Title detective of 1970s TV / WED 8-19-20 / 1815 novel of romantic misunderstandings / Destroyer of town of Nicolosi in 1669 / Sun Valley locale / Fictional maker of earthquake pills tornado seeds

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Constructor: Brandon Koppy

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (just over 5) (early a.m. solve) 

THEME: LIFE / CYCLE (1D: With 41-Across, generational sequence)— the outer edge of the grid is populated by a "cycle" of 4-letter answers are clued as interlocking phrases, i.e. LIFE BOAT / BOAT SHOW / SHOW DOWN, etc. until the "cycle" ends up back at "LIFE" again (TIME/LIFE):

Theme answers:
  • LIFE BOAT (1A: With 5-Across, means of survival)
  • BOAT SHOW (5A: With 9-Across, place to yacht-shop)
  • SHOW DOWN (9A: With 16-Down, decisive confrontation)
  • DOWN PLAY (16D: With 39-Down, minimize)
  • PLAY DEAD (39D: With 62-Down, lie motionless)
  • DEAD HEAD (62D: With 71-Across, traveling music fan of old)
  • HEAD HOME (71A: With 70-Across, call it a night, say)
  • HOME GAME (70A: With 69-Across, advantage in sports)
  • GAME FACE (69A: With 50-Down, athlete's intense expression)
  • FACE TIME (50D: With 27-Down, Apple app)
  • TIME LIFE (27D: With 1-Down, company named for two magazines)
Word of the Day: Judd APATOW (22A: Judd who directed "Knocked Up") —

Judd Mann Apatow (/ˈæpət/; born December 6, 1967) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and comedian. He is the founder of Apatow Productions, through which he produced and directed the films The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Funny People (2009), This Is 40 (2012), Trainwreck (2015), and The King of Staten Island (2020).

Additionally through Apatow Pictures, he produced and developed the television series Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000), Undeclared (2001–2002), Funny or Die Presents (2010–2011), Girls (2012–2017), Love (2016–2018), and Crashing (2017–2019).

Apatow also produced the films The Cable Guy (1996), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy(2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Superbad (2007), Pineapple Express(2008), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Get Him to the Greek (2010), Bridesmaids (2011), Begin Again (2013), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), and The Big Sick (2017).

Throughout his career, Apatow received nominations for eleven Primetime Emmy Awards (two wins), five Writers Guild of America Awards (one win), two Producers Guild of America Awards, one Golden Globe Award, and one Grammy Award. (wikipedia)

• • •

All short stuff, all cross-referenced—you can guess how much I enjoyed this (A: not much). "With this-clue, With that-clue," over and over and over, backward and forward up and down. Annoying, fussy, disorienting, joyless. Not hard at all, but because of the look-here, look-there horrid heavy cross-referencing, it was time-consuming. With no payoff. When I got into those little corners, because two of the answers now were going to be cross-references, and one of those was going to force my attention *outside* the corner, things just got confusing. Not hard, again. Just, "wait, where am I looking again?" I have absolutely positively seen this kind of ring around the rosy theme before: the interlocking phrase thing, the perimeter thing, both very much done before. And again, the main issue is not the been-done quality of the theme, but the failure to satisfy at least one of two theme requirements: is there a really good payoff? Is it a joy to solve? If you get 'no' to both, then why are you making this? This feels like a child's placemat game that got turned into a puzzle, and no one thought to ask "why?" The CYCLE bit in the middle is interesting, especially the way it's linked back to the first word in the CYCLE, but it's not interesting enough. The theme is unsatisfying, and one of the results of the theme set-up is that the grid is choked with 3-to-5-letter fill (ABRA NEHI STENO etc.), which is also unsatisfying. 

It's a shame the theme was a drag, because at least a couple of these long Downs deserve better. AMBIENT NOISE in particular is really very nice, as is EMAIL BLAST, though I didn't like the latter as much because the clue threw me and so I couldn't pick up the BLAST part until almost the last cross. I know EMAIL BLAST as a mass email ... I didn't know the "bcc" part was a definitive feature. When I see "bcc" I think of secretively looping someone in for one reason or another; I guess I don't think of it for, like, mass advertising purposes. Anyway, the "bcc" had me thinking regular work-type emails, so BLAST (which is about the *size* of the audience, not the audience's recipient status) just didn't enter my brain til very late. Still, it's a vibrant phrase. Thumbs up, for sure. I had trouble moving through the grid because of having EMAIL but no idea about BLAST, and then having BOSTON and having no idea about ACCENT. Again, a clue word threw me: "tested." Your accent would be "tested" if you had to say that phrase, not if you actually had to park the car in Harvard yard, and yes, I know, that is why the "?" is on the clue, but that's pretty tenuous. 

Mistakes? A few. Ironically screwed up the blogging clue by writing in ESSAY instead of ENTRY off the "Y" (66A: Blog post). That SW corner was the toughest for me, because I forgot if the actress was FAY or FEY or oh it's FOY? Oh, I probably knew that, or should, since I've watched every episode of "The Crown." Anyway, I would've sorted it out faster but the stupid under-clued ORANG (51D: Rainforest dweller, for short), crossing one of those dumb cross-referenced themers, was getting in my way. Any other trouble? Oh, yes, a major, costly mistake right up top with 17A: Puma competitor (FILA). Sadly, the one letter I had in place when I looked at that clue was the "I" and so I wrote in NIKE. Bah. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Asmazz 6:32 AM  

I thought one major ‘rule’ of constructing a crossword puzzle was that one never uses a word twice. 1A & 1D. LIFE

Marcus Chance 6:32 AM  

I think I would have liked this more if the left and bottom edges weren't flowing upstream. So start from 1A/1D and have the "with" answers go across and down and meet in the SE corner. Just made the "with" clues even harder forcing my brain to put, say, 71A in front of 70A instead of normal left-to-right.

This feels like it's more of a Thursday twist than an actual wednesday theme, though not quite Thursday difficulty.

I did like TURBANS and of course LEO. even though I don't believe in astrology. That's because us LEOs are naturally skeptical.

