Fried Hanukkah treat / THU 9-3-20 / Sporting event profiled in 2014 documentary Queens Cowboys / Gaming novice slangily / Pixar film that premiered in Mexico / Fruity loaf with moist texture

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Constructor: Sid Sivakumar

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:36)


THEME: BOUNCE BACK (64A: Recover ... or what 17-, 25-, 38- and 51-Across do) — themers start somewhere in the middle (in a circled square), proceed in the normal L-to-R direction, but once they hit the end, BOUNCE BACK (past the original circle, back to the "first" square"). So they're just partially palindromical answers:

Theme answers:
  • EKACNAPOTA (i.e. "potato pancake") (17A: Fried Hanukkah treat)
  • ELUSPACE (i.e. "space capsule") (25A: Apollo command module, for one)
  • NOTGNIHSAWALLAW (i.e. "Walla Walla, Washington") (38A: Home of Whitman College)
  • DAERBANA (i.e. "banana bread") (51A: Fruity loaf with a moist texture)

Word of the Day:
BAM BAM Bigelow (47D: Former pro wrestling star ___ Bigelow) —

Scott Charles Bigelow (September 1, 1961 – January 19, 2007) was an American professional wrestler, better known by the ring name Bam Bam Bigelow. Recognizable by his close to 400-pound frame and the distinctive flame tattoo that spanned most of his bald head, Bigelow was hailed by former employer WWE in 2013 as "the most natural, agile and physically remarkable big man of the past quarter century", while former co-worker Bret Hart described him as "possibly the best working big man in the business."

Bigelow is best known for his appearances with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) between 1987 and 2001. Over the course of his career, he held championships including the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, the ECW World Television Championship, the IWGP Tag Team Championship, and the WCW World Tag Team Championship. Bigelow headlined seven pay-per-views: the first Survivor Series in 1987Beach Brawl in 1991King of the Ring in 1993 and 1995WrestleMania XI in 1995, and the 1997 and 1998 editions of ECW's premier annual event, November to Remember. (wikipedia)

• • •


Very busy with first-week-of-school stuff, so this'll be sort of brief, as I need Sleeeeeep. This seemed fine. The answers start in the middle, they bounce back ... there it is. I guess this is some kind of architectural feat, I don't know. I do know that the only one that really interested me was WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON, both because it's really long (though ultimately a perfect grid-spanning 15 boxes) and thus has the most dramatic visual effect, and because I applied to Whitman College when I was a high school senior (I have lots of family in the Pacific NW), and so knew the answer instantly (and weirdly enjoyed remembering this little bit of my bio that even I had forgotten). Didn't so much like having to write answers in (partially) backward. But it was more awkward than annoying. Fill on this one seems about average, with the showy and original GAY RODEO (39D: Sporting even profiled in the 2014 documentary "Queens & Cowboys") out ahead of the rest of the pack. 


I don't really get how [AA] = ACES. Maybe it's some kind of poker notation I'm unfamiliar with. Certainly never heard of BAM BAM Bigelow, but the crosses were easy, so he didn't hold me up that much. BAM BAM died at 46. Rough. I know and accept that ALITO will show up in my puzzle for the rest of my lifetime, but I'm never gonna like it. I'm also never gonna like TIE--- as an answer, as TIEPIN TIETAC and TIEBAR are all things, and all things that have appeared in the NYTXW, specifically (today, I tried TAC). I wrote in SORT (?) instead of SAVE (37D: Action under a File menu). But otherwise I just didn't make any mistakes on this one. Got the theme very easily once I realized the front end of the first themer *had* to be the gibberish that I was looking at ("EKACN-etc."). First thing I did was read backward. Saw "cake." Got it quickly after that. None of the other themers proved problematic in the slightest. I had more fun yesterday, but still, this was better than SO-SO (69A: Meh)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

129 comments:

Joaquin 12:01 AM  

Kudos to Sid Sivakumar for bringing us a puzzle that is most impressive in its construction AND was fun to solve. I give it a grade of “AA”.

jae 12:03 AM  

Easy. This makes three in a row where I’m starting at the completed grid trying to make sense of the theme. Neat idea when I finally sussed it out. Liked it and Jeff gave it POW which is the second one this week if you are keeping score.

Harryp 12:08 AM  

I had the back and forth at SPACE CAPSULE, and went all the way through the puzzle before having problems with 17A. I just couldn't see the E, and since I was guessing at 14A, I couldn't see where AA's were ACES. Finally figured it out and got the Happy Tone. Liked it a lot, but wish 47D was clued as Bam Bam Rubble in the Flintstones.

Pamela 12:10 AM  

I wrote the following before reading Rex. Clearly, I disagree.

What a great puzzle! I’m only half way through, but I just had to stop and write this. I’m so excited! I just got the trick, after a good mental workout, but it’s so tricky that doesn’t help with the rest of the solve in the least little bit, at least not so far.

Talk about crunch! So many clever clues, so many ways to be bamboozled. AJAR, MYOB, LEVEE, WED, ACUTE...

There was no way I could get anywhere without Mr G for the sports nicknames. BAMBAM led to the revealer, which helped unravel the gibberish that my favorite childhood quickbread was all twisted up into. How I loved BANANA BREAD, back in the days when I was skinny and my metabolism was on super high. My mother would time her baking so that it would just be coming out of the oven when we got home from school. Still warm, slathered with butter (off the table now, of course), my siblings and I could go through half a loaf in no time. I can almost smell it- yummm.

But now I’m stuck. I know Whitman is in Walla Walla, but the letters I have so far don’t look like that. PAPI helps, but so far not enough. OK, break’s over, time to go back to work.

