Arm-flapping dance of the early 1970s / WED 9-30-20 / Chess whizzes for short / Country whose flag is solid red with emerald pentagram

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Constructor: Erik Agard and Andy Kravis

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (high 4s) (oversized grid, 16x15)

THEME: FOUL LANGUAGE (62A: Profanity ... or what 17-, 24-, 36- and 52-Across start with?) — phrases where the first word can also be a synonym of "foul" (as in "smelly"):

Theme answers:
  • RANK AMATEURS (17A: They're the opposite of consummate professionals)
  • STINKING RICH (24A: Disgustingly wealthy)
  • RIPE OLD AGE (36A: Wonderfully high number of years to have lived)
  • FUNKY CHICKEN (52A: Arm-flapping dance of the early 1970s)
Word of the Day: "NANETTE" (42D: Hit 2018 Netflix stand-up special for Hannah Gadsby) —
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is a live comedy performance written and performed by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, which debuted in 2017. The work includes social commentary (especially about LGBTQ and women's perspectives, and mental illness), evocative speech punctuated by comedy and emotive narration of Gadsby's life, learnings and what her story offers to the world. In June 2018, Netflix released a video of Gadsby's performance of the work at the Sydney Opera House. Gadsby's live performances and the video have received critical acclaim for casting light on the realities behind several success stories that are only told from singular perspectives, and reflecting on inequality and oppression. In April 2019, the special won a Peabody Award. In September 2019, Gadsby won Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Nanette at the annual Primetime Emmy Awards. (wikipedia)
• • •

Spent much of this solve annoyed that they made a Tuesday puzzle so hard. Only after I was done did I realize it was not a Tuesday puzzle. Still, felt tough, especially the NW, where I absolutely died. I could not get traction, so help me. Starting off a puzzle is often the hardest part (after all, that's the one point at which you truly have nothing to go on), but wow right out of the box I wanted "AND HOW!" instead of "I'LL SAY" (both of them equally hilariously olde-timey "Our Gang"-y expressions that no one really says anymore except in some kind of quaint ironic way) (1A: "You've got THAT right!"). Couldn't decide between AYE or YEA (6D: Congressional approval). Had no zero none no idea what a LUKE Bryan was (3D: ___ Bryan, "American Idol" judge). Couldn't decide WRATH or ANGER (20A: Ire). Needed many crosses to see GRAPPA (14D: Italian brandy). And had no idea how to take the clue at 14A: Band follower (GROUPIE)—I thought it was going to be something like "word that can follow 'band'." Didn't know intended meaning of "band," didn't know intended meaning of "follower." Just a straight-up train wreck up there. NE also stumped me a bit to start. GMS is not an abbr. I know (though I can infer that it stands for "grandmasters") (11A: Chess whizzes, for short). Couldn't get to "OOH!" from 16A: "Intriguing!" Winced after finally getting GOT WIND (which looks kinda awful on its own) (11D: Learned (of)). No idea how to take "buns" in 35A: Some buns (UPDOS). If we're talking hair, then *all* buns are UPDOS. It's a weird clue. So all my green ink* is up top. Down below, the only issues I had were ZAGS for ZIGS (44A: Makes a sharp turn), and ... just a "???" reaction to 70A: What "radio wave," "foregone" and "main event" all hide (STATES). Not a fan of cryptic clues like this. I love cryptic puzzles, but only when I know that they are cryptic puzzles. It's a contractual thing—I did not agree to cryptic clues. So this kinda clue feels cheap to me. Needlessly cutesy. Out of order. 

The theme, though, is fun. I mean, very simple, Monday-type theme, but well done for what it is. Take a common phrase, use it as a revealer in a way that twists the meaning of the phrase. Get together a spot-on set of themers. TADA! Plus I got to remember "SIR DUKE," which is never not a good thing. "Songs in the Key of Life," man. It's the antidote.

Gonna go read in bed so I don't have to hear about how the stupid debate went. I hope you all are well. Happy last day of September.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*After I solve the puzzle, I print it out and mark it up with a green felt-tip pen. I tend to highlight trouble areas, so "green ink" mostly signifies trouble

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:03 AM  

Easy-medium. Delightful, smooth and cheeky, liked it a bunch!

Frantic Sloth 12:09 AM  

I don't know. Either I'm starting to catch on to EA's style or this was uncharacteristically simple. Maybe a little of both? (One hopes!)

I enjoyed the theme and the placement of the revealer very much. The themers were primo - not your tired old everyday green painty dreck. Just a beauty.

Thank you, Erik and Andy! More like this please!

Very happy to see Hannah Gadsby and NANETTE, although "stand-up special" might be an oversimplification of that particular show. Anyone who's seen it would know what I mean. And if you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it...with caveats. Basically, it ain't just comedy and she can be brutally frank about very uncomfortable topics.

Now, "Douglas" (her latest special) on the other hilarious. No caveats with my recommendation there!

A clip from "Douglas"

Another clip from "Douglas"


Harryp 12:12 AM  

The constructors are certainly not rank amateurs, and I enjoyed this nice Wednesday puzzle. I got GRAPPA, LONGEST and SPARSE right away, so no problems in the NW, SKEW, PARA in the center, and GM was no problem in the NE, so to me this skewed easy throughout. Well below Wednesday Average.

Pete 12:25 AM  

I must have gone through 3 copies of SITKOL in my day, and nothing can pick me up quite like hearing a song from it out of the blue. Loved the puzzle, loved the song of the day. Still hated the day. Puzzle was timely, being about things that stink.

Unknown 12:32 AM  

Can you explain the cryptic clue please?

Pamela 12:39 AM  

I got the drift at 24A, thought Eeeww, and mentally held my nose for the rest of the solve. I was surprised to find that Rex worked so hard- I sailed through most of it, but then got really, really stuck in the NE. That corner ended in a DNF. At first I tried knoWINg for 11D. At that point I didn’t have much else beyond the themer and GLANCE, which I decided must be wrong because of the 2 C’s. Even after adding UPDOS and filling in the other two Downs, I was completely stumped for the first 3 letters. I had nOH and oRU and no idea how to fix it until coming here. GOTWIND- huh, it gave me WIND.

Good puzzle, even though frustrating and unsavory in feeling. And so crunchy in that one corner that I could have broken a tooth. In that sense, kinda like the debate.

Anoa Bob 12:47 AM  

I need help. I can't unsee this stuff. Yeah, I'm talking POCs a plenty here. There are the two-POCs-with-one-S variety starting with the ends of 13D SHUSHES and 35A UPDOS, continuing with 54D IDLES and 69A NETS and rounding things out with 46D GARAGES and 70A STATES. All those are nothing burger S squares that could just as well be black squares for all that they add to the puzzle.

There's also a sprinkling of run of the mill POCs here and there like PASSERS, DYES and ZIGS, but the one that put a major damper on my solve buzz was the themer that needed a letter count boost to match its symmetrical counterpart. RANK AMATEUR is not quite up to the task. POC to the rescue.

I don't know if modern medicine has any answers for my affliction. Maybe electroconvulsive shock therapy? Or maybe my RIPE OLD AGE means it's too late for this CHEETAH to change his spots.

egsforbreakfast 1:40 AM  

Liked the puzzle, although it was a total pushover for me. Just one of those wheelhouse deals.

Didn’t like the 46D clue (Auto-tune sites?). The hyphen in Auto-Tune seems to make it a single adjective, like saying auto-tune radio, whereas it really means site for tuning an auto. Leave out the hyphen CHARACTER and it’s fine.

Love the 48A patriotic chant of U SAUSA, U SAUSA! Can’t wait for my next MAGA rally to try it out. Hopefully the mouth-foaming evidenced at tonight’s debate will have abated.