Lewis 6:34 AM  

Ever since I was NEHI to a grasshopper, I've loved chains of words where the first and last have a connection. Even word ladders -- the bane of so many -- they click with me. So today's puzzle-in-the-round charmed me to no end, hit that happy button.

The circular theme naturally evokes the letter O, and yo-ho-ho we have LEO / ROMO / IDAHO / and STENO. There's also the Cheers connection, with NORM and CARLA and the BOSTON ACCENT. In addition, credit for a brand new clue for TREE, which has appeared in the NYT puzzle almost 900 times -- [One putting down roots?].

So no one can accuse you, Brandon, of being a Koppy cat. Applause for a fun theme and terrific execution. Thank you, sir, for a memorable joyride!

Anonymous 6:37 AM  

Totally agree that many of the clues were forced due to the annoying cross-referencing theme. I never heard of Apatow nor Hoda so I had to guess the "A." I also do not know what TVMA is nor have I heard of Emma, so the "M" was also a guess, but easier than the Hora/Apatow.

I had Boat Yard, which slowed me down, but recovered. This was not overly enjoyable

Rug Crazy 6:39 AM  

I'm with REX and ASMAZZ

Hungry Mother 6:41 AM  

That was fun. I really enjoyed pairing the answers around the grid. Not obvious, but not too difficult.

JD 7:05 AM  

Struggled with the NW corner for a bit, then got it and the rest was easy. But DNF.

Enlistee instead of Enlister and thought MDX was some gamer thing made by Acuea. Going back and forth on which is more cringe worthy, the real answer or my imaginary one. I keep forgetting how pliable the language had become in both the cross world and the real world. Sigh...

kitshef 7:18 AM  

Well, it’s not a quote puzzle – and I think we finally found a puzzle type that is actually a step down from that.

Finished with a couple of errors, both of which I would have caught if I had not ceased caring well before. Had HOtA for Ms. KOTB. I still don’t really know who this is, but she is in puzzles all the time so I thought I remembered the name. Close but no cigar.

And I had the Catholic Church as dOME. I guess “afterbidth” is the third stage of labor if you have a cold.

ChuckD 7:29 AM  

Normally not a fan of cross-reference puzzles but I liked this one. Didn’t take long to figure out they all circle around the perimeter - starting with LIFE and ending with LIFE. With CYCLE holding the center - it’s an elegant, well constructed theme. A lot of the short fill does glom it up here and there but for the most part it was fine. All that mindless background music on the old ATARI games crossing AMBIENT NOISE was cool and liked NORAD over IDAHO.

Definitely a worthwhile Wednesday.

albatross shell 7:31 AM  

I feel about British royalty the way Rex feels about cross-referenced clues. FOY and FILA were mysteries, but solved them and others slowly. Agree with Rex on ORANG but have seen it before in crosswords, so not much of a problem filling it in.

Rules are made to be broken. If you have good reason. The theme seems just enough reason to me. It could have played out without the duplication, but doing so would have added probably added new problems.

Between the theme and enough clever clues for a week of favorites, I am with the eternally cheerful @Lewis this morning. His pun included.

Z 7:36 AM  


Andy Warhol playing ATARI while drinking NEHI while the Road Runner and STARSKY and Hutch play on the tv gave this a strong Boomer feel. Yes, a few modern touches, but when you use ENLISTER I barely notice your APATOW/South Park/Netflix ENTRYs (Hey! ENLISTER so no grief for ENTRYs is allowed).

Nice to see STEÑO in the puzzle.

No problem with EMAIL BLAST and the bcc clue. Some people don’t like to use the bcc function and therefore condemn their recipients to unwanted responses from people who inadvertently or ignorantly reply all.

I lean more Rex than @Lewis today. The conceit is a curiosity and I can see that coming up with a completed LIFE CYCLE would be fun for the constructor, But 12 compound words/2-word phrases cross-referenced, all with straightforward cluing, wasn’t all that much fun to solve. And I can’t help but imagine that the ENLISTER works at a marina, probably the one in Rye, NY.

ncmathsadist 7:36 AM  


Alexander 7:44 AM  

I suppose you could say the same thing about a lot of ‘rules’ that are broken by the themes of crosswords.

It’s nice having expectations subverted once-and-a-while

John H 8:01 AM  

I too like word chains. Once I got what was going on I quickly filled in the perimeter, the colored in the rest. So why did Rex find this time consuming? Breezed right through it. I would have liked it m ore if "life" didn't appear twice.

JD 8:02 AM  

If Enlistee is now Enlister, is Inductee now Inducter?

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Puzzled or maybe annoyed by clue for BOSTONACCENT. What does it mean to have one’s accent “tested”? If you have a Boston “accent” you have it—saying that phrase doesn’t “test” your accent, it puts it on display. So who is doing the testing? A dialect coach?

Frantic Sloth 8:07 AM  

Oh, ye gods and little fishes! I came 🤏 this close to kicking this lookie-loo annoyance to the curb almost even before starting.

Had to just close my eyes and point to another random location in the puzzle. And as fate would have it, I landed on the saving grace that was Wile E. Coyote's support system cum bane of his existence: "Fictional maker of earthquake pills and tornado seeds" ACME.

Only then was I able to exhale. And yet....

Speaking of pigs....there ain't enough lipstick in the world to pretty-up this craw-stickin' atrocity. It's bad enough to have any - even one lookie-loo clue, but an entire theme?? of them??
What's next? A lookie-loo, badminton themed quote puzzle with a smattering of circles and disappearing/dangling letters??

Maybe the idea behind the theme was cute and maybe it was a tad clever and maybe I'm freakin' Elvis Hoffa.

This. This is a perfect example of demonstrating construction prowess at the expense of annihilating solver enjoyment.

And whyyyy LIFE/LIFE??

There was something good here - there had to be, right? I said Right??
I can't even be bothered to look right now.

Mudville has more joy than I got out of this. Only wish I could Maxine Waters my time.

🧠🧠.5 (1.5 brains for annoyance factor alone)

JJK 8:14 AM  

I really liked this, it was fun. At first I was appalled to see two LIFE’s but when I got the cycle part it made sense and I thought it was nicely done. I initially put in Columbo 48 A so that messed me up for awhile. BOSTONACCENT was a fun gimme but I thought AMBIENTNOISE was a real letdown as an answer.