Aha! Got it! And whizzed through the rest with a big grin on my face.
Great, great puzzle!

GHarris 12:17 AM  

Got the idea and solved most of the puzzle but needed a bit of help to finish the NE. I guess I didn’t wholly grasp the mechanics of the gimmick.Like Rex, I too wanted sort and had to change pre to eve to come up with save.

Emily 12:25 AM  

If I may nitpick a bit on the themers: the circled letter is the first letter of the last word for all of them except SPACE CAPSULE, where the S is circled. Coincidentally, that was my favorite themer, even if it was the odd one out.

David Eisner 12:33 AM  

I really enjoyed this one. I think an alternate theme might be "Circle back", what with the circles and all.

Dave S 12:38 AM  

I should not have attempted this one late at night. Not too many problematic answers, but even after I figured out the theme I kept on putting letters in the wrong places. Then it turned out I had one letter wrong and I just stared and stared and stared at it trying to figure out what it was, made more difficult of course by the fact that the long answers all had some gibberish in them now. Finally figured out I had put in "dale" for vale" and so had "ledee" which made no sense, but which I kept on trying to figure out as some sort phonetic ceedee or other bank security. Finally dawned on me, but turned a fairly fast (for me) solve in to a protracted struggle. Liked the "maitre d'" answer, especially since I was all ready get upset if it had been waiter, as well as the clue for acute. I liked all of the long answers, other than battling against my own fogginess. David Ortiz is one of my least favorite players (I'm not sure why he's treated as lovable when he was always kind of a jerk) but Nan Goldin is one of my favorite photographers and this the second time I've seen her in a puzzle recently. Also recent was the Pixar film, so I was glad i was actually able to remember that from just a few days ago. Not always the case.

mathgent 12:44 AM  

An absolute gem! It had everything I like. Clever gimmick with a spot-on revealer, smart cluing, plenty of sparkle, a goodly number of longs and only six Terrible Threes, no junk. Wow!

gpm 12:47 AM  

The ace has an 'A' printed on the card. If you have a pair of them (in, say, Hold 'Em) you have AA.

travis 12:52 AM  

I went with dOUbleBACK for the revealer as in double back to recover something you forgot, and it made sense with what was going on with the other themers. So that was my only mess working out. Somehow managed to pound in the acrosses in that section with the OU being right though I kept doubting them more than I doubted double, and then was able to finally figure out what was going on. Double back was a lot more google hits than bounce back[bounce back still has enough that it is fair game].

puzzlehoarder 1:16 AM  

Saturday time on this thing. That was doing it on my phone which I hate.

The NW filled in first without any idea on the theme. I had to pick my way through until I got the reveal. After that I figured out the scrambled BANANA BREAD and the pace picked up.

**** SB ALERT ****
Wednesday's list is one of your bigger ones. I hit 300 points with 67 words and called it a night.

Frantic Sloth 1:54 AM  

Even though I knew it was wrong and wouldn't fit, I couldn't stop seeing spAnakopiTA at 17A. This simultaneously made me crazy and egged me on because I knew on some level that the secret lay within.

And yet...it wasn't until I hit 38A and had to work WASHINGTON in somehow that it hit me and I saw it.
At this point, I would have smacked my forehead, but it has finally learned to duck.

What a sneaky, cheeky, freaky theme and that rare, perfect blend of fine constructioneering and enjoyable solving experience. Impressive and fun!

I do wonder, however, whether I could have figured it out without the circles - and I'm going with no. I needed an obvious starting point to tame the googly-eyed monster that I always tend to morph into when letters do the cha-cha around the grid.
I think it's an 80HD thing. Self-diagnosed.

I won't do favorites or nits because there are too many of the former and none of the latter. Lazy always wins.

Gee. What are the odds that this is a hated it!/loved it! situation?

🧠🧠.75
πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

chefwen 2:46 AM  

Caught the trickery fairly early on with POTATO PANCAKE or EKACNAPOTA. Kept thinking I’m Jewish, I should know this. After staring at the POTA it dawned on me. HAH! Got it. The fun followed and I really enjoyed this.

@GILL I, speaking of DAERBANA, my famous muffins are BANANA/mac nuts/coconut and granola and I’m going to email you the recipe tomorrow. Well, tomorrow my time, today your time. Your family will love them.

okanaganer 2:49 AM  

Rex says MEH? I say, bravo, this is my kinda Thursday. Really liked it.

The Apollo missions were the huge event of my childhood. Atop my dresser I had a small scale model of the whole Saturn V assembly, in which the Command Module was the size of my thumbnail, as well as a much larger scale model of the Lunar Module the size of my head, which my younger brother later used to play his favorite game, Crashed Cars ('nuff said about that...sigh). So at 25 across, with most of the downs already in place, I salivated upon reading the clue before realizing the answer made no sense. ELU SPACE? Excursion Lunar Unit Space? No such thing. But I jumped to the revealer, figured out the trick, and liked it.

Although I did have some trouble with that revealer itself. Had ----EBACK and insisted it had to be CIRCLE BACK. You know, cuz of the circles, plus "Recover" made sense!

Like Rex I always love seeing WALLA WALLA. Here in British Columbia we have Bella Bella, which is pretty cool, but it would be even cooler if it was in, say, Belgium. Bella Bella Belgium. But then we do also have Bella Coola which just sounds great on its own. Lovely rhythm. Of course there is also the border town of Bellingham Washington, which is another pretty nice rhythm.

[PS... the constructor is featured on the latest crossnerds podcast, as mentioned on xwordinfo.com.]

jae 4:04 AM  

...that should have been “staring at” not ”starting at”...