An eyebrow was raised and a lascivious thought or two suppressed over the 52A FUN KY CHICKEN.

All-in-all, a job well done by Messrs. Agard and Kravis.

TTrimble 2:01 AM  

Not all buns are updos: with some buns, the hair is combed back and bunned in the back of the head. (How do I know? I used to bun my daughter's hair for ballet when she was too young to do it herself. I got to be not too bad at it. Yes, my Lydia is also a talented dancer. (-: .)

(Aside: with COVID-19, they're not putting on the yearly Nutcracker at her studio, and so for the first time in some years, I'm not reprising my role as Herr Drosselmeyer. That's been a fun thing to with my daughter and her company. I'm not a dancer myself, but I can ham it up on stage without much prodding...)

I also found the puzzle a bit resistant, and not all that enjoyable to be honest: the words didn't speak to me. I did like GRAPPA as I think it's an interesting drink, and it's always nice to see a Stevie Wonder reference (SIR DUKE, of course). But the theme is redolent of something unpleasant (for the obvious reason) and I found the fill a little boring. Oh well. Could be I'm just tired.

Gotta hit the hay. Get up early tomorrow. Sigh.

Anonymous 2:07 AM  

First theme answer I got was "Funky Chicken," so I naturally expected the revealer to be the groaner "Fowl Language," which would have been a lot more fun!

Roth 2:20 AM  

It just show how different puzzles are for different people. I thought was easy, with its refreshing absence of TV stars, Harry Potter and Star Wars reference, and football names, all of which have me on the rocks, frequently. YES to SIR DUKE!

Coniuratos 2:31 AM  

My favorite mistake today was having most of 59A from crosses, but misreading "Religion" as "Region". Sitting here like, "Islay? Is a Sura something to do with Scotch? Or are they Burns poems?"

Betty Crocker 2:44 AM  

Rex & TTrimble: Not all buns are hair-related. You can buy a cinnamon bun at Dunkin Donuts and eat it.

chefwen 2:45 AM  

Should have timed myself on this one, but solving on paper and timing doesn’t work out well when you have to pause to throw a ball for the pup. Anyhoo, tore through this one very quickly. After RANK and STINK I knew what was afoot.

GRAPPA can pretty much take paint off your walls, God only knows what it does to your stomach, nasty stuff. One taste was enough for me.
A steady diet of that and you’ll never get to that RIPE OLD AGE.

Fun and fast Wednesday.

Loren Muse Smith 3:32 AM  

For some reason, I had no trouble with most of the areas Rex mentions – pretty easy solve.

Kept going back and looking at the vowel jam of KAUAI. Vaguely pictured a little bottle of Kauai aioli sauce. Seven vowels in a row. Moved on to ponder. . . .

ACAI. Emerging from the rabbit hole I went down looking into the pronunciation, I’ll dust off and report that most places advise it’s /ah sah EE/. But a couple other places like /AH sah EE/. Whichever, that C is soft, and its helpful cedilla I guess didn’t make the flight over to English. Caveat emptor – if you find yourself in a little vegan restaurant with your woke daughter, don’t be seduced by that gorgeous ACAI bowl. Its appeal is only skin-deep. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more disappointed with something I’ve eaten out. One-note, one-dimensional. . . it tasted like unflavored, multi-colored shaved ice.

Loved, loved, loved the clue for STATES. I have a collection of such word searches that I created for my niece and nephew. Finding words camouflaged among the letters of a viable phrase is somehow more thrilling than finding words slipped into the traditional word search grid of nonsense letters.

“Wow, look at the time! I really should be going!” If more than twice a week, you hear these words as you join a group, you need to up your game, man. I scurry away from Mr. X, who talks only about Florida college football, Mr. Y, who talks only about his time in the military band, Ms. Z, who talks only about her new beau. And then I turn around and do the exact same thing by constantly running my mouth about linguistics. Mea culpa.

Timely theme. I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. The brie that is available to me is not the best. At all. I always leave it on the counter for a few days to ripen it up, stinkify it a little bit. So yesterday I took a little ammonia-y wedge in for a snack. Pulled the bottom of my mask out – this ends badly - popped that puppy in my mouth and walked into second period. Oh. My. God. There was no escape. And I couldn’t pull my mask out for some relief ‘cause honestly it was so bad I was afraid that what wafted out would actually be visible.🤢

goldbug 3:51 AM  

A rare one where the themers helped me get the fill rather than the other way around. Felt stuck in the NW until I got RANKAMATEURS with only one cross (the second A). Sailed through the rest. And yes, delighted to see NANETTE in there. I cried when I watched that. I cried when I watched Douglas too (live!) but from straight-up laughter. ("That... was a DECISION.")

Charles Flaster 5:32 AM  

Great fun and smooth solve.
RIPE OLD AGE was favorite themer and says it all .
SHUSHES had a wonderful clue.
Thanks AK and EA.

Hungry Mother 5:59 AM  

Slow start, then quickly done, once I learned to spell MOROCCO. I saw three CHEETAHS on my Safari in 2015.

Lewis 6:26 AM  

@loren -- FYI, the clue for STATES was written by Will and co. (The constructors credited him in their notes.)

The opening words to the theme answers may have been FOUL, but the full answers were fun and fresh, music to my ears, more melodious than odious.

And yes fresh. All those theme answers except for RIPE OLD AGE are NYT debuts. And my three favorite clues (for UPDOS, SUIT, and STATES) haven’t been used in the NYT before.

Took me a while to get GM as grand master, and speaking of G, the puzzle had perfect Wednesday grit, not to mention five of my favorite answers – GRAPPA, GLUG, ENIGMA, GLANCE, GOT WIND -- contained that letter. Thank you, gentlemen, for an offering that left me smiling.

All in all, IMO, this puzzle reeked with excellence.

ChuckD 6:29 AM  

Smooth solve - theme was not overly elegant but well constructed and fun. For the most part - the remaining fill was solid. My approach here was all over the grid so thought early there might be a connection with FUNKY CHICKEN and FOUL in the revealer. I’ve never liked the term STINKING RICH for some reason. Learned MOROCCOs flag and BUNDT is so cool to see spelled out. USURPED is one of the great words in the language.

When I visited my father’s family outside of Assisi - I watched them make GRAPPA. Back then it had not become a thing yet - just alcohol fermented from the leftovers of the winemaking process. They typically drank it resentino after dinner - finishing the espresso and drinking a shot of grappa from the same cup.

I liked this puzzle overall - pleasant Wednesday after a cringeworthy debate last night.

Anonymous 6:31 AM  

Names of USA States hidden in the clue words. Radio Wave - Iowa. Foregone - Oregon. Maine Event - Maine.

Music Man 6:54 AM  

Thanks for the explanation

Z 7:18 AM  

@Lweis - “Blamed” you mean. I swear that as I get older the whole “letters make words” thing gets less and less interesting to me and I get grouchier and grouchier about it. Still, Enola Holmes is fun and features lots of anagramming. It’s less annoying when it’s being done fictionally by somebody else.

***Cryptic Clue Spoiler Alert***
@12:32 - radIO WAves - Iowa
fOREGONe - Oregon
MAIN Event - Maine

@Anoa Bob - You notice POCs so I don’t have to, so your affliction serves the greater good. First thing I pondered was the POC situation today compared to yesterday. Today’s puzzle struck me as less besotted, but I had faith that you would let me know.

@TTrimble - I was going to argue with you that all buns put the hair up so are always UPDOs, but then @Betty Crocker explained that not all buns are made of hair, explaining the clue. Am I the only one who read @Betty Crocker’s explanation and immediately pondered Princess Leia’s buns (the hair, that is).