I agree this was more of a Thursday type puzzle.

William of Ockham 8:14 AM  

Agree with Rex, utter rubbish, but disagree, despite all the UGLY cross reference splits, it was quick, bless the Lord.

QNP - Quick and Painful,

The full three ugh rating today.

KrystineM 8:15 AM  

TV-MA is a rating indicating the show is for mature audiences.

JHC 8:17 AM  

It's seldom that I disagree with Rex, but the cross-referencing didn't bother me on this one, because the pattern was so predictable. I flailed around in the NW for a little while, but once I grokked what the theme was doing, I filled in the rim going straight around, and that made up the time I had lost at first.

While I'm here, I'll just add that anybody who thinks "most debates" are TWO-SIDED isn't Jewish.

Mike Herlihy 8:23 AM  

@Rex - the BOSTON ACCENT is tested by the way one might say "Park the car..." If it sounds like "Pahk the cah..." it would indicate a Boston accent.

I like the CYCLE reference, as the cross-references CYCLEd between clues, not just A->B but A->B->C.

Rob Iorillo 8:26 AM  

(1 A&D) LIFE twice as an answer in the same puzzle?! Unless LIFEBOAT is considered one word, this is not usual nor, I think, permitted.

CS 8:26 AM  

Blech .... I really really really do not like the cross-referencing of clues - it makes me dizzy and there wasn't enough of a reward to make it worthwhile.

next ..... !


Petsounds 8:39 AM  

@Frantic Sloth said everything I wanted to say and probably said it better than I would have. This hugely annoying, constructor-focused puzzle is what you get from an editor who boasts about the degree he created in Puzzleology or Puzzleomics or whatever the hell it was and some that some university awarded him. And just to be sure you know it's a Shortz puzzle, bad editing on any number of clues, as has already been pointed out--e.g., the clue for BOSTONACCENT.

I should have done what @CS did: taken one look at all the cross-referencing clues and moved on to the Spelling Bee.

Unknown 8:48 AM  

If people are "appalled" (e.g., "rubbish," "dizzy," "atrocity," "annoying") by the cross references and the double use of LIFE, they need to get their priorities in order. With a virus that seemingly will never end (unless there's a change come November), with global warming not abating (see Death Valley's recent 130 degree temps), the recent attacks on our postal system/democracy . . . . the level of complaining (from the top down) over picayune issues is embarrassing. It's just a puzzle folks.

Pamela 8:50 AM  

At first I was put off by the lookie loo clues, but once I realized what was going on I got into it. Clever! Sure, most of those short answers were less than exciting, but the way they wrapped around the perimeter was pretty cool.

One I liked was GAME FACE. Where did that come from? It’s not an expression that’s been around forever, at least I don’t think so, but the meaning is very clear. I think I put mine on for SB ;-/

DEAD HEAD was neat, too. I knew a couple of them years ago, but although I liked the music well enough, I never quite got the magic. Even so, I enjoyed the little memory burst as I filled it in.

I did love seeing BOSTONACCENT since I grew up having one. Like Rex, it took me a while to get the second word even though I knew what was meant.

I had EMAILchain before BLAST, but not for long. APATOW needed a lot of crosses, ARENDT not so many- I must have seen her more recently. AMBIENTNOISE was a good one. That was mostly ambulance sirens in NY for a while, but thankfully normal traffic has come back enough so that the city sounds almost the way it did before COVID.

All in all, much more to like than not, and not much time spent doing it. A nice way to start the day.

Joaquin 8:50 AM  

Since you have likely been waiting with a mouthful of salmon eggs ("bated" breath), here it is - Joaquin's Theory of Crosswords: There is an inverse relationship between the fun in constructing and the fun in solving.

Also, @JHC (8:17) - " ... anybody who thinks "most debates" are TWO-SIDED isn't Jewish." FTW!

Mr. Cheese 8:58 AM  

“ye gods and little fishes!” Was an expression used by a Professor of mine back in 1954!!! (Yes, Im an old fart).
It’s been 66 years since I’ve heard anyone else use it! Wow!

Petsounds 9:10 AM  

@Unknown: We dissect and opine about the NYT crossword as a diversion from all the things you mention--and more. If it bothers you to read analysis and critiques of a puzzle's construction, why are you reading this blog, which exists for no other reason?

JD 9:19 AM  

@Unknown, We know. Alas, that's what makes this theme park a respite. We can come here and complain about things that won't kill us and forget about the things that might. Sigh...

And what about Parolee?

RooMonster 9:22 AM  

Hey All !
I had a cross referenced puz with less crossings referenced (☺️) than this one, and it was rejected by NYT for "too much cross referencing." How do you like that?

Puz was weird in the out-of-order context of the Themers. Oh, wait, I see it now. It's supposed to make a CYCLE, ala a circle from 1A LIFE to 1D LIFE, so the edges are put in in a way to accomplish that. LIFEBOAT, BOATSHOW SHOEDOWN, DOWNPLAY, PLAYDEAD, (then it keeps the "same direction CYCLE thing", even though the answers are written in straight but should be backwards, if you know what I'm trying to say), DEADHEAD, HEADHOME. HOMEGAME, GAMEFACE, FACETIMR, TIMELIFE. See it? Yeah, I know.

Fill surprisingly clean for the edges all taken up. There's some dreck, but nothing that smacks you in the face.

TVMA well known here, but then I'm a couch potato. HODA KOTB should be well known to NYTXWers,as she is in puz quite a bit. Either name.

Dumb one-letter DNF at AMnIENTNOISE/AnRA. Ugh. Couldn't get AMnIENT out of the ole brain to get to the B. Really should've figured out ABRA, though, so no excuse for it.

SMUT is Blue material. OK. A slight spark about five layers deep in the ole brain with that.

Four F's

mathgent 9:23 AM  

I solved it as a themeless and then noticed the linked words forming the perimeter of the grid. And then I noticed that they formed a LIFECYCLE, starting and ending with LIFE, as 1D tells us. Pretty cool.

I usually don’t like themes that don’t help in the solving, but this one charmed me.