ChuckD 6:14 AM  

Yea - this one checked all the boxes for me. Tricky gimmick and wonderful fill but ended up being one of my fastest Thursday’s ever - definitely on the same wavelength as the constructor which is not always the case with this guy. Got the trick with SPACE CAPSULE and it was smooth sailing after that. Knew BAM BAM Bigelow so that helped. Liked ALTIMETERS crossing ALTO and the adjacent ANODE - METAL.

High level construction - enjoyable solve. RIP Tom Terrific.


Lewis 6:27 AM  

My brain must be reverse engineered. It sees some letter combination that is something else backwards, then taps me on the shoulder to make sure I see it, because my brain thinks it’s trΓ¨s cool. Thus, with just KAC in 17 across, I got a strong tap with the advisory, “This is going to be CAKE backwards.”

In a group setting, this brain glitch often causes me, upon seeing a word in an ad, say, to excitedly make a comment that draws eyerolls and quick exits. But in a puzzle like this, well, I did fly through it, and was bursting with happiness throughout. Have you seen the constructor’s photo on xwordinfo.com? That’s how I felt all the way through this.

To add relish to the experience, there were plenty of semordnilaps (AJAR, SPAT, ETRE, NOOB, SEGA, WED, EKED), three palindromes (NAN, EVE, MA’AM), and lovely wordplay clues for ATTIC, PANHANDLER, SHOT POOL, CCS, WED, and the marvelous one for ESC – [Key used to get out, not in].

So, I’m riding high. No dis, Sid, on this. I’m totally charmed. Thank you!

Flinque 6:43 AM  

You are not nitpicking. It’s an error in design and it does not fit the pattern of the other 3 bounces.

Z 6:46 AM  

Did ya know ALITO is an ALTO? It’s true. You can look it up.

πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½ for the theme, although πŸ–πŸ½for wasting many precious nanoseconds with dOUble BACK. Both the north central and south central sections held me up. Getting out of the sports conference and into the conference room helped in the north (I blame the sports heaviness of the puzzle for this) and the aforementioned dOUble trouble in the south.

Just because THIS is the way my mind works, GAY RODEO makes me think of Larry Flynt’s schadenfreude laced think piece on the JF Jr kerfuffle (for those of you too young to remember, Larry Flynt mocked Jerry Falwell Sr. and the resulting lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court). You can look it up, but I can summarize the essay here; it’s not the sex, it’s the hypocrisy and using religion to scam people.

THIS and THOSE: feature or bug? I lean team bug.

@Emily - That is a most excellent nit to pick. This is a most excellent theme, so that’s a little like discovering a zit on prom night, i.e. not that big of a deal but just knowing it’s there magnifies the zittiness.

@okananaganer - How bad was the beating little brother got? Or did Mom or Dad stop you before you caught him?

Lewis 7:03 AM  

@frantic -- "At this point, I would have smacked my forehead, but it has finally learned to duck." -- Hah!

kitshef 7:05 AM  
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kitshef 7:06 AM  

Pretty much a perfect Thursday ... hard until you get the theme, then the big AHA, then it all falls into place. All the themers rock solid.

Bravo.

Joe Dipinto 7:08 AM  

Fruity loaf with a moist texture

This? is my Most Favorite.Clue.Ever.


SEINOPOL


Hungry Mother 7:23 AM  

Nice theme noted on the first one. Thursday treasure hunts are so much fun. Keep em coming.

DeeJay 7:44 AM  

This is a rave-worthy puzzle. Rex is so inured to hate everything Will Shortz touches, he cannot appreciate the genius of a great puzzle like this. So sad.

JHC 7:44 AM  

48A is just wrong. Theater : usher :: restaurant : waiter. The MAITRE D' is more akin to the house manager.

mmorgan 8:01 AM  

As some have said, this was unusual because it was both a very clever construction AND fun to solve. All too often, fancy construction means a solving slog. I was utterly confused till I finally saw what was going on with WALLA WALLA. That made the gimmick clear but it was still a fun solve after that, with lots of stuff I didn’t know that was quite gettable. Thanks and congrats!

Twangster 8:07 AM  

So does this mean the constructor's real name is Sid Kumaramukavis?

mikeweav 8:23 AM  

Fun puzzle. The only slight nit that I have is that while there was a brief period of time from 1979-85 when James Bond could be seen with a Seiko on his wrist, he has been wearing an Omega for the past three and a half decades. Could have been a great place to reference Steve Jobs, a lifelong Seiko guy.

JD 8:26 AM  

Wanna be part of the love fest here but I'd give it 3 brains and 2.75 party favors. Apparently that's just me.

It played out East, South, West, North so had Bounce Back before the theme answers and then aha'ed at Daerb and the rest was easy (but now I'll always look at banana bread and think Darb).

Might've been staring at Eluspace for so long when I was done and thinking "wait, what's really going on here" that tamped it from joy to ok. That and never heard a latke called a pancake but I'm not Jewish.

PS from yesterday, don't really think men lowered the nyt puzzle bar. Took the bait and fought mean. The poor Gray Lady is selling recipes and games to make a buck these days and needs to broaden puzzappeal by being easier and appealing multi-generationally. Commerce v. Craft and commerce has to win.

George 8:27 AM  

I have a vague memory from my youth of someone on TV saying WALLAWALLA, maybe something about cooking with WALLAWALLA onions? That's how I know about WALLAWALLAWASHINGTON, and I still love the name even though I have never been there.

Nancy 8:55 AM  

Wow! Brilliant! Not only a gorgeous bit of construction, but a real challenge for the solver. How Rex could call this "easy", I don't know.