🖐🏽 for Stevie Wondering why Rex found this so hard. The NW just wasn’t that hard for me. I don’t know LUKE Bryan from Bryan Adams, but somehow I used the Crossworld Force and plopped LUKE right iN. Qom was in the news not that long ago (don’t ask me why), GROUPIE was my first thought, and I’LL SAY was half filled in the second time I looked at the clue. The rest of the puzzle followed suit. Nothing was Monday Automatic, but the only real pauses were when Angel Food wouldn’t fit where BUNDT belonged and not sussing out TRAPEZE STATES until after the crosses gave me the answers. I liked today’s swearing better than yesterday’s and I really like the bonus chuckle at GOT WIND.

@TTrimble late yesterday- Thanks for the link. I love it when experts get hoisted on their own petards. I woke up to my Twitter feed being slightly aghast (well only just some historians) that the AP Stylebook uses a terminal apostrophe for the possessive when the noun ends in S (so the position of Kamala Harris is “Harris’ position”).

@anon - Your last post seems to indicate you missed something. Again, you can defend the answer as a predicate nominative, but you don’t need to. Second, unless you’re the queen, don’t use the predicate nominative, it is stilted and overly formal. Third, there’s no such thing as “the definitive guide to English usage.”

OffTheGrid 7:21 AM  

@Anoa Bob. POC's don't particularly bother me but you make a point. The exception is including SHUSHES. It's not a POC and if you made the "S" a black square you would have SHUSHE.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

Some bad guesses made this harder than it should have been leopard before CHEETAH, tunisia before MOROCCO, GLUb before GLUG, aRabIAN before IRANIAN, aye before YEA.

I can never remember how to spell KAUAI. I want it to be Kawai or Kuaie or Kuwai.


And thumbs down on the revealer.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

I seldom manage Wednesays and I was all set to just ignore this one because the first line was beyond me, but I spotted PARA and PIE and TWOS while eating lunch and just kept going. Crosses got me over several bumps and with RIPE OLD AGE (which I think I'm enjoying right now) I soon got the theme and was all done before I realized it. Lovely puzzle.

pabloinnh 7:58 AM  

"Hey, I'm not a speed solver but this one was as fast as I could write in the letters." Put me on that team today. ILLSAY led instantly to IRANIAN and LONGER and away we go, to quote the late Mr. Gleason. SCARCE for SPARSE and had to wait to see if it would be ZIGS or ZAGS, but that was about it for hangups. Also was thinking after RANK and STINK that we might be getting some kind of ___NK theme. Nope, it was better than that, and I'm with Frantic in always wanting to see the revealer in its proper place.

I've been doing some USA Today xwords and this felt very similar. possibly because EA is the editor.

Thanks for the fun, guys, but for me it was too much of a bp medium fastball right over the plate. Hope tomorrow is devilish.

Blackhat 7:59 AM  

8 names, 2 foreign words.....

Sir Hillary 8:09 AM  

Fun puzzle.

To me, it's filthy RICH. As written, that answer brought this to mind.

It's not ERRING to say Stevie Wonder's 1971-76 run of album is one of the greatest stretches in music history.

ow a paper cut 8:44 AM  

This was great fun to do with my morning coffee.

RooMonster 9:01 AM  

Hey All !
Noticed the 16 wide right out of the gate, so brain still functioning!

Top half of puz quite tougher than bottom half. After my initial (wrong way to do puzs [Re:Rex]) run-through of Acrosses and Downs, only had bottom half stuff in. So started there, and worked North. Little by little, stuff began filling, and finished ERRor FREE!!

Neat themers, got FUNKY CHICKEN first, then thought the other themers would be an adjective-animal pairing. RIPE OLD AGE got that notion out of the ole brain. For Revealer, put in FO_L, and waited to see if it was W or U. Aha, said I, after the third themer, FOUL it is.

GRAPPA, wanted either ARIPPA or CRIPPA at first, not sure where those came from. Ended up with iNGER, chuckled a bit, and changed that I to A.

Thanks to the STATES explainers, couldn't get my mind to twist that way to figure it out. 😊

**SB (small) post**
Missed two YesterBee. One of them was impossible.

Three F's
GOT WIND could've been another themer. Har.

Rug Crazy 9:02 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

So, Rex's complaint about this puzzle is that you forgot what day it was. Why care so much about whether a puzzle has the exact level of difficulty you expect for a certain day? I don't get it.

Good puzzle, imo.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

Haven't read the blog yet, as per usual, but I betcha you all liked this one. Breezy, irreverent, and really, really colorful. The theme answers are so well chosen and so delightfully varied.

A word on 70A, my favorite clue. That's the kind of cluing you get in Cryptic Crosswords. So if you liked it, you might want to do some Cryptics once in a while. They're fun.

A word on SHUSHES. If only there had been someone around to do some of it last night. Then the evening might not have been nearly so FOUL.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

I live, and have previously lived, in areas with significant Italian population. And I've seen it mentioned in various teeVee shows, movies, and books. Yes, the on-line dictionary agrees that 'brandy' is descriptive, but GRAPPA's always been referred to as battery acid, or worse. VSOP it's not.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

I missed nothing. You're simply repeating your assertion. It does not grow stronger with repetition.
My answer doesn't depend on rewriting the sentence. Yours does.

mathgent 9:36 AM  

The debate reminded me of a scene in Butch Cassidy. The big guy challenges Butch to a fight for leadership of the gang. The gang forms a circle and the two meet in the middle. “Before we start,” Paul Newman says, “we need to discuss the rules.” “Rules?” the big guy says. “Rules in a knife fight?”

The puzzle was a romp. Lotsa sparkle. Erik’s brilliance shone through.

burtonkd 9:37 AM  

@ Frantic, the art history segment in Douglas was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Nannette was a tough watch for the second half - very moving and didn't bother me other than all the commentariat that announced this as the end of standup comedy, when it really just zigged into one woman show territory.

Is a man-bun an UPDO?

@egsforbreakfast, Auto-tune with a hyphen refers to the pitch correction app that when used sparingly, leads to pleasantly in-tune singing and when turned up to eleven leads to the robotic voice sound you hear in pop music, which has its own expressivity.

Room for alternative answers: Knowing for GOTWIND, One Century for RIPEOLDAGE, I do say for ILLSAY.

I think Rex got rusty after a day off.

Hidden states had Will Shortz all over it. Sunday NPR radio puzzle was that exact thing with state capitals. For some reason, I got none of them for the first time ever.

pmdm 9:42 AM  

When I see Eric's name, I expect the puzzle to be harder than usual. While this one felt hard to me, with effort I completed the solve without needing to look up any entires, which is rare on a Wednesday.

Usually I ignore entires that turn me off. For some reasone today the FOUL entries bothered my sensibilities. Perhaps just fallout from yesterday's "debate" or whatever you want to call it. My wife insists on watching presidential debates even though they aggravate her so much. Even though I can laugh at them, if not for her I never would have made it through yesterday. And after the whole thing was over, I learned nothing I didn't already know. At least now I know which country's red consists of solid red and an emerald pentagle. Not that that factoid won't go in one ear and out the other.

Now when is the PO going to deliver my ballot?

tea73 9:49 AM  

Like Rex, I had problems in the northwest so the first themer I got was the FUNKYCHICKEN when the revealer said FOULLANGUAGE, my first thought was FU? That's the theme?!!! I guess I spent too much of last night yelling at the TV.

Harryp 9:50 AM  

I got to thinking of the word RANK, and its uses, so I looked it up in my online Merriam Webster Dictionary. This unassuming word can be used as a Noun, Verb, or Adjective, and has meanings ranging from noun. "a degree or position of eminence or excellence" to adjective. "offensively gross or coarse". Then I googled words that can be used those three categories and found a list of 58 in the English language, none of which was RANK, so I guess the compiler of the list had inadvertently missed it. Impressive little word, isn't it?