I did the Patrick Berry New Yorker crossword yesterday. I was able to print it up even though I am not a subscriber. I hadn’t done one of his crosswords for a long time. I have been doing his variety puzzles which appear every few weeks in the Saturday WSJ. This one was just as I remember them — completely junk-free, smart, witty, not very hard. Two memorable clue/entries. “Heroine who has been played by Greta, Vivien, and Kiera,” (4), and “You can’t sell your soul here, according to its official policies,” (4).

TTrimble 9:25 AM  

@Anonymous 8:05AM
As in testing the hypothesis that one's interlocutor is from Boston, perhaps?

My solving experience matched Rex's. Not a good way to start off feeling that all cylinders are firing. Despite this, the fill wasn't at all bad, and I kind of like how the CYCLE goes from LIFE to (well, not death but) DEAD. The cluing I found somewhat more problematic.

I got hung up in quite a few ways, such as thinking "grind" meant "TOoL" (i.e., super-nerd) and then thinking the pen noise was "hoNK" (if a pen is a male swan, and makes a sound like a goose?). And then wanting "they" (or "them"), as a newish pronoun preference that seems to confuse singular and plural and tends to drive me nuts. Actually, I think 59D is miscued: those few people who still use "whom" almost always use it right. They would never say "whom ate the last cookie?"

48A: I didn't even know STARSKY was a detective; I just thought he was some douche who hung out with someone named Hutch. Instead was thinking "Columbo?, Banacek?...". My brain wasn't working right obviously.

Solve time for me was a few seconds better than my historical average, which is to say it sucked. I just knew Rex would hate this one, too.

---[SB Alert]---
-->> spoilers from yesterday <<--

Oy. From yesterday's, let's see, I missed ALKANE, ALKENE, BABEL, BANKABLE, BEANBALL, LLANO, and one more, which I have no excuse for: BALE. These puzzles are exhausting!

And today's is no exception. My usual MO is to get off to a quick start by firing off a bunch of four-letter words in rapid succession, but this time the puzzle seems to say, "oh, no you don't". At the moment I have all the pangrams but still am at level Amazing. Not really a fun bunch of letters.

DavidP 9:46 AM  

And Emma is one of the most famous novels by one of the greatest writers in the English language

GILL I. 9:49 AM  

Well, my oof meter lit up again. I saw the hop on pop thing going on and I went looking for my hula hoop.
Oh wait...this is a CYCLE thingie. Will it be dizzy fun or dizzy oopsie. I decided it was dizzy fun. This little merry-go-round grew on me. I actually liked playing this game.
I know a lot of the Mensaraties don't like having to go back and forth to figure out where they initially wanted to go, but I thought this was clever. The two LIFE's didn't bother since this was the CYCLE. So, I'll add it to my cool beans list.
The only problem I had was trying to remember some of the names. Had no problem with HODA (@kitshef...if you saw a picture of her, you wouldn't forget her. She has a million dollar smile) ...but didn't know ARENDT and if it's not a tomato, I don't know that Tony ROMA guy.
So I finished, smiled and went looking for things to ponder. I thought about AFTER BIRTH and wondered why it's called a third stage. There was only one stage for me. PUSH and get this damn bowling ball outa here. Kidding. I want to kiss the inventor of the epidermal and I don't even care if the inventor looks like Jabba the Hut.
Northern California is on fire again. The heat is on and we're facing rolling black outs. I don't need to go out and I've taken up painting once more. I'd make more bread but I've run out of yeast again and my friends are begging me not to give them any more.
Wear your mask.....This too shall pass.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

I liked it! Even though I had some of the same hangups as Rex (couldn't believe it was Boston accent or email blast but got there eventually by just accepting it), I thought it was fun. But then, I'm a - newbie
P.S. I think that Rex might enjoy some of these puzzles more if he weren't so hung up on his times. He's so good that he has to time it to challenge himself, I guess, but sometimes it's more fun just to go with the flow. ;)

Ernonymous 9:54 AM  

@unknown thanks for reminding us the world's gone to shit in the one daily break we try to take from all that.
It's terrible as a crossword puzzle but not nearly as terrible as the whales going extinct because all the ice melted. I'll be sure to add that in my next critique.

albatross shell 10:01 AM  

Just in case you were not joking. Its Tony ROMO.

Proud Mamma 10:02 AM  

No one else thought afterbirth was a themer?

I liked it. When I think a puzzle is fun I pop by to see, if, finally, Rex agrees with me. Almost never. Is there a different crossword blogger who isn't such a downer?

Richardf8 10:06 AM  

I Dissent.

I enjoyed the solve and the theme. It was newish to me, and the fact that the referenced words had clues of their own made this neat rather than unforgivable.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

having lived in the Boston/Cambridge axis (of evil?) for some years, ago; I'll guess that the 'test' is if one asks where to park in Harvard Yard, no one will know what your saying? ya have to substitute the hackneyed 'h' for the 'r'.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Actually, unless you are a Kennedy, there is no parking in Harvard Yard (or perhaps during dorm move in/out weeks).

pmdm 10:19 AM  

After solving this puzzle, I said to myself, "This puzzle is going to elicit very strong opposite responses." Perhaps a little less than I expected.

Based upon previous rants, I thought Mike would hate it. Pretty much true. I wasn't certain about Jeff. Awarding it a POW surprised me.

Not being a speed solver, I don't care if these types of clues slow me down, which they do. I had a very slow start, then got chugging along. Enjoyed the challenge, so it's a thumbs up for me. Will admit I never grasped there was more to the theme than cross-referencing unrelated clues. I guess that makes me clueless.

jberg 10:34 AM  

I only half-got the theme, failed to notice that they CYCLEd around the grid, or that there was only one non-edge cross reference. I shared Rex’s nIke problem, as well as confusing the football guy with TONY ROMa. I agree, it was a slog.

To avoid a second LIFE, you need a four letter word ending with L that can pair both ways. Full! Mall? It’d be tough.

Try sendin a small EMAIL BLAST with 50 people on the cc: line and see what happens. I speak from experience.

