punning on "hard liquor". Tom, how about weighing in here on what you intended?"

And Tom did respond, writing:
"@Lewis Yes, I think the term body shot as a "hard" drink slurped off someone's stomach has been explained here, and that was the punny intent of my clue. When Sam sent me the proof a week ago, my clue had been changed to [Hard punch to the torso], which I understood was a safer way to go and was fine with it. But, mysteriously, the clue got switched back to my original clue at the last minute. Since I mentioned it in my comments, it makes me wonder if Deb had something to do with that, but I don't know."

Hungry Mother 5:12 PM  

I thought BODYSrOT was a top-shelf version of rot gut and I still like rATER.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  


well, OK. but you've got to be honest - how many adults who work in and around schools have to die before you admit that it's a stupid, greedy notion? 10 100 1000 10,000?

just tell us.

sf27shirley 6:08 PM  

Popo is slang for police, and so is coppers

longsufferingmetsfan 6:27 PM  

"How many adults have to die before you admit its stupid" Good for you and me and all of us that my son and all of his grocery workmates felt differently about their roles, otherwise we'd all be waiting in bread lines for crumbs with ration coupons

All these people working with the public now : grocers, convenience stores, restaurants, Walmart workers, Fed ex drivers, mailmen/women, small business owners trying to survive. How many people have you been around in the last 5 months? probably many thousands. Knowing how contagious this disease it, math would dictate that at least 3/4 of us have been subjected to it by now.

Xcentric 6:34 PM  

Not in my wheelhouse dnf
Elia before elea
Harissa? Well, at least I learned a new word :)
Popo maybe in Southern California.
I don’t care what alternate spelling some dictionary has in it. The game is bocce. I play it, in a league.
Agree with Rex and others about poor taste of clue for tenured in these times. Didn’t sit well with me either.
Is a cyst really just a dermatological concern? Ovarian cysts are the ones I hear about most often.
I’m sure my wife has a bag that would qualify as a hobo bag (now that I looked it up), but I’ve never heard her call it that.

Anonymous 6:48 PM  


all of those occupations differ from teacher in one specific respect (and are identical to the meat processing plant workers that we don't hear much about any more): school adults get exposed to the same cadre of highly infectious Typhoid Jacks and Jills every day. teachers have already died doing summer school. just one report: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/14/890716897/teacher-recovering-from-covid-19-says-school-reopening-is-tough-decision

whose math makes it 3/4, by the way? and you still haven't answered the question.

Pamela 7:23 PM  

@JC66 Thank you for the BODYSHOT explanation. I’ve been puzzling over it all day.

@Nancy- The Birds scared me half to death, too! I saw it at a drive-in, which made it worse. It’s been a long, long time since birds flying overhead made me want to duck and run for home, but I still cringe a little when I think of it.

Jofried 9:12 PM  

I thought the puzzle was much harder than the usual Friday and barely finished. I’m a teacher and was not bothered by the clue for TENURED. In fact it is quite difficult to fire a tenured teacher—lots of hoops to jump through, have to dot every I and cross every t. As for returning to school, we go back in 3 weeks. I’m in N.J. and we will have the entire school, five days a week, for half days. I am ready to go. I consider myself an essential worker and I want my own kids to go, so I have to be willing to step up. I will wear my mask and keep my windows open and hope for the best!

Anonymous 9:35 PM  

keep my windows open

very few school buildings (or most any sort of building, even) have sashed windows that can do so.

Joe Dipinto 10:10 PM  

Best scene in "The Birds": Tippi Hedren sitting smoking a cigarette outside the schoolhouse as she waits for the children to finish all the verses of their monotonous song; the viewer sees a bird alight on the jungle gym behind her, then another one a minute later. She, still waiting and growing impatient, notices a bird in the sky and follows its flight till it comes down and lands on the jungle gym, where she and the viewer now see...oh SHIT!

Joe Dipinto 10:52 PM  

Why'd I bother typing all that? I could've just posted a link.

SBpianist 11:17 PM  

That rant was Prime Rex. I agree1000% without feeling that 42D itself warranted it. Still, righteousness is righteous.