William of Ockham 9:52 AM  

NW was unnecessarily, inappropriately and stupefyingly dense for no apparent reason in an otherwise super easy puzzle. Every single good puzzler I know to a man and woman have said so. Even Rex-o.

Spent 95% of my time there, so that kills any fun.

burtonkd 9:53 AM  

Non-technical Music post warning:

TTrimble from yesterday, thanks for the Marx brothers clip: forgot how funny that is. It is in a major key, or if you want to sound fancy by using the mode, Ionian. Interestingly, I remember being in Greece and seeing one of those road signs with several towns on it pointing to Phrygia this way, Locria that way and Lydia another. I smiled at thinking each town had its own scale that they would use for music gatherings, and I'm sure they each looked down on the peasants in the other towns for their inferior scales.

Never get tired of Sir Duke.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Sir Hillary,
All the guys in our audio department who went to music school--most Berklee-- squabble all the time about weel, everything. With one notable exception: they all agree that everyone regards Wonder with a singular respect. The jazz guys, the rock guys, the classical guys, vocalists, instrumentalists etc. The acclaim seems to be universal.

But for me, I'd go Bach 17-23 to `47
Mozart 1782-91
Beethoven 1800- `24

Stones 1968 to 71. That's right. I left the biggie off. Exile has too much stuff that doesn't hold up. I know, heresy. But I'm sick of genuflecting before that album. Give me Black and Blue, Some Girls, even Goats head Soup instead.
Who says so? I.

Unknown 9:58 AM  

I don't usually leave comments, but the animals that used to thrive on the prairies of North America are bison, not buffalo. They truly are two distinct animals.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

No, a man-bun is disgusting.

JC66 10:11 AM  

@Unknown 9:58

Home on the Range.

Bill 10:14 AM  

To expand Unknown's point:

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, buffalo and bison are distinct animals. Old World “true” buffalo (Cape buffalo and water buffalo) are native to Africa and Asia. Bison are found in North America and Europe.

According to the National Park Service, when early explorers came to North America—at which point there may have been as many as 60 million bison on the continent—they thought the animals resembled old world buffalo, and so they called them that. ... Bison came very close to extinction.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

For some reason, I blew through this one. Easy. Only got tripped up on the usurped-apt cross, which I should have gotten but was too impatient. Got states at the end from the crosses and still pondered it afterwards. Should have gotten that one, too. Liked this one a lot. Feel like a genius when Rex thinks it's tough but I don't! (We know, everyone - tell the bison thing to the early settlers and the citizens of Bison, NY!)

Barbara S. 10:24 AM  

The ODEs of Horace. Nothing brings back high school Latin class like XW puzzles. You probably know that "carpe diem" is from one of the Horatian ODEs, specifically Book I, poem 11. This is how Wikipedia summarizes it:

"The poet seeks to dissuade Leuconoe from giving heed to false arts of astrologers and diviners. It is vain to inquire into the future -- Let us enjoy the present, for this is all we can command. It closes with the famous line: "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero (Seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible.)"

My very stolid Latin teacher, Mr. Brown, must have harbored a soupçon of the romantic, because he favored the translation "pluck the flower of the day" over "seize the day." I've always preferred his version.

I could go on and on about "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" ("It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country"), another memorable quotation from Horace's ODEs, equally unforgettable when used to devastating effect by WWI poet, Wilfred Owen, but I'll spare you further literary incursions.

Whatsername 10:33 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Got off on the wrong foot with scarce for SPARSE and eye for AIM but overall easy and fun. Really liked the cryptic clue for STATES and speaking of - quite an apropos theme after last night’s spectacle. Never have I seen such a display of RANK ANGER from the STINKING RICH. God help the USA.

Unknown 10:38 AM  

I agree w/ Unknown @ 9:58
The "correct" answer should have been BISON. But easily inferable.
And those who shout USAUSA -- Are they really the "true" patriots, or are they just the xenophobic white folk who want to MAGA???

Those NITS aside, this was my fastest Wednesday ever, and it just felt easy peasy once I got a little traction. I think getting the first long across right off the bat, with no crosses, made the rest of the puz fall into place.

The constant bickering between Z and Anonymous used to be amusing. Now it's just getting old. But it's not as bad as last night's fiasco. What an embarrassment our nation has become. Putin must be smiling.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

Yeah... how did they get called BUFFALO?? They sure don't look like the African or Asian ones.

Sir Hillary 10:59 AM  

@Anon 9:53 -- I love these types of conversations. My lens is a little more 20th-century-focused, but I would never argue with anything that exalts Bach, Mozart or Beethoven.

To me, the Stones' incredible run from "Let It Bleed" through "Goats Head Soup" absolutely includes "Exile", but I see your point regarding its bloat. As you surely know, it was not that well-received at the time. I just love it, mostly because I love Keith, and it feels so much like his album. And Nicky Hopkins' barrel house rolls on "Rip This Joint" is my favorite rock music piano playing ever.

Other stellar runs, off the top of my head (all subjective, of course):
-- Van Morrison 1968-73. Astonishing creativity and breadth. Not sure there's a modern artist whose entire body of work I respect more. (Stevie, Stones, Van -- the early 70s really were salad days.)
-- Miles 1958-64. I only "discovered" jazz in the last 20 years. How did I live without it?
-- Prince, from "1999" through "Sign o' the Times". To me, he and Stevie stand alone as the ultimate modern musical polymaths. I imagine some of the classical stars were just as singular, but I don't know as much about them.
-- The Beatles, from "Rubber Soul" onward. Gee, how's that for going out on a limb?

Anyway, thanks for chiming in. Did I mention that I love these types of conversations?

TheOmnivorousReader 11:04 AM  

Speaking from experience, you CAN wear a bun down low at your neck, so thats not an updo. I take issue with Buffalo, though because the North American animal is a bison. Buffalo are old world critters.

Barbara S. 11:04 AM  

A few further observations:

• When I was about 10, someone gave my mother a BUNDT pan, something she’d never owned before. Much deliciousness ensued.

• I always forget LET, the call of a chair umpire. I don’t know how I can remember it. (Thank goodness it’s only 3 letters.)

• GRAPPA: I have an X-Rated story I could tell about the (only) time I ever drank GRAPPA (and it was to excess). LET’s just say I was young, adventurous and in Italy.

• I thought the clue for USURPED was either slightly wrong or missing something: “Unrightfully seized.” I don’t think a *thing* can be usurped, I think it has to be a position or an office. Or maybe someone’s due or rights? Perhaps the clue wasn’t required to go into all that, but it did seem incomplete to me.

@TTrimble (2:01 a.m.)
From now on I will always picture you as Drosselmeyer!

Stix 11:08 AM  

Flew thru this one. My best Wednesday time ever. GM absolutely stands for grand master. IM stands for international master and so on. Another great puzzle by Eric Agard!

TTrimble 11:08 AM  

Nolo contendere. I was thinking an updo is where the hair is gathered atop the head, but it appears I was wrong about that. Oh, I have much to learn.

On the other hand, when it comes to ballet, a major function of a bun is simply to get the hair out of the way: the hair is pulled taut and stowed away, as it were. So with that understood, a bun in that context has nothing to do with (beauty) fashion per se, whereas ordinarily UPDOS are understood in such a fashion context. So I think maybe an argument could be had, just not one I originally had in mind.