Ann Howell 10:34 AM  

Loved it! (Yet totally unsurprised that Rex the party pooper panned it.) It was a fun, medium solve - very Wednesday. Couldn't get the happy solve music for ages, until I noticed that I had typed in ENLISTEE for 20A, which made 7 down ACUEA. Coming from Mass, I thought BOSTON ACCENT was cute. Had no idea how to spell ARENDT, so had to rely on crosses. Great start to the day!

Carola 10:41 AM  

This one gets a triple "Wow!" from me: 1) for the nifty construction, especially with CYCLE as the hub; 2) for how much it challenged me; and 3) for my utter failure to see the how the outer ring worked until the grid was filled and I went back to match up all of the pairs. I wish I'd given the clue sequence more of a chance to make sense, rather than reacting with an instant "Oh, no! How could you?!" to the first three Across and first Down clues and moving into the non-cross-referenced interior. Nice pairing of BOSTON ACCENT and AMBIENT NOISE; I know that's how some non-Midwesterners feel about our flat vowels. Loved the TURBANS clue, the image well known from cartoons; see also: the beloved ACME Corporation.
Help from previous puzzles: HODA.

Z 10:43 AM  

ROMO ROME HOME MOMA IMAM IM IN ON ME... also seemed Mm Mm sub-optimal to me.

@Proud Mamma - I did. I also wondered how long the AFTERBIRTH stage of labor lasted. I feel like it’s at least 29 years so far.

@mathgent - Yep. It’s basically a three days a week All-Star puzzle. I think the Monday challenging puzzle could be a little tougher, but otherwise just consistently above average.

@JD - Or the Parolee Retiree.

@Danny Downer Unknown - What @Petsounds9:10 wrote.

@JHC - Or Dutch. Two Dutchmen and you have a church. Three Dutchmen and you have a schism.

Unknown 10:49 AM  

@ Petsounds
There's a difference between critique and constant, non-stop whining. it's the latter that I oppose. But I suppose it comes from the top down.

Whatsername 10:55 AM  

I hate posting a negative critique, so I will preface my comments with to the constructor and appreciation for the effort it must have taken to create this word maze - which is to say, I appreciate a hard-won accomplishment, not necessarily the end result.

I hate connect-the-answers as much as @Nancy hates little circles so I took one look at 1A and 1D and groaned. Every one of those cutesy “with” clues was like batting away a pesky gnat that just wouldn’t go away. I was so annoyed I spilled coffee on the whole NW corner and didn’t even care but that’s ON ME. Rather than elaborate further I will defer to @Frantic Sloth at 8:07, no joy. In fact, put an ice pack on those two brain emojis for the headache I now have.

In the “old” days, I worked in a Kansas City law office where there was one attorney who hailed from New England with a heavy BOSTON ACCENT. He was the stereotypical slick lawyer - expensive suit, slicked down hair, extremely important, and not the least bit impressed with the eager but inexperienced young STENO who sat down to take a letter. As soon as he began speaking I knew I was in trouble. As luck would have it, the addressee was a Mr. Arthur Clark which came out sounding nothing like that to my Midwestern ear. I was way too intimidated to ask him how to spell it so you can imagine he was none too pleased when I handed him back a letter addressed to Mr. Otto Clock. Lesson learned. Thankfully he left shortly after that to join another firm much more deserving of his superior skills.

@Petsounds (9:10) and @JD (9:19) Regarding reasons for being here - you nailed it. I agree 100%.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I guess puzzle solvers don’t watch morning tv. Hoda Kotb is one of the hosts of the morning show Today.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

@asmazz: Several NYT crosswords have repeated answer words.

egsforbreakfast 11:01 AM  

Funny that DEAD is halfway through the LIFE CYCLE. But funny things happen in LIFE and ENROLLER ball.

You can’t use the BOSTON ACCENT test to prove to someone that they have the accent, only to verify for yourself or other non-Bostonians that someone does. I remember arriving in Boston from Oregon in 1978 to go to school. I was absolutely amazed at the accent and would ask people why they didn’t say, for example, car instead of cah. They always insisted that they did say car exactly as I did. Odd that I think they have an accent but they don’t think I do.

Ethan Taliesin 11:15 AM  

I share Marcus Chance's (6:32) sentiment. I started out noticing the word tree and was making good headway on it until the words in the word tree phrases got turned around.

Very unsatisfying.

There are less inelegant ways to make the grid harder.

Hack mechanic 11:15 AM  

You should give the Windsor's a go on Netflix, hilarious!

Frantic Sloth 11:24 AM  

Hold on. There is something going on in the world beyond this (and other) crossword puzzles??

I had no idea.

Really need to get a grip and better utilize my time by dwelling on that.

Ignorant Shiftless 🦥

Newboy 11:24 AM  

Strange response here to a strange puzzle. I agree with @Rex, @Lewis and the first two non@ poster children. Egads, WTF, etc. no joy in the solve, but mild aha seeing the CYCLE at last after staring at the completed grid. Thanks Mr. Koppy for an interesting (though bizarre) start to my Wednesday . Now having caught my breath, I’m heading back up to finish the commentariat insights.

EdFromHackensack 11:29 AM  

Hoda has a house near our beach house - saw her jogging the other morning. Being too sure of myself I wrote in "Columbo" with no crosses for STARSKY. I have a rule I broke that I never write anything in without a cross. I do hard copy in pen... so it messed things up. wanted miss before FLOP . Liked this puzzle alot and the cross-referencing was OK once you realize the pattern. Thanks BRANDON KOPPY

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

@albatross. Oopsie. ROMA/ROMO tomato tomahto.
@Whatsername. Hah. You made me laugh at Mr. Otto Clock. I love accents. I do them all the time. When my two sisters and I get together, we go to town and have a blast. Neither one of us looks like we can speak Spanish (if you want to get all stereotypical and all that)....My youngest sister was born in Argentina, the middle sister in Cuba and I, the eldest was a wee one when my family moved to Venezuela. Spanish was our very first language.
Always wanting to have fun, we'll go to a restaurant and be very loud. We'd start with a Cuban "cierra la window que eta rainando".... Move on to the an Argentine "che...pero que boludo"... Switch to a Spanish Castillian "pues el tipo es cojonudo, no te parece?".... and always end up with the Mexican...."andale, pues." We are very loud. the louder we are, the more the heads turn. It's fun...every one should try it.