Anonymous 11:25 PM  

it's late, but I finally looked up the wiki, and found this:
" At first, the lovebirds in the pet store signify the blossoming love between Melanie and Mitch, and the sexual tension between the two.[34] However, the birds' symbolism changes once they begin to attack Bodega Bay. Hitchcock stated in an interview that the birds in the film rise up against the humans to punish them for taking nature for granted.[35]"

you can follow the links to the source(s).

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Can someone explain ONCLOUDNINE? I got to the point where it was the only thing that seemed to fit but I have no idea how to get there from [Sent]

Z 6:49 PM  

@Anon6:24 - Does this help?

Unknown 6:09 PM  

Same, still don’t get it.

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

I had to look at the lyric annotations on Genius, and it still seems like a stretch to me, but I get it now. Thanks!

Joshua K. 1:54 PM  

I don't know how they allowed PRE as the answer to "Line-skipping option at the airport, for short." Nobody calls it PRE. They call it, when speaking, "Precheck." The trademark used by TSA has the word "Pre" followed by a checkmark.

The crossword should only use PRE as the answer to this clue if it's a themed puzzle where the word "CHECK" is being dropped from answers, like BLANK for "blank check," BOOK for "checkbook," etc.

rondo 1:57 PM  

This would have been a bit easier to solve if the last several down clues hadn’t been omitted in the St. Paul paper’s print version. Got it anyway. Not sure which line I like best, BODYSHOT TRADER or LOVETO ROLEPLAY. It seems that I have the mother of Melanie Griffith and grandmother of Dakota Johnson, Tippi HEDREN circled; from New Ulm, MN. All ANGELS. Fun puz sez I.

Burma Shave 2:22 PM  


“I CENSE you want a BODYSHOT,
put you RITE ONCLOUDNINE, no doubt.”
“OGEE, I’d LOVETO, but I’ll not.”


thefogman 2:36 PM  

In spite of its flaws, I did enjoy this solve. Maybe it’s because Mrs. Foggy worked it out with me. I like the old-timely pencil-and-paper Rex. He should do them all this way. PS - Rex is 100% right on with his comments about teachers. This “experiment” of sending kids back to school during the COVID epidemic is going to turn out to be a huge mistake.

spacecraft 2:42 PM  

DNF. Fatal error: TENUous, couldn't let go of it to find TENURED. The SE refused to make any sense, and I had already been laboring at this all morning. To call it anything less than UBER-challenging would be wrong. Yes, HEDREN and DANNYOCEAN were gimmes, but that didn't help much. A non-drinker, I have no idea what a BODYSHOT is. A non-fashionista, I have no idea what a HOBO bag is. Really? A HOBO bag? Why would you call a high-fashion item that ??? Could that be akin to those ridiculous jeans with holes ALREADY SEWN INTO THEM??? I guess I just have no imagination.

leftcoaster 3:52 PM  

Wheelhouse? What wheelhouse? Barely caught a glimpse of the boat.

Waxy in Montreal 4:30 PM  

OGEE, absolutely not ONCLOUDNINE about the clues/answers today starting with the BOFF(O) confusion at 1D but also including BODYSHOT, ZAGNUT, CRONUTS, HOBO, POPO and PRE. We have a constant critic who attends all public meetings of the school board I serve on but I would never label him a HATER.

Had NIMOY and COHEN for my LEONARD before ZELIG whose first name I'd completely forgotten - even had a TESTRUN with BLOOM before remembering he was actually a LEOPOLD. Also, had KIEL PRE-KOLN, demonstrating my total ignorance of German geography.

Have never seen BOCCE spelled BOCCI.

Thankfully DANNYOCEAN, HEDREN, ENRON and MONAMI were gimmes or would still be trying to solve.

SUPER day here so won't be MOROSE - maybe time for a KIR.

Diana, LIW 7:43 PM  

I did get TENURED, and thought that quite clever, but had a dnf due to parts that were "Greek to me" literally.

Diana, LIW

Diana, LIW 7:46 PM  

PS - not a fan of "pencil Rex." My eyesight is getting worse, and I could barely read some of it.

Lady Di

Jack Harry 10:27 AM  

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