On a third hand, I'm not actually interested in continuing the argument! Mmm... cinnamon buns. I'm hungry.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Sir Hillary,
If you caught me on a different day, I might well include Exile. It just feels like everyone--not you-- I mean in general, all the wannabe cognoscenti are out prove their cred by extolling Exile because Sticky Fingers gets so much radio play. Or Let it Bleed is too obvious..
But you're so right. Exile is awesome. And Keef and Hopkins are owed much of the credit. Rocks off is the no-holds barred best opening track on any rock album. Let' see what our fellow inmates say about that.

Further confession, and I'll surely lose any allies, if I even had any, with this: I don't get Miles Davis. I want to. I've tried. Probably not hard enough. But so far, that M. Davis gene hasn't been activated. I'm sure the fault is mine. Probably why I prefer predicate nominatives. I fail all over.

As for these kind of convos. What's not to love?

jberg 11:24 AM  

I loved this. I skipped guessing at 1A, went with warp at 5A, looked at the next clue, blinked a couple timed, thought”we’ll I guess a grand master might be a GM, saw it worked with GOT WIND OF, so I took the plunge. The rest was easy. I eventually worked my way into the NW from below.

@Rex, never heard of GRAPPA? What kind of drinking man is that?

@Anoa Bob, you invented the term POC, so you get to define it— but up to now I thought a POC had to be plural, and that we needed another term for singular verbs. I like your usage better, now I think about.

I bet@Loren will beat me to it, but we’re in the USA, we speak American English, and in American English those animals are called BUFFALO. In British English they’re boufallo.

ghthree 11:25 AM  

Rex's uncertainty over "ILL SAY' and "AND HOW" remind me of my own experience in high-school German class with a similar expression "You can say that again." (No, that won't fit in today's puzzle, which hadn't been constructed then.)

I used the literal "Das kannst du wieder sagen." Next year, with two years of the language under my belt, I came up with the more idiomatic "Das lasst sich wiederholen." (Don't know how to do umlauts here.)

A few years later, I finally got it right: "Das sollt' ich meinen." Literally "I should mean that," but it connotes enthusiastic agreement.

A further follow-up: a decade or so later, while visiting friends in France, my wife and I heard our host ask his wife if she would like a drink before dinner. We were delighted by her response "Et comment!" Literally And how!"

This turned out to be a popular "in" joke among Anglophiles in Calais at the time.

One more nit: Most of Anoa Bob's "Plurals of Convenience" are not plurals but third-person singular forms of verbs. Maybe he should call them TPSOCs? YUCK!

Keep healthy, everybody.

Z 11:26 AM  

@Sir Hillary - Mostly agree with your list although "Exile" has never moved me the way it moves some. Now "Some Girls"... One of the greatest B-sides ever. From I ran 20 red lights in his honor to Bite the Big Apple. Don't mind the maggots,... just outstanding stuff. I remember seeing Bette Midler sing/writhe "Beast of Burden" on Johnny Carson. Just out there perfect. What say? Oh, I forgot, I'd add Barry Gordy - the Detroit years. I know I know, but one of the most influential non-performers ever IMHO.

@10:38 - I don't disagree.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

@Sir Hillary:

If you cleave to mid-century Miles, sample (the Amazon ratings do pretty well, as does the Penguin Guide) Jarrett's Standards Trio. Yes, these are 'old' tunes, and there's no squawking horns and the like, but a complexity of melody and harmony that's seldom (if ever) been matched. The 'Blue Note' 6 CD set is still in print, apparently, but not in stock at Amazon for a bit. It's a few bucks, but as the Penguin Guide said "it might be considered warts-and-all but for the fact there are no warts".

Xcentric 11:32 AM  

Wow. I am in awe of the constructors!
A theme tribute puzzle to President Trump’s behavior in the debate obviously submitted long before the actual event. Eerily prescient!
They even anticipated the shushes. His FUNKYCHICKEN gestures, how he SHAMED the office of the presidency, his GROUPIE followers, his LIMITED ability to control himself.
And all wrapped up in a really enjoyable puzzle.
Thank you Erik and Andy!!

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

But it's not as bad as last night's fiasco. What an embarrassment our nation has become.

I didn't watch, anticipating exactly what happened. After it was over, and sampling the 'Pundit Post-Game', I bet The Wife that The Orange Sh!tgibbon's (not my coinage, but I cleave) Twitter would soon have some version of...

"I DOMINATED the stage!!! Wallace and Biden are pussies!! I can't lose!!!!"

I don't Twit, so I'll have to wait for the 'Post-Game Pundits' to get me a timestamp of the event.

Joe Dipinto 11:37 AM  

Ahem. I must point out to @Rex and whoever else that the clue for 70a would *never* be found in a Cryptic puzzle. At least not in any I've ever done. The Puns & Anagrams puzzle, perhaps. But a cryptic, no. There's no definition of the answer in the clue, which is required. It is cheap and cutesy though, as @Rex said.

To further throw water on the proceedings: "Sir Duke" is one of the few Stevie Wonder songs that I really don't care for. The lyrics are kind of nonsensical, with accents falling on unaccented syllables in spots, plus I hate songs that list musicians' names as if that alone qualifies as a "tribute" to them. Yeah, it's got that catchy horn break – big deal.

JC66 11:37 AM  

American Buffalo

Per Wikipedia:

The American bison or simply bison (Bison bison), also commonly known as the American buffalo or simply buffalo, is an American species of bison that once roamed North America in vast herds

Per David Mamet:

Z 11:42 AM  

From American Heritage:
Word History: When most Americans hear the word buffalo, they probably think of the American bison. In fact, buffalo originally referred to the water buffalo (an animal that was introduced to western Europe from Asia in late antiquity) and other large bovid animals of Eurasia and Africa. The history of buffalo begins with the Greek word boubalos, “antelope.” The Romans borrowed this word as būbalus, “antelope.” In his work on natural history, however, the Roman author Pliny the Elder notes that the common people used būbalus to refer to the aurochs, the huge wild ox (now extinct) that once roamed northern Europe, and Pliny considered this to be a mistake. Eventually the Latin word, in its Late Latin form būfalus, became the name for the water buffalo when it was introduced to Europe. Būfalus developed into bufalo in Italian and búfalo in Portuguese and Spanish, and then English borrowed buffalo, with the sense “any of various species of large bovine animals,” from one or more of these languages. How did the word buffalo come to be the popular name for the American bison? When the English first began to visit and settle in North America, it is likely that most of them had never seen the European bison, or wisent, the closest relative of the American bison. The wisent had mostly vanished from western Europe in the Middle Ages, the victim of hunting and deforestation. The English were probably much more familiar with domestic water buffalo, and they may even have heard of the aurochs, and so when they encountered the American bison, many of them called it by the name of the largest bovine animal they had known before, the buffalo. Already in 1625, English writers were using buffalo to describe the bison of America.

To my way of thinking, 1625 is established enough unless you are a biologist.

@TTrimble - Again with the Princess Leia reference? Love the cinnamon buns.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

When I was about 10, a bottle of Southern Comfort fell and broke in the kitchen. Cleaning it up took all the wax off the floor! Imagining what that would do to my stomach, I vowed never to drink it.

JC66 11:46 AM  


That's what I said. ;-)

sixtyni yogini 11:47 AM  

Time comparisons aside (!) I thought it was easy and fun with a few interesting challenges. 👍🏽
(And the debate went exactly as this one expected with one exception, someone withstood the “ - - - tstorm”. Look forward to seeing this as answer to the clue “first 2020 presidential debate.” 😜)

jb129 11:48 AM  

I looked at this puzzle & thought "I'll never get this."

But it's only Wednesday & it's Eric (& Andy) so I hung out with it & enjoyed it thoroughly.

Thanks, Guys.