Joe Dipinto 11:37 AM  

LIFEBOAT, SHOWDOWN, DOWNPLAY and DEADHEAD are single words. The others are two-word phrases. Guess the editors didn't care.

emily 11:41 AM  

I had TRANSITION for 3rd stage of labor. Messed me up big time.

Linda 11:53 AM  

I found this easy and very enjoyable. Chill out uptight solvers. Have some fub

Nancy 11:58 AM  

Didn't we just have a puzzle exactly like this -- cross-referenced short word answers that provide kind of a string of phrases? I think we just did. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. Cross-referencing is a pain in the neck; short fill tends to be dull and all that word repetition is a bore.

Add to that the plethora of pop culture names, and you have a puzzle that I thoroughly disliked. I must go back and read you now to see if y'all mostly disliked it too. I suspect you mostly did.

I have reason to believe -- well, hope at least -- that you'll like next Thursday's puzzle a lot more.

Swagomatic 12:01 PM  

I am not a fan of the cross-referencing. Solving always feels like homework.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

A real piece of garbage. Not even a Thursday "rebus" could have been worse! 32 Down would not pass Merl Reagle's standards. "Enlistee" = "Enlister"? No. "Life" is repeated in the grid. "See ----" clues are not good. Ever. Too many references to obscure people. A total waste of graphite.

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

I lifed it … er … liked it. And another thing or two …

1. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for future LIFE-CYCLE puzzles:
a) A word-ladder theme that starts and ends on the word LIFE. I have taken the liberty to design the puzgrid for it, and it would look like this:
b) A cat puz theme, with nine LIFEs in it. I have not taken the liberty of designin that there puzgrid.
c) Some sorta progression from LIFE to EFIL. Needs some noodlin out.

2. This puppy got Puzzle Of the Week over at xwordinfo.chen. Comprable to the Oscar.

3. Kinda neat how the LIFE-CYCLE halfway thru lands on DEAD. This lifely lil puz comes back from the dead. Frankenstein puz! Bonus schlock Fun.

4. @RP says the puz has lotsa short fillins stuff, but there's only a paltry 9 weejects in it. [staff pick: AAS.]

5. Luved the BOSTONACCENT clue. One of five ?-mark clues in this rodeo. Admire the feistiness.

M&A hasn't been showin up near as regularly here, this week. I have instead been conductin a darin experiment: constructin 15x15 themeless puzs to submit to the NYT. This has been a challengin and enlightenin and intestin [sic] experiment. Just to make things snazzier, I've been goin mostly with puzgrid designs that are every-which-away symmetric(al). A modicum of proof -- my most desperate [and hence most magnificent] production of the three so far -- is presented to the court of appealin, below.

Thanx for the LIFE lesson, Mr. Koppy. Day-um nice job.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


OffTheGrid 12:16 PM  

@TT. SB comment

I had a slow start, too. It took me several seconds to get my first 4 letter word. But next I got the seven letter pangram. After that it just took some TOIL to keep pulling words out. I thought it was fun. I'm not done, though. I'm at genius but I suspect you will pass me by day's end.

Mike G 12:22 PM  

Joyless. My heart sank when I got to the second "with" clue. Working on a streak or I would have walked away.

Nancy 12:23 PM  

The response is a lot more mixed than I would have expected. In fact, some of my best blog pals liked/loved it. Evidently there are plenty of people who don't find cross referencing a big pain in the neck. Interesting. Maybe I'm lazier than they are?

Ann Hedonia 12:25 PM  

I found "afterbirth" offensive. Can't believe no one else did.

Paul 12:27 PM  

Fun fact: today is World Orangutan Day. Maybe ORANG isn't a coincidence.

jae 12:42 PM  

Easy-medium. Clever but annoying. However, it’s smooth and has some excellent long downs, plus Jeff gave it POW...so...I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I was going to.

@Petsounds & JD - Amen!

Riddler 12:43 PM  

Answer me this: So, people get locked up in jail or prison. But a prisonER is the one locked up, whereas a jailER is the one doing the locking up. ?????

Crimson Devil 12:53 PM  

Also no fan of cross-referencing, makes my head hurt.
Did enjoy reference to CARLA & NORMie, classic ACCENT, incl his memorable theory of why beer makes one smart.
Also liked reference to Wile’s source.
Admirable construct, but a slog to solve.

JC66 12:58 PM  


Thanks for the 15X15 themeless.

I really enjoyed the solve and don't understand why the NYT passed on it.

Teedmn 1:03 PM  

I kind of ignored the cross-referencing in the puzzle - as I filled in an edge answer, I'd look to see how it fit in but otherwise paid little attention except at 39D. I had 16D in place and decided 39D must be DOWNsize. Can you believe I had to have STARSKY come to my rescue?

Otherwise, only AMBIENT sound before NOISE created any problem. I now have HODA Kotb's name firmly in the crosswordese repository of my brain and also Hannah ARENDT. WAHOO!

Brandon Koppy, nice job and congrats on the POW over at xwordinfo.com!

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

I guess it's one thing for us pencil on paper folks to kvetch about this 'answer with answer' nonsense, since there're only so many write-overs that work. for the app-solvers, I don't see the issue: just keep typing in letters until it works. not so much of a pain.

old timer 1:15 PM  

Had to come here to fully grok the CYCLE. Otherwise, it was pretty Easy. I don't like having to jump around the puzzle, either, but I think the clever theme justified it.

When I was young, there were three ACCENTS in BOSTON. People knew the standard American ACCENT, though natives didn't speak it, it was what they heard on TV. There was the upper-crust accent, spoken on Beacon Hill and parts of Back Bay, also traditional in New York: Pahk the car in Hahv'ard Yahd. My prep school principal, a Saltonstall, spoke with that accent. And then there was the BOSTON ACCENT you heard at Filene's, and likely from your cab driver: Paak the caa in haavad yad! I could not understand a word of it at age 13, traveling with my mother. Asking where the subway station for Back Bay was, a store clerk told me to take the Paak Street exit. I had to beg her to please translate that for me.

oisk17 1:20 PM  

Despite being a fairly ardent football fan, I mind-locked on Tony Romo. I first wrote "Rome." Then I considered "Roma". Arrivederci winning streak! Somehow, "Romo" never popped into my head. Didn't use my noodle, and had udom, (are udom? pretty much...) emes. Just awful, on my part.