To paraphrase John Paul Jones, I knew from the opening -KACNA---- that I would be required to go backwards, but I only knew the half of it. I had not yet begun to solve.

I saw the backwards PANCAKE but the rest was gobbledygook. I saw the backwards BREAD but the rest was gobbledygook. I thought the revealer would be about food.

Then I saw the backwards WASHINGTON, but the rest was gobbledygook. I looked at ELUSPACE and saw nothing backwards at all. Just saw SPACE going forward.

Even after getting BOUNCE BACK I was flummoxed. I had to read and reread and reread all the theme answers until finally, BAMBAM, it hit me. Wow! Brilliant!

A great puzzle, Sid. You should be very proud of it.

Mike 9:01 AM  

Am I wrong or do all the clues reuse the last letter in the answer except space capsule?

Mike 9:01 AM  
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Mike 9:01 AM  
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Anonymous 9:14 AM  

Nancy, this is Anon 6:16 from Tuesday. Just wanted to thank you for that last word! I got the rest. What a clever puzzle! Thank you for your help.

Havana Man 9:18 AM  

i'm with @Emily. I stared at SPACE CAPSULE forever trying to figure out how it could be correct....

pabloinnh 9:18 AM  

I'm over in the corner with the DOUBLEBACK crowd, because I got WALLAWALLA first and then the revealer and how many WALLAS are there? Yep, two, WALLA doubled and down the rabbit hole I went head first. After that I kept looking for repetition instead of a simple BOUNCEBACK, which only leads to confusion. Also wanted CCLAMP, which was, on reflection, thoroughly wrong given the specificity of the clue. Eventually the fog lifted, the sun shone, and the Disney birds sang and all was well. Just the kind of a Thursday I love, when you finally catch on and get everything in properly and feel like, yeah, I did that.

Congrats to SS on a real Thursdazo. Its concept was only exceeded by its execution.

*****SB STUFF******

@puzzlehoarder-I applaud your tenacity. I quit at Genius and 50 words and I was thoroughly sick of every one of those letters.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

This can’t be correct, can it?

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Won’t anyone please explain (clearly, and in proper English) AA for aces answer?

Z 9:37 AM  

Alrighty then, some people seem to think Rex hated this. Just because he doesn’t slavish praise on it doesn’t mean he hates it. He liked it less than most of the commentariat is about as far as anyone can truthfully go.

@Mike - The rightmost letter in each themer is used only once, the A in POTATO PANCAKE, the E in SPACE CAPSULE, the second W in WALLA WALLA WASHINGTON, and the second A in BANANA BREAD.

The adoration for old puzzles reminds me of a phenomenon in sports, especially baseball. There’s this idea since nobody comes close to hitting .400 anymore that hitters had to better in the 30’s and 40’s. Stephen Jay Gould (the paleontologist) did a great explanation showing that what really was going on was fewer bad players were making it to the majors. The best hitters were doing just as well (or poorly) as they ever did against the best pitchers, they just aren’t getting any at bats against pitchers who wouldn’t make it past double A ball today. Likewise, there are bound to be some stellar offerings in the late 90’s. If someone says “hey this Saturday puzzle is great” and I solve it and it’s great I have managed to skip the other 364 puzzles that year, maybe 50 of which wouldn’t get published today without major reworking of the fill (something Shortz has commented on).

Z 9:40 AM  

@anon9:37 - See @gpm12:47

Pete M. 9:59 AM  

Nice puzzle, though I would never put TIED and TIEBAR in the same grid.

JD 10:01 AM  

@Z, or that. Must remind myself these are the good old days.

But did you just verbify Slavish? I like it, I'll use it, and I'll act like I thought of it.

Still trying to feel the joy. I know it's me. But I look at Walla with the bounced back W and it reads forward and backward for Walla Walla. I look at Banana Bread and see Bana Bread, and then there's Space Capsule, a whole other ball game.

sixtyni yogini 10:02 AM  

Did not like until I got the trick...then it was πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘πŸ½πŸ˜Ž.

William of Ockham 10:03 AM  

Easy? Sure, but way better than most of this sorry week's puzzles

Nancy 10:07 AM  

Glad to help, Anon 6:16 from Tuesday and thanks for the compliment. So glad you liked it.

What? 10:08 AM  

Backward fills nothing new so breezed through. (If it don’t fit, it’s a rebus or spelled backwards- words to live by for crossword buffs).
I remember one spelled backwards from the bottom up - something to do with elevators, I think.

RooMonster 10:19 AM  

Hey All !
Neat puz. Figured it out at the first themer, as seems most of us did. After seeing the odd letter combos, figured out the answers would be backwards, which I thought was nice, but nothing to write home about. When I figured out that the circled letter was the start, and it ran forward before BOUNCing BACK, it really made the theme a winner! What a cool idea.

You're probably sick of me lamenting my rejections, but I made a puz similar to this one. I never did send mine in, and now I list it! It was basically a palindrome puz that had the themers in the Downs, and read Down, then Up. RACECAR read one themer.

Forgot today was Thursday, thinking what a weird puz for a Wednesday.

No F's πŸ˜₯
SPAT THIS
RooMonster
DarrinV

GHarris 10:21 AM  

Ok, I see that others had the same issue that I had. Shouldn’t the gimmick work the same way in each theme answer? Here it doesn’t in that the last letter is not always used on the way back. That’s what screwed me up and I do feel put upon.