Ellen C 11:49 AM  

TY. I had the same puzzled expression even after the initial explanation. I did like this puzzle a lot, perhaps because I solved it more quickly than usual and didn't feel the urge to use the "check puzzle" function

Graham 11:59 AM  

Easy for me! 10:38

jb129 11:59 AM  

Nancy @ 9:28 - I've never tried cryptic puzzles or I'd never leave the house (which is the point these days, I guess).

Can you or anyone else on the blog explain them to me? (I hope no one makes fun of me!)

Masked and Anonymous 12:03 PM  

All rightie then … a gamy puz. Takes some double cheek to put out such a malodorous creation.

Kinda liked that there STATES clue. Puz within a puz.

Lotsa 7-long entries, for yer max-longest non-themers. faves: SIRDUKE. TRAPEZE. BUFFALO. CHEETAH. GLUG.
Didn't know: GRAPPA. LUKE [as clued]. Not too long a list. Puz still put up a fight tho, probably mostly becuz of all them 7-long pups in the corners. And the slightly oversized stink grid.

staff weeject pick: GMS. Plural abbreve chess (non-FOUL) lingo. Got it entirely from crosses, then figured out what it meant.

Always cool to see the grid start out with a black square. Gives it a nice, raised-by-the-wolves look. Only thing better would be a black square in just **one** corner. Wonder if anyone has ever tried that in a NYTPuz. It would be plumb absolutely mephitic.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Agard & Andy. Had a good time. U got game.

Masked & Anonymo10Us!

p.s. Many thanx to @Muse darlin, for warnin m&e off the strained/pureed/stomped ACAI bowl. I've always never wanted to try that.


Whatsername 12:15 PM  

@pmdm (9:42) I checked on my absentee ballot yesterday and here’s what I was told: September 22 was the first day they could be processed and processing takes 5 to 7 days. So hopefully any day now.

@BarbaraS (11:04) I remember when BUNDT pans became popular and all the recipes that followed. Always makes me think of the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ”It’s a caeck.”

@jb 129 (11:59) Thanks for asking. I’m curious about cryptics as well.

linac800 12:21 PM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle! Grokked the theme after the second themer... Good and well-placed revealer. About a minute under my average Wednesday time, over my first cup of coffee this morning.

Cheetah are wonderful animals - many years ago (ca. 1974) had the privilege of watching a mother feed a fresh kill to her two cubs. The dynamic was delightful - any perturbation in the quiet of the scene and she would chirp in a certain way, and the cubs would run and hide. When the coast was clear, a different chirp summonsed them back. We sat very quietly in our vehicle watching this. It was in a fairly untraveled area, so only 2-3 interruptions from other vehicles during that time. A real treat.

Thanks for a great puz.

TTrimble 12:26 PM  

Oh, forgot to respond to the other thing. I'm actually with you on writing, say, "Charles's son" and not "Charles' son", maybe for two reasons: (1) I did enjoy Strunk and White when I first read it, and this is their counsel, but more importantly (and this is probably their logic), (2) when saying it aloud, do you elide over that final s that marks the possessive? I wouldn't think so; it would sound weird and confusing. To me it would.

Prescriptive style guides (including Strunk and White) do have their place, of course, especially if one needs advice to write in a certain register of educated standard English, and their advice is often sound. But competent writers, from Shakespeare on down, have never let the more dogmatic rules get in the way, and it's well known how capricious some of the dogma can be. (Split infinitives, prepositions ending sentences, yada yada yada.) I've said it before on this blog: I recommend Language Log [that I had linked to], a group blog of professional linguists, as a bracing tonic for those prone to intone "Fowler", for example, as some sort of infallible ne plus ultra. The thing is, grammar is not quite the closed logical system some would like to think it is -- and these guys have the professional competence to make that kind of point convincingly (far better than I ever could).

Totally by the bye, but Language Hat, mentioned in the first article linked here, seems like a scarily smart dude. There's some essay by David Foster Wallace (whom I like, I should say) where he's reviewing a dictionary -- I think he was actually invited to write a review -- and gets, oh, let's say hoisted by the fact that in his prescriptivist frame of mind, he overreaches and doesn't quite know what he's talking about. Language Hat, for his part, is fed up with the nonsense and proceeds to PWN Wallace. (I think his criticisms are fair, but one can't help feeling a little sorry for Wallace, coming under the scrutiny of someone with superior knowledge in this sphere.)

Nancy 12:27 PM  

Ditto! Thanks for the comment. Now I don’t have to make it!

Sir Hillary 12:39 PM  


There is a lot of literature out there on what cryptics are, but at their heart they involve a different type of cluing, in which each clue has two components: a "standard" definitional component, and a wordplay component. This makes for clues that, compared to crossword clues, often look more tortured. The wordplay elements come in many forms -- embedded words (like today's 70A), anagrams, strung-together phrases, homophones, etc.

Also, the grids are designed differently, with many uncrossed squares.

Here's a simple example: Famous golfer writes good novel. In this case, the definitional component is "Famous golfer" and the wordplay component is "writes good novel". More precisely, the letters in "writes good" are rendered in a "novel" fashion -- that is, they are rearranged to spell TIGER WOODS, which is your answer and is of course the name of a "famous golfer".

I will stop there and say only that it took me years to become proficient at cryptics. It really feels to me like learning another language.

CDilly52 12:49 PM  

@Anoa Bob POCs? Always thought that meant People of Color. Clearly has something to do with unnecessary pluralization. Educate me.

Anoa Bob 1:00 PM  

The Anoa is a BUFFALO.

From POC doc (2013):

"I should mention that POC is not a grammatical term. It's a crossword term that means adding an "S", "ES", or dropping a "Y" and adding "IES", (whether the word be a noun or verb*) in order to boost the word's letter count and give it more grid space filling power. POCs make it easier to fill the grid.

*Often times the word getting an "S" or "ES" can be clued as either a noun or verb. LOVES would be an example. Clueing it as a verb rather than a noun doesn't change the fact that a POC has been used to boost the letter count and---I think it's worth repeating---make it easier to fill the grid."

jb129 1:03 PM  

Thank you Sir H for responding. I'll try - wish me luck.:

Nancy 1:06 PM  

@jb129 -- Why not study the parsing of Cryptic clues with a true master of the genre?

Frantic Sloth 1:06 PM  

After reading Rex (and before reading you all), it occurs to me that there might be such a thing as knowing too much about crossword puzzles. His tale of woe about the NW corner amused me from my high horse vantage point. Sometimes dumbing down one's thinking to the level of a bonehead like moi can be quite useful.

This pleases me.

Although, I admit that LUKE Bryan was a definite WhoTF/WhoOE for me.

Are "all buns" UPDOS? I think not. But someone who usually sports a "gulag chic" hairdo can't speak to that with any degree of certainty. A consultation with Mrs. Sloth (Hi, @Z!) backed me up.

I had to revisit STATES after completion to get the cryptic joke, but that just led to the highly treasured "Aha!" moment enjoyed by many. Unlike Rex I liked that, but his complaint is utterly valid IMHO.

@TTrimble 201am You? Hamming it up? Say it ain't so! 😉

@chefwen 245am I love the imagery of your multitasking pupword efforts. Quite adorbs.

@LMS Whoa, dude! Who knew Mrs. @Z was stepping out?? The unfortunate result of being an Ultimate Widow, I suppose.
Your cheese story prompted a literal LOL from me.

@goldbug 351am "That...was a DECISION." Thanks for the reminder! 🤣🤣🤣

@Z 718am GOML* much about "letters make words" and anagrams and the like? 😂😂
(P.S. I hope my little joke earlier wasn't offensive. Of course, it did cross my alleged mind that it might be, but I was counting on your proven robust sense of humor. Plus, I'm a tactless dolt.)