The puzzle was kind of cute, although I didn't notice the perimeter path until I came here.

sharon ak 1:25 PM  

Found this difficult for a Wednesea. Lots of PP I didn't know. But the theme was sort of fun.
pretty sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd been able to print it out. Then I would have seen that the chain of word answers were all around the edge.
Doing it on line the way it appears on my NYT subscription drives me nuts.
Only a portion of the clues show at any time so I'm constantly having to scroll up or down to find them. So didn't notice where the themes were located. More fun once knew.

Mr. Benson 1:30 PM  

"Of old"??? I still sometimes travel to catch post-Jerry DEAD acts!

(Yes, I'm aware I'm addressed rather rudely in the song "Candyman"....)

JD 1:37 PM  

@Riddler, I think the answer might be that Enlist, Parole, and Train are verbs that somehow call for an EE to make them a noun. Prisoner didn't start out that way since being prissy isn't a crime.

But who thought this stuff up in the first place? Still, if you call the person who Enlisted the Enlister, what do you call the person who did the Enlisting?

(We would like to thank the constructor for this little linguistic distraction.)

sixtyni yogini 1:47 PM  

Though I dislike puzzles w annoying cross referencing and agree w/Sharon ak - it’s worse on line!), once I got the theme, I really enjoyed it. Good reason to break the rules and do the annoying thing. 😎👍🏽😎

Masked and Anonymous 1:48 PM  


And another thing …
The themer cross-referencin didn't bother m&e much. It all had a pattern that it followed -- so I hardly noticed, once I caught on early to the mcguffin.

fave themer: DEAD HEAD. Altho, also kinda neat to have a Down puzanswer of DOWN. Plus, the two LIFEs have a nice 'tude to em.

@JC66: Thanx. But, do not no way blame the Shortzmeister. I just built that there 15x15 themeless a coupla days ago. The "too desperate for the NYT" judgment came from yours truly, alone. The bottom SE corner and 38-A and 26-A seemed to take it out of the pro-leagues runnin. But, I do have this other one done, that's pretty day-um sparkly clean …


Anonymous 1:57 PM  

@old timer:

I grew up in the West part of the state, and lived in the North End for a couple of years, but I seem to recall that Southie (never got there, as it happens; way before the gentry moved in) had it's own way of speaking. True?

Anonymous 2:06 PM  


the only rule in English, esp. the Yankee variation: 'there are no rules'.

kitshef 2:17 PM  

What could be better than an M&A 15x15? Just possibly, a Nancy Thursday? Have to wait and see.

ghostoflectricity 2:20 PM  

In addition to Rex's cavils about this particular puzzle, I'm a little irked that the SE corner had HEAD/DEAD rather repeating "DEAD" as happened in the NW corner with "LIFE." I thought this was going to be some kind of symmetry in the puzzle- my bad.

Having said that, I'll give some autobiographical info on why I like the life-cycle theme. In 2012, age 19 1/2, my old sweet kitty girl Tess went to feline heaven. I grieved, waited a few months, then went to the local animal shelter. I adopted a beautiful calico whose previous family (which included cat-allergic members) had named her "Roxie." I thought Roxie was a silly name for a cat, and she reminded me a little of dear departed Tess. I named her Samsara (Sam or Sammy for short), meaning "cycle of life" in Sanskrit and an important concept in Dharmic religious traditions. She's been a boon companion ever since.

Barbara S. 2:29 PM  

I often dislike cross-referencing in puzzles, but I found the theme answers so straightforward that I just scooted around the perimeter. It was a fast solve in general, maybe too easy for a Wed. but fun. I wondered at first if there was a bi-directional element to the themers. Along the top, both LIFEBOAT and SHOWBOAT work. On the right side, you have DOWNPLAY and DEADPLAY. DEAD PLAY as two words is a play whistled dead by a referee, and my stepson was telling me recently about DEADPLAY (as one word), a project to do with videogame preservation – maybe too niche for the NYTXW. On the left side, FACETIME and LIFETIME are both good. It’s only the bottom that doesn’t work, as you can’t make much sense out of GAME HOME. Anyway, clearly the whole idea originated with me and has nothing to do with the puzzle!

Good to see Hannah ARENDT. At one time she was a frequent visitor.

@Z (10:43) has already pointed out some groupings I liked (he didn’t): ROMO AND ROME. IMAM, MOMA and EMMA. EON, ENOS and AÑOS (hi@Roo!). Instead of “Me Tarzan, you Jane” we have “I MIN, U DON.” And, hey, maybe the ENLISTER became a SNIPER.

****SB ALERT****
@Pamela, @TTrimble, @OffTheGrid
I’m going crazy with the SB. I’m missing just one word and I can’t crack it. AARGH! Somebody, please get QB and show me that it can be done!

old timer 2:42 PM  

Hmm. Never knew about Southies back then, but I think they spoke with the working-class Boston accent, only more so. Heavily Irish, too, I've heard.

I meant to say something about ENLISTER. As clued it was fair enough -- a person who enlists. Enlistee literally means one who has been enlisted, perhaps by a recruiting sergeant. The "ee" is a French past participle, often used in English -- a divorcee is a women who has been divorced (by a husband or more generally by the court).

A trainee is someone who is being trained by a trainer or some sort of boss. An evacuee, someone who has been evacuated, though I think an evacuator is actually a farm machine. But you could say fire departments act as evacuators. Joe Biden is the nominee, the man who has been nominated; the nominators are delegates from across the country (and wasn't that a lovely panorama of delegates last night).

Whatsername 3:00 PM  

@GILL (11:33) YOU and your sisters misbehaving?? Surely not. About those fires, yikes, scary business. I have relatives near Redding, and it’s smoky there too. Stay safe.

@Nancy (11:58) I always look forward to Thursdays but now even more so. I am thinking great things in store.