Z 10:25 AM  

@JD - Or I mistype “lavish” all the time and now it’s just in my iPad dictionary. 🀷🏽‍♂️

RooMonster 10:26 AM  

The SPACE CAPSULE I agree is Nittable, but not Puz Destroyable. Just because the three others start both words at the circled letter, doesn't mean the fourth has to. Two cents...

RooMonster Nit Guy

gpm 10:28 AM  

Google "AA" poker (with the quotes) if you don't believe me. I don't think it's explicitly explained in the first few results, but you'll definitely see that this is a thing in poker-world.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

they both take you to your assigned seat. Micky D doesn't have one.

jberg 10:31 AM  

So I saw EKAC, thought “Jewish holiday. So it’s written right to left, like Hebrew.” Then I got ELUSPACE and wondered why it was neither Jewish nor backward. Then I got the WALLA WALLA thing and almost figured it out, but couldn’t see the reflection in the first two. Finally the revealer cleared it all up, vastly increasing my liking for this puzzle.

I’ll be back.

William of Ockham 10:33 AM  

@MikeWeav 8:23 et.al.

https://www.watchtime.com/featured/watches-james-bond/

OMEGA, SEIKO, ROLEX, even GRUEN and HEUER are all technically legit 5 letter Bond Watches.

Banya 10:34 AM  

I had circlEBACK for so long that that I could not get that little section on the bottom, despite getting all the themers. That was kind of frustrating. Otherwise, I liked figuring out the themers.

Carola 10:34 AM  

Boy, did it take me a long time to catch on to this one! I went astray early, where POTA jumps over a black square to ONTO and I mentally inserted the missing T into the black square to get the full POTATO. I also spent a lot of time trying to make a "latke" out of the letter ingredients of EKACNA. Finally got the idea at WALLAW... and went back to marvel at the construction of the SPACE CAPSULE before going on to the BANANA BREAD. Super enjoyable puzzle!

Bonus treat of the "Fruity loaf with a moist texture" variety: the DATES that cross the D of BREAD. Also nice that the Apollo mission is provided at ROCKET.

Thank you, @Sid Sivakumar, for a terrific start to my Thursday.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

@blue Anonymous, card notation often will use A,K,Q,J to indicate ace, king, queen and jack, respectively. Think of the old Goren Bridge column that showed the players hands.

Newboy 10:49 AM  

Me too

TJS 10:57 AM  

I thought this one was great. Kept waiting for the obvious senselessness of my grid to clear itself up and at "bread" it finally did. Still took me time to figure out "space module".

Sidenote... RIP Tom Seaver. Bill Gleason, an old time fixture of Chicago sports pages, once commented to an audience that Mr. Seaver was the smartest athlete he ever covered : "He does the NYT crossword !! With a pen !!"

Ty Kaplan 11:15 AM  

I LOVED today's puzzle. I thought the folks here might enjoy watching my giddy real-time solving video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N88IwuZgjlA

ow a paper cut 11:22 AM  

Loved this one!

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

@Z/9:37

if one looks a little bit, one finds that, in sports anyway, the %-age of players in the population has actually diminished since 1950 or so. or, put another way, both expansion of teams and roster sizes of said teams (some of which have been reversed) has been outpaced by the population. factor in that ever more non-USofA persons are professional players, and 'talent dilution' is not a fact. that is to say, we've far more people from whom to pick athaletes now than then. talent is, overall, a smaller slice of the population pie.

Lady, I'm not an athlete. I'm a professional baseball player.
-- John Kruk (and he wasn't kidding)

jb129 11:33 AM  

Might be clever for some but not fun for me.

Give me a good Thursday Rebus any day.

Unknown 11:39 AM  

One ace has one A. Two aces have two. Therefore AA = aces

GILL I. 11:43 AM  

This was the dessert of my dreams. I'll take it every Thursday. I started out by thinking I wasn't going to like it but then dang....you hit me backwards and forwards, my head spins, I see stars, and all my hard work finally gets me the gold with a little cherry on top.
I sniffed a backwards at the EKAC. I did pause for a second and let my mind wander. Gee, says I...that sounds like something you step on at the dog park. Nah...its cake. OHO so that's it. But, like @Nancy, I had trouble figuring out the rest of the ingredients to the mysterious pie. Sometimes you just have to take a break and let the mind wander. When I got to DAERBANA boy did I fandango. BAM BAM, and the rest was done. I'm glad this wasn't a quickie; I'm glad it wasn't over in 4 minutes and I'm glad I had to use my noodle. Cool beans.
So now I look at the grid and mind wanders to words and thoughts. EKACNAPOTA sounds like an Egyptian sun GODs. COCO is a must see. If my 2 year old granddaughter isn't watching Peppa Pig, she will ask for COCO. You don't have to have wee ones to enjoy it. It's wonderful....I called my dad, PAPI and WALLA WALLA is a beautiful city - despite it being an onion.
Kudos, Sid. This was a terrific puzzle.
Sra. @chefwen....You're a peach, amiga. Can't wait to try your famous muffin recipe. My husband still drools thinking about that chocolate one you sent me. We're still in Auburn and my dear friend doesn't have the accoutrements to bake. We get back to Sacramento next Thursday so I will give it the ole one-two. Gracias.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

ED

THE REASON I NEVER CONTRIBUTE EVEN THOUGH I CHECK IN OCCASIONALLY IS THAT I DON'T CARE WHERE REX APPLIED TO COLLEGE, WHETHER HE'S TIRED, WHETHER HE'S BUSY, ETC.

Unknown 11:44 AM  

In cards, one ace = A. Therefore, AA = (two) aces

Rick Walker 11:47 AM  

Had a mind block on bounce back. And rocket otherwise fun. Aces was bullshit. I hate it when the constructors make"hard" clues by avoiding explicit meanings entirely.