@Sir Hillary 809am Tried it 3 times, but I'm getting a 404 error on your link. But since I seem to be the only one having difficulty...never mind. +1 on "filthy RICH"

@Nancy 928am (if you're reading this) While I envy you and @Joe D when you mention the Cryptic (do they appear more often in print than online?), I have very little success with them. Puns and Anagrams puzzles (the redheaded step-children of Cryptics) prove more doable for me. Maybe I just need to work on it.

@burtonkd 937am Absolutely agree wholeheartedly with you about Douglas and NANETTE. (Although NANETTE did bother me on a kind of "too close to home" level, I found her passion moving and inspirational) I have yet to look up her T.E.D. Talk on YouTube, and apparently there are more stand-alone art history clips to be found there as well.

@pmdm 942am We've been advised that the ballots we requested several months ago will be "going out" starting October 2nd. Cutting it a little to close to the deadline with the current USPS situation if you ask me, but nobody asked me. One benefit of living in a small town is being able to drop off the ballot at our City Hall. 🤞

@Unknown 1038am (FYI - not the same person as 958am) My very first reaction/impression on USAUSA. It's gotten to the point where it has become nearly as cringeworthy to me as the Atlanta Braves fans' tomahawk cheer. Oof!

@Barbara S 1104am Do tell! In my experience drinking GRAPPA to excess means taking one sip.🥴 Of course, I was very young at the time, so my tastes might have changed...but I doubt it!

@Whatsername 1215pm LOL! "...teeth...and a spinal column" always gets us going at our house.

To all you buffalo/bison people: Don't make me come down there!

*Remove thyself from the grassy premises

***Off-topic Alert***
Through my second story window I see what appears to be a sick squirrel trying to slowly navigate a branch high up in a tree. It's enough to make me take back all my nasty thoughts and utterances about their feet (they are hideous) and pray they do their job. It's very windy today. 😟

GILL I. 1:10 PM  

This was a cute little Wednesday...and so appropriate ...what with RANK STINKING RIPE and of course a FUNKY CHICKEN. It fits the bill after last night's spectacle.
Never had I wanted to not shout USA USA as I did after 90 minutes of pure hell. My friends in Europe are laughing at us. I think Putin is drowning in GRAPPA.
If any one cares....I did this in record time.
Home, Home on the Range...... I'm gonna watch me some Hannah Gadsby and think about prepositions!

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Calling GRAPPA "brandy" makes it sound so drinkable rather than the RANK, FOUL liquid it is. I've told here about my close encounter with the stuff in Italy, at a restaurant in the ALPs. We couldn't even complain about it because the owner served it to us grattis, as if it were a treat. Shudder.

At least GRAPPA and IRANIAN made sure my NW filled in fairly smoothly. I enjoyed the onomatopoeic quality of GLUG (even though I put in GLUb instead, which is the sound they use in cartoons when someone is sinking).

We had the POD of whales today instead of the gam, which made me smile.

Was anyone chanting USAUSA while watching the debate last night? I had to turn it off after 1/2 hour, shudder.

EA and AK, thanks for the nicely themed Wednesday!

Doc John 1:10 PM  

Interesting puzzle. FUNKY CHICKEN sort of misdirected me, as I was looking for other types of fowl and wondered why it was spelled wrong.

Didn't even see SIR DUKE but glad to be reminded of it here. When I was in high school and my tuba playing skills were at their highest, I could play the riff from SIR DUKE. On the sousaphone. Good times.

CDilly52 1:12 PM  

Agard-Kravis is probably my favorite regular crossword duo, and they did not disappoint today. The NE was the last to fall with everything but OOH tried before I got the crosses (head smack) and this was just the last possibility. Stuck for a while on UPDOS but knowing who brought us the clue sent me as far away from anything having to do with any other more obvious type of “buns” be they cinnamon, hot cross, hot dog or anatomical.

I was sluggish so a slow (slightly hung over) solve. My kids begged me to participate with them in the online debate drinking game. Even just using wine (yep, a total lightweight) I couldn’t keep up. The overall tragedy of the entire national condition has become very stressful and depressing that I imbibed more than I thought and am moving more slowly than usual today.

The puzzle was a definite bright spot!

Joe Dipinto 1:15 PM  

jb129 and @Whatsername – Further to @Sir Hillary's spot-on post: you could start by checking out the Wikipedia entry for "Cryptic Crossword", particularly the section labeled "How Cryptic Clues Work". It looks pretty helpful.

For another example, here's what a true cryptic clue for 70a might look like:

Short, holy people drinking brewed tea, in Iowa and Maine, for two (6)

Short, holy people: STS (saints abbreviated)

Brewed tea: ATE (tea is anagrammed, or "brewed")

STS is "drinking" (or swallowing, consuming, containing) ATE = ST(ATE)S

IOWA AND MAINE, FOR TWO - this is the definition of the answer: STATES

The number following the clue tells you how many separate words are in the answer and the letter count for each. Sir Hillary's clue would say (5,5).

I don't actually remember how or when I started doing them. One of the US magazines used to print the Cryptic from the London paper "The Guardian", I think. I often couldn't finish those because they contained things peculiar to British that I was unfamiliar with.

bocamp 2:09 PM  

Tough puzzle, but ave. time; go figure… LOL. Couldn't get a foothold in the upper NW (actually, Oregon was easy, but Washington was a wash), so moseyed on down South and flew through it. Came back up North and had a bit of a battle, which led me to think I had a higher time than I did. Nevertheless, a fun and semi-challenging solve. Thank you very much for the adventure @ Erik & Andy! :)

@ Rex - agree re: "cryptic clues", and don't usually (unless I have to) pay much attention to them until after the solve; then I'm able to appreciate their cleverness, and enjoy them, as an after-solve experience.

@ Frantic Sloth 12:09 AM

Thx for the great Hannah Gadsby vids. If Ty Webb had been her teacher, he might have said "be the box", but then it wouldn't've been a lesson on prepositions. 🤔

Had a student with ASD who was a huge sports buff, especially baseball. Got him involved in our Little League junior umpiring program, and he quickly advanced from minors to majors. He was umping 3rd base one evening, when a coach called for time. Without hesitation, he checked his watch and told him it was 7:30. Everyone cracked up. :)

"Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"

Buffalo and the Cheyenne.

Even though I was stationed in "Oahu" on and off for three years, my knowledge of the relative positions of the Islands is woeful. Had Lanai before Kauai. :(

@ Loren Muse Smith 3:32 AM - Thx for the refresher re: "acai". I've looked it up numerous times, and still have trouble with it. This time I'm going with a mnemonic, e.g., I saw "e" not "i", and since I've never had a problem with the initial "a" being an "ah" sound, Bob's my uncle. :)

Also looking forward to visiting some vegan restaurants in future. I'll be sure to try the "acai" bowl. 😉

Speaking of "GMs", I especially enjoy YouTubing their games, then setting up a given position on one of my iPad's chess apps, to see what the best options might be for the next move. 🤓

**** SB ALERT ****

Slogging along… this one's going to be a toughie :) Came up 2 short yesterday :(

Peace Nanomonestotse Pace Maluhia Salam Paix صلح 🕊

NY Composer 2:34 PM  

Can someone tell me what “Tru” is please?

JC66 2:41 PM  

@NY Composer

Like the clue says, TruTV is a cable television station.

GHarris 2:43 PM  

Had none of the problems Rex describes yet took me almost three times longer to finish. I got states from the crosses but didn’t know what it meant until I came here. Rex, if you tuned out the debate because you feared Biden would stumble badly and get blown away by the Great Windbag you needn’t have worried.

Sir Hillary 2:44 PM  

@Frantic Sloth -- It ain't you, it's me. I am so terrible at embedding links. Anyone else clicking on that link got the same error message. What I was trying to demonstrate was that the use of STINKING made think of this.