DigitalDan 3:32 PM  

Neat idea. I kinda enjoyed it. Made up green paint like Email Blast was a bit annoying. I'm not sure there is a well understood term for that behavior.

pabloinnh 3:34 PM  

My laptop is back from the factory. It died with two weeks left on the warranty, and they did everything for free, but it sure took a while.

Now if we get a rebus tomorrow, I'll start believing in a Supreme Being again.

JC66 3:52 PM  


Welcome back...you were missed.

Barbara S. 4:03 PM  

****SB ALERT****
Happy ending -- I just got QB! It can be done today. Give it a whirl if you're so inclined.

GILL I. 4:05 PM  

Double YAYS. @Nancy will beguile us with a Thursday (I'm sure)....and @pablo is back. Now...does anyone know where @Quasi and @Susie Q are hidding out?

CDilly52 4:16 PM  

ROFLMAO @Frantic!!! Don’t hold back, give us your unvarnished opinion. You are today’s “anti-Lewis,” and I absolutely adore reading you both every day. Best laugh I have had in days - lot longer!

CDilly52 5:28 PM  

I am a mashup of @Lewis and @Frantic today. The lookie-loo-ism as an element doesn’t bother me if it is clever and if used as a theme, the theme is tight. Today the theme wasnan epic fail. No cohesiveness and no real zing. The double word “error” really set my teeth on edge immediately and upon reflection, could have been transformed into a clever “violation” perhaps if the LIFE CYCLE theme (if theme it be) were carried through by having repeat words at all the corners or perhaps just in the NW and SE, but alas, no.

Some weakfish things for me include the no-tilde ANOS, SMUT (do we have to?) and the TVMA is just a place filler to me.

On the other hand, reference to Wile E. Coyote’s toys/comeuppance a brought back such good memories of Saturday morning cartoons. If the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show were on today, I would watch it! Those are art.

Speedy solve for me-half my usual Wednesday time. Only real slow down was BOAT yard followed by BOAT SHOp-sheesh-really slow on the uptake there. Wanted yAHOO (which made me consider BOAT quay for a hot second) and that corner was the only slowdown.

All in all not unpleasant but honestly the @Lewis and @Frantic entries made the day for me. Thanks gentlemen!

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle because it kept me going and wondering. Also, for such a constraint with the words around the perimeter, the fill was excellent. Overall, was a pleasure to solve. Very impresssive, Brandon.

Anonymous 6:50 PM  

40 years ago (no idea about now), the working class accent would have said that you can't pack your ca in Havud Yad. All the a's pronounced as in the word as or ad.

Pamela 7:02 PM  

@M&A- I got your puzzle, but haven’t done it yet. Ive been distracted, but will get there later. Thanks!

****SB ALERT******

@Barbara S- A few minutes ago I came here with one word missing, to see if anyone had gotten to QB yet. If not, I was planning to quit. But you came to the rescue and gave me reason to slog on. I went back and thought really, really hard- and voila! I made it! It feels great, it’s been a while.

Xcentric 7:26 PM  

Tedious round of cross-referencing. Up down sideways. End result interesting, but no wow moment.
Does orate alternate with eke on the big crossword editors calendar?
Maybe someone should do a crossword consisting only of words used way too often like eke, orate, ole, ooh, aah, ahh, ohh, eon, era, and on and on ad nauseam?
Or, someone could do a puzzle that doesn’t contain a single time worn word of crosswordese.

Ambiguity of one signing up had me for a second. Was still trying to work out 7d, had Lincoln MKX in my mind, but obviously didn’t fit.

Otherwise, an easy solve.

RooMonster 7:39 PM  

@Nancy said Next Thursday, so stop getting your hopes up for tomorrow.
She's starting to piss me off at how many puzs she's getting published! 😋😁 (Kidding @Nancy, I'm happy for you!)

RooMonster Living The Vicarious Accepted Puzs Life Guy

Barbara S. 8:11 PM  

****SB ALERT****
@Pamela 7:02
Hey, yay you -- congrats! I hope some others will join us. It's the first time in a while they gave us a manageably sized list.

Z 8:31 PM  

@Barbra S 2:29 - Yeah, the line between bug and feature can be pretty blurry. It was ROME/ROMO that made it sub-optimal for me. All the four letter M words would have been fine for me otherwise

@M&A - Only one true moment of desperation. BTW - I'm "anonymous" with the 1175 score. I didn't think I needed a mask for this.

thefogman 10:09 AM  

Fun to solve, but too easy for a Wednesday.

spacecraft 11:05 AM  

So, the repeating of a word within a grid is a no-no--except when it isn't. I solved easily enough, but thought: this can't BE...can it? Having the two LIFEs certainly completed the puzzle, but--oh well, having nothing better to offer, I let it stand. C'mon, guys, either a thing is allowed or it isn't. Make up your minds.

Other than that I have little to quibble about. The CYCLE, perfectly placed in the center, ties everything together. Sure, there are LOTS of fours, but this theme will do that. Give Rhea Perlman, CARLA of "Cheers," DOD. Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:24 AM  


For a TIME on that TV SHOW, boys,
she’d go AFTER any CLEAN gent,

--- NORM!!

leftcoaster 3:16 PM  

This is a case of overdone cleverness:

Too many cross-references added some confusion to the LIFE CYCLE theme, which was obscured in the process. Otherwise, was able to fill in the grid CLEANly with no cheats or errors.

The ROMO/ENOS/BLAST cluster in the middle-west was the last part of the grid to FALL. Just below, FOY was outlier of the day.

Though cross-references tend to be my least-favored features of puzzling, this time they were simple and easy enough to deal with.

All told, have to say that this is a pretty impressive (if confusing) puzzle.

strayling 5:12 PM  

It reminded me of a game we played as children, called the "Tennis-Elbow-Foot Game". Each player took turns and had to say a word which followed on from the previous to make a two word phrase". I think it might even have been part of a TV quiz show at one time.

So this one gets a thumbs up from me for happy memories of road trips.

Diana, LIW 6:49 PM  

So is it Wed or Thurs? Come on Will, I count on the puz to let me know the day of the week!

Reminded me of "GHOST" kinda. OK - it is Wednesday - no so tough.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Diana, LIW 6:51 PM  

And hey - I'm not going to complain about getting two LIFEs!

Lady Di

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