Masked and Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Really enjoyed the puz bouncers. Neat theme mcguffin, startin the theme answer out in the middle, at the circled letter. Kept everything well disguised, for a while longer. Musta stared at that ELUSPACE answer for mega-nano-seconds. Imagine I'd still be starin, if they hadn't provided the circles.

Whenever U get results like ELUSPACE, U come up with all kinds of puz conspiracy theories, to try to uncover the theme:
1. Rebus meat.
2. Part of the answer zigs up/down in the puzgrid.
3. Part of the answer wanders off the edge of the puz.
4. U have to switch the circled letter with some other circled letter.
5. Some of the crossers are wrong, creatin nonsensic(al) ELUSPACE answer.
6. The circled letters are space/time portals to another puz dimension. [This would actually be a cool theme idea, Mr. Sivakumar. Get busy, on that.]
7. Russian hackers messed up my puz printout. [I think this evidently happens a lot, on my SatPuzs.]

staff weeject pick: ESC. Becuz of its nice riddle of a clue. Only 9 weejects today to choose from, btw.

fillins that got M&A's attention: GAYRODEO. BAMBAM. PANHANDLER. NOO-BOON.

Thanx for the feisty fun, Mr. Sivakumar dude. Those themers musta been a nasty hassle to come up with; U suffered -- that's good for U; builds character.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


15x15 themeless desperation:
**gruntz**

sara 12:14 PM  

SB yesterday -- guess i dont have to feel too bad about throwing in the towel at 64 words... i hate those huge lists, can't keep track of what i already found, not so much fun...

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

They both show you to your seat

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

You're wrong. All the answers start at the circle, go right and then turn around and go left. The end letters are used only once.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

since when is a clamp a gadget? plus there are clamps that aren't shaped like a C

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

When you are looking at a deck of cards, the ace has a big A on it. Two aces would be AA.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

The last letter (far right) is only used once in each clue.

TAB2TAB 12:25 PM  

SB: ***

COPE is not a word??

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Why not. Two aces are AA

Sir Hillary 12:32 PM  

Very nice puzzle -- clever construction and fun to solve.

It's really all about the central themer for me. Helped a ton that my nephew did his freshman year at Whitman (which I had never heard of before he applied). He and my sister's family have become friends with the family of Drew Bledsoe, the ex-NFL quarterback who graduated from Walla Walla HS before heading to Washington State. In retirement from football, Drew has taken up winemaking, and his first winery is in Walla Walla and is called Doubleback, which could not be more apt given today's theme.

jberg 12:33 PM  

My trouble is that I know just enough about Jewish culture to get me in trouble -- in this case, I was quite ready to believe that there was such a thing as ATOPAN CAKE. Then when I got ELU SPACE, I figured I was supposed to take the ATO from 17A, the ELU from 25A, along with the other unused letters, and anagram them into some knd of meta. Without WALLA WALLA WASHI'd still be trying to figure it out.

@GHarris, Nope, you're wrong. I thought that too -- it's just hard to see unless you go through the answers letter by letter.

I was really held up by the question mark in the clue to 56A, "Soprano's co-star?" I mean, the soprano is more likely to costar with a tenor, but there are plenty of cases that fit--I saw ALTO right away, but since it meant interpreting soprano literally, I was reluctant to put it in.

On the other hand, if I hadn't had the C already I would have put in IRON for monopoly subject -- you know, the little iron you use as your avatar when you play.

I'm just liking this puzzle more all the time. BAM BAM irritated me when I got it, but now it's growing on me. Let's have more of these!

old timer 12:37 PM  

I join in the kudos, as do we all.

Of course my favorite poem came to mind:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie
WALLA WALLA, WASH and Kalamazoo
Nora's freezing on the trolley
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo

My middle daughter and I visited WALLA WALLA to take a look at Whitman College. We liked it, but opted for Willamette in Salem, Oregon. WALLA WALLA struck us as a little too provincial, and definitely too sunny for a lupus patient like her. Salem has its flaws, but is a relatively short drive to Portland, and also the Amtrak station is across from the campus, with frequent service north and south. It seemed to me half the Willamette senior class moved to Portland immediately on finishing their last class -- my daughter did, and has lived in Portland or its Happy Valley suburb ever since. I took many a trip on the Starlight to go see her before she graduated.

Unknown 12:39 PM  

This was simply brilliant. A fun puzzle all the way around. That Rex damns it w/ faint praise sadly says more about him than it does about the puzzle itself.

Eniale 12:43 PM  

@Nancy - re Duck a l'Orange! Where I shop, at a discount supermarket north of Seattle, you can buy a frozen duck with a little package of high-fructose orange-flavored syrup to baste it with. 450 degrees for a couple of hours, no sweat at all. But the clean-up!

David 12:43 PM  

Loved this. Had a bit of difficulty with the revealer because I wanted it to be doubletalk (yes, I had tie tac). Then the lowest acrosses showed me the way.

Having worked in several restaurants over the course of 2 decades, I've got to disagree with JHC up there. The Maitre'd greets customers and leads them to their seats. That's what an usher does as well. Managers are generally in their offices, unless there's a problem on the floor.

Since I generally ignore the tricks except for solving them, I had no problem with 25A. Your milage may vary.

A bit too easy for a Thursday, but the fun made up for that. Thanks.

Alison 12:44 PM  

Great puzzle! Super fun to solve.