Barbara S. 3:12 PM  

@Whatsername (12:15 p.m.)
What a hoot! I've never seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and I must remedy that soon.

@Frantic Sloth (1:06 p.m.)
I think this is a case of what happened in Rome better stay in Rome. I must say it's extremely convenient to be able to blame it all on the GRAPPA.

Z 3:18 PM  

@JC66 - And a full five minutes sooner.

@TTrimble - Some wag on Twitter said AP Style is all about saving ink. 😂

@Frantic Sloth - I do confess to wondering how our Muse knew what the missus was up to.. or is it what she was up do?
Since we are in the era of no haircuts, “gulag chic” is an apt description of my UPDO as well, since I’ve been taking my beard trimmer and shaving all the do that is up down. I must say, I like the lack of hassle and may just keep on doing the do this way. Gulag Chic is the future.
Also, I’m glad you didn’t write remove yourself from the gassy premises. 😱

Speaking of USA! USA! and music Bandcamp is doing a one day one off to raise money for Voting Rights Lab. I only know about half these artists, but I like almost all the ones I do know. If you want the tracks you have to buy it on October 2, it is the only day it is available.

jb129 3:32 PM  

Thank you for your answers on cryptics - I may (or may not try).

Ricki G 4:03 PM  

Thank you!! I had NO idea what that clue meant. I only completed that clue by filling in the downs.

Whatsername 4:05 PM  

@Sir Hillary, @Nancy and @Joe D: Thank you ever so much for the cryptic explanations and hints. Just reading about it taxed my poor under utilized brain and made me feel like I need to lie down. The one word that stayed with me from all of that was “tortured.” Just kidding. but I’m definitely going to study it some more before giving it a whirl.

@pmdm: Ballot received in today’s mail and says “must be received by 7 PM on November 3” to be counted. Wish me luck.

Patricia Hughes 4:11 PM  

Loved this one - but also thought it was Tuesday and the NW was a little off for me.

bocamp 5:08 PM  

@ Anoa Bob 1:00 PM

Thx for the link and further elucidation on "POC". An apt and useful acronym. :)

"Qom" I should have known. I've seen it numerous times in crosswords, and was a within a short distance when in Tehran, but didn't know of its cultural heritage at the time. The thing that stood out to me about Iran, was the friendly, inquisitive, savvy nature of the people. We parked our bus near the university district in Tehran, and almost immediately a group of students converged on us, and we were invited to partake in a meal at their residence. This was well before the revolution, so things were much laxer, related to coed groups getting together, hajibs, etc. I'm watching "Tehran" on Apple TV+; my heart goes out to the Iranian people, and to all those who live under authoritarian rule. I don't think I'll be forgetting Qom anytime soon. 🙏

@ JC66 10:11 AM

What a beautiful rendition! thx for that. :)

To those who point out that the animal we call a buffalo is actually a bison, agreed; however, common usage… just sayin'. :)

@ TTrimble 12:26 PM

With all due respect to the majority, I'm in the "leave off the terminal written (s) and elide it" camp. "Charles's" is hard enough to say, let alone "Jesus's". Besides, whether written or spoken, people should be able to get the drift by virtue of the context. Amen! :)

@ Nancy 1:06 PM

Thank you for this resource; as I'm preparing to dip my big toe into the waters of cryptic puzzles, I'll need all the help I can get. :)

**** SB ALERT ****

@ Anoa Bob 1:00 PM

Recently "SB" disallowed my use of "anoa" and for that I was duly chagrinned. My spell-checker doesn't seem to like it, either; no matter, I got yer back. :)

Peace Nanomonestotse Pace Maluhia Salam Paix صلح 🕊

SharonAK 5:48 PM  

Tho it may be too late in day for Frantic Sloth to see 5this I have to say THANK YOU for the clips from "Douglas" That is the best stand up comedy I've seen for many years. I will be looking for the fulll length of both Nanette and Douglas

Azzurro 5:55 PM  

As a Cal-grad and a grappa-enthusiast, I loved this one.

Go Bears!

Viva la grappa!

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

Have you seen this?

chinch 6:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
bocamp 7:33 PM  

**** SB ALERT ****

today - 9 to go

Peace Nanomonestotse Pace Maluhia Salam Paix صلح 🕊

TTrimble 8:56 PM  

That tidbit on Greek towns is hilarious! That really is worth a photograph. Please don't tell me there's a town Mixolydia!

***Music Stuff***

As far as I know, all the piano pieces I ever studied were considered as being in either a major or minor key. Not saying that there was never any modulation partway through a piece (e.g. from D flat major to C sharp minor); I'm saying that the terms Phrygian etc. just never came up in discussion. (Not that there was ever a lot of theory talk during my lessons.)

On the other hand, when I listen to someone like Rick Beato discuss guitar, those different modes recur constantly, and fluidly.

Is there some reason why I never heard a lot of mode talk while studying piano, while that talk is commonplace for other instruments? Or am I under a complete misapprehension? It may be a naive question, but I don't know how else to ask.

***End Music Stuff***

Re cryptic puzzles: I heartily recommend them. They can be marvelously devious and satisfying to work out.

On the matter of the s, I doubt I'm in the majority.

Joe Dipinto 10:34 PM  

'Tis a sad day for 1972. The perpetrators of two of the biggest hits of that year have passed away, both at the age of 78:

Helen Reddy

Mac Davis

bocamp 10:59 PM  

@ TTrimble 8:56 PM wrote:

"On the matter of the s, I doubt I'm in the majority."

You may be right, I don't really know. I've mostly seen and heard it as "Jesus's". Not a biggie for me; each to their own, as in all things. I was just sharing my preference. :)

**** Music Stuff ****

You all are making me somewhat remorseful that I didn't stick it out with my Gramma's piano lessons. She knew my heart was at the ball field, and was a good sport about letting me go. I think I'm the only one in the family who doesn't play the piano. I just got a replacement 6th string for my guitar (thank you Amazon Prime), so I'm back in business. :)

**** SB ALERT ****

I think I'm toast at 6 to go; this has been the toughest grouping of letters I've faced. :( Tomorrow's another day. :)

Peace Nanomonestotse Pace Maluhia Salam Paix صلح 🕊

Sigh 10:11 AM  

"Run-of-the-mill asshole" sums up this blog pretty well.

Diana, LIW 9:44 AM  

Welcome to Groundhog Day ;-)

And a fine Wednesday puzzle we have to keep us busy.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting

thefogman 10:34 AM  

Pretty good but Eric Agard usually has better stuff. Still very acceptable.

Burma Shave 10:36 AM  


with a SPARSE and LIMITED wage,


BS2 10:37 AM  




spacecraft 11:23 AM  

i didn't find it so god-awful hard. Yeah, I left the NW for last, but in my RIPEOLDAGE I usually do that anyway. A fun theme and clean fill; the polish of experts is evident. Eagle.

I predicted this morning's headline: TOO CLOSE TO CALL. Actual headline: TOO SOON TO CALL. I'm saying we won't know for a week. Maybe not even then.

"Remember, Red, hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things." I hope the election is as honest as the officials say it is. I hope my vote counted. I hope I helped end this fiasco.

I hope.

rainforest 4:00 PM  

@Spacey: I understand you had a ruptured aneurysm. Ruptured is not good. Three years ago I had a rather large abdominal aortic aneurysm ("triple A") which didn't rupture though was on the verge. Anyway, I wish you all the best.


spacecraft 5:56 PM  

@rainy: thank you for the well-wish. AAA's are deadly dangerous; we're both lucky. I treasure everything more now than I ever did. Every day is a gift. Live long and prosper!

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