Frantic Sloth 12:45 PM  

@JD 826am Your "I'll always look at banana bread and think Darb" triggered this and now I'm mad at you for nailing my mind to this wall of inanity. 🀣🀣

@Z 1025am Stupid iPads. I hear they're aiming for world domination by making up their own words, Xeroxing (and collating) introductory dictionary-pamphlets (dictlets) and their hideout is some marina in Rye NY. They also worship Satan.

longsufferingmetsfan 1:00 PM  

None of the theme answers "reuse" the last letter, The difference in SPACE CAPSULE, is that the words break at the last letter as opposed to the others.
The theme answers all follow the same pattern.

Put me in the "liked it" column. Easy for a Thursday, but I thought it was great fun.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Loved this. One of my favorite puzzles ever. The theme played literally, and was not visible 'til just the point of frustration; it was the breakthrough that allowed the complete solve and yet there were other clever clues on the way. Well done.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

It's not an error - it's by design. You are not nitpicking, you're being aggressively ignorant.

Teedmn 1:14 PM  

I started out with a Jerk and ended up leaving the NW with a scowl on my face, already resigning myself to a DNF because I had no idea what a _rACNAPOTA was, crossed by the AAs?? and the unknown 14A movie _eCO. AppS at 1D (huh? I know, me too!) gave me peCO and prACNAPOTA and I left it at that.

But working my way down the west side, I finally saw BANANA BREAD and went back up to work on the NW. POTATO PANCAKE. What a JOKE. COCO. Yay, no DNF!

The rest fell pretty easily, but I still got my DNF in. Working my way up the east side, I splatzed in prE at 45A but couldn't see what action under a File menu would be for _ArE. HANDLER gave me ErE at 45A and that worked for me as a "Before time". Never looked BACK at 37D so it stayed at SArE.

Mr. Sivakumar, puzzle #3 rocks! (I circled the clue for 34D as clever, but there were a number of them, very nice.)

JD 1:31 PM  

@Frantic NOOO! Doctor my eyes! I can't unsee Chaise barga.

JC66 1:41 PM  

****SB ALERT****

@TAB2TAB

Every day, there are words that SB rejects, but I agree that not accepting COPE is egregious.

johnk 2:06 PM  

Look again.
P otato
S pace
W alla
B anana
Each is the 1st word of the phrase.

Barbara S. 2:08 PM  

@Mods from last night
Thanks for letting me know that you didn’t nix my disappearing post from Tuesday. I think I’ve got the explanation: the multiverse. My post ended up on the blog “REY Parker Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle” in a parallel dimension close to our own. Yikes, I hope I haven’t broken any transdimensional laws of space-time by posting in another universe. You shouldn’t mess with the fundamentals. I had embedded a link in that post, and all I can say is I hope our alt-counterparts are familiar with Judy Garland belting out “On the Atchison, TOPEKA and the Santa Fe.” If they weren’t before, they are now.

I loved today’s puzzle! Somehow ended up solving it from south to north, so got BOUNCE BACK first and then tackled the contorted version of the “Fruity loaf.” I saw BANAna trying to spell itself at the end of the answer, looked around, and -- “Aha!”

Answers such as these are hard to make up. @Joe Dipinto’s (7:08) was primo.
My only success was: LENAH(C)OC.

I also tried
HSU(B)ARB
but I know it’s misspelled. I was just trying to work my name into one!

***SB ALERT***
I feel for those who worked on the SB yesterday. Kinda like climbing Everest. I got to 70 words and then got altitude sickness. I was glad I didn’t persevere as the two words I missed were kinda goofy. (One was BAAED.)

But, today’s (much smaller) has an odd assortment of letters and I can’t COPE!

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Anon @9:37:

Two aces are AA because the common way of writing cards as single characters are A23456789TJQK. Thus, having two aces would be represented as AA. Ace-King would be AK, etc.

Frantic Sloth 2:23 PM  

***SB Alert***
FYI The hive on the Wordplay blog was a-buzzin' with righteous indignation over the omission of COPE from the "acceptable" word list. Thanks to Deb Amlen who explained that the editor admitted to and apologized for the obvious error on Twitter. Because nothing exists outside of the Twitterverse apparently. Don't get me started.

Joe Bleaux 2:53 PM  

Today’s puz was as cool as I could ask for on a Thursday.
***SB Stuff*** @Frantic Sloth, thanks for the update on the COPE goof! After making the POPE LOPE and MOPE for three lousy points, I appreciate the editorial acknowledgment and apology.

Tricia 3:01 PM  

I had circle for the longest time. That and Dale instead of Vale, but the rest was fairly short work and fun!

pabloinnh 3:19 PM  

***SB STUFF***

How many times did folks enter COPE before deciding no, they really aren't accepting that? For me I think it was three. I mean, really.

AW 3:45 PM  

Even reading all the comments I don't get how this stupid grid trick works.

17A Start at the circled P and go right: you get POTA; drop the A and go left to get the missing TO in POTATO; start at the circled P and go left to get PANCAKE. Got it.

25A Start at the circled S and go right, you get the whole word SPACE—no dropped E; then go left from the circled S and you get SULE so...Huh? Nope, this time you go left from the uncircled C. Um, OK.

38A There is no WALLAW in Washington so what's with the extraneous letter? Oh! We're dropping a letter again, even though we DIDN'T in 25A. And now we're including invented spellings. Whatever you say.

51A OK, now we're back to going right from the circled B, dropping the end A, and going left to create BANANA and then going left from the circled B to get BREAD.

No consistency, invented names: What rubbish!

bocamp 4:22 PM  

Lots of love for your puz, Sid! Thank you ❤️

Got the gist at "Home of Whitman College" .

Met future spouse at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
meeting at Whitman. πŸ™

Spent the better part of 5 years in Walla Walla (many waters), attending Walla Walla College (now University) and Walla Walla Community College πŸ€“

Loved everything about Walla Walla and the surrounding area. Drove a International Harvester combine in the nearby Palouse wheat fields . 🌾

A couple of Walla Walla notables: Adam West (Batman) πŸ¦‡ and Drew Bledsoe (WWHS, WSU, New England Patriots). 🏈

Peace! πŸ•Š

Anoa Bob 4:37 PM  

I've played a lot of poker, especially Texas Hold 'Em. When I started playing I read a lot of books on poker strategy---I recommend Dan Harrington's---and the standard notation for any card is a letter or a number for the card's denomination/value followed by the symbol for its suit. If a Hold 'Em player's down cards are an ACE of hearts and an ACE of diamonds, for example, it would be notated A♡A♢, and not just AA. I don't recall ever seeing just two letters or numbers without the suit symbols being used to represent any two cards. That would be incomplete information. I definitely gave the side eye to that clue.

N.B. clue writers: Two ACES down is the best starting hand in Hold 'Em and so they are sometimes called "pocket rockets" (your down cards are also called pocket cards), "bullets", and "weapons of mass destruction".

The worst starting hand in Hold 'Em is a non-suited seven-two, say a 7♢2♠. Yeah, I miss poker. But that's a very risky COVID situation having 8-10 people in an enclosed space sitting around a table talking and laughing for several hours. Don't know when I will feel comfortable doing that again.

Krytykal 4:46 PM  

Love. Love. Love. IMO, this is a puzzle where the constructor shows off a neat linguistic trick that's also fun to solve. When I grokked the gimmick I sat back, amazed. Difficulty for me was a spot-on Thursday and I loved every minute of it.

bocamp 5:00 PM  

@ AW 3:45 PM – Try this: grab your scratch pad (dead tree or digital) and starting at 17A, circled letter "P", moving right, start printing each letter until you reach the right margin (P O T A). Now retaining those four letters, reverse course and head back to the left (T O P A N C A K E). Combining (P O T A) and (T O P A N C A K E) and Bob's your uncle. (NOTE: just like in a shuttle run (if you're using walls as your target, you tag the wall and rebound/reverse without touching the wall twice)

I will admit that only one of the themers contains a standalone word, moving from the circled letters to the right margins, e.g., "SPACE". The other three (POTA, WALLAW and BANA, don't make much sense until the rebound takes effect.

Don't know if this makes sense to you or if it will change your mind, but thought it was worth the try. 😊

Peace πŸ•Š

Kathy 5:33 PM  

Thank you, @frantic, for getting to the bottom of Cope-gate!
Did anyone else go right to Urban Dictionary to see if it had become a dirty word while we weren’t paying attention?

bocamp 5:35 PM  

Agreed that AA most likely represents aces from a card deck. Back in the day (early '60s U.S.N.) we called them "bullets", as "two pair, bullets over 8s). Whoa … if they're all black, that's not good: dead man's hand πŸ€”

I spose the AA could also apply to "A"s on a couple of exams, as in you aced them. Bit of a stretch there … just sayin'. πŸ€“

JC66 5:36 PM  

****SB ALERT****

@Kathy

I just couldn't deal with it. πŸ˜‚

bocamp 5:47 PM  

****SB ALERT****

@ Barbara S. – Happy to hear that the missing post has been accounted for 🀣 and that the the mods are down with "SB" posts. All's well that ends well! 😊

Too funny re: "baaed"; I got "booed" and didn't even twig on the former.

Anyway, I'm lovin' SB and I appreciate all the SB related comments. πŸ‘

Peace πŸ•Š

bocamp 5:53 PM  

****SB ALERT****

@ puzzlehoarder 1:16 AM – Kudos for yesterday's skookum performance. πŸ‘I maxed out at 57 for 253, which I was very happy with. 😊

Peace πŸ•Š

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

NO. Just NO. Ghastly & horrible, a real dog's-dinner of a puzzle, and perhaps most accessible to those with a serious case of dyslexia.

Constructors, please decide if you're making a crossword or if you're just playing at making some whacked-out thing from bizarro-world. This was a very sick puzzle (in the worst possible sense of the word "sick"), and the Times should not pretend it's a coherent crossword, even for a Thursday.

The only thing the print version of this puzzle is good for is to line the bottom of a bird cage.

PS: Where I come from, AA = Alcoholics Anonymous. Horrendous cluing.

Runs with Scissors 6:22 PM  

Pototato(e)s, cities in Washington, bread. Fun little puzzle, took me a couple of minutes - or more - to twig on the gimmick.

When I saw NOTGNIHSAWALLAW I got a tear in my eye from the unmitigated beauty of that unintelligible piece of prose.

Then I figgered it out.

PANHANDLER - we have boucoup pandandlers in the civic center. Well, not so much anymore that I know of. Telecommuting means I don't see them.

I have SHOT POOL in my time. Had some mean English. I haven't done it in years, though, so I'd prolly sink the 8-ball on the break today.

**SB RANT ALERT**
I can't COPE. I swear, I just can't. I typed it at least 6 times, all the while muttering WTF????

The final two words just aren't coming to me. I give. I'll find out tomorrow.
**END OF RANT**

DAERBANA EKACNAPOTA!! ELUSPACE!!!

Mark,
In Mickey's North Forty

bocamp 6:23 PM  

Z 9:37 AM wrote:

"Alrighty then, some people seem to think Rex hated this. Just because he doesn’t slavish praise on it doesn’t mean he hates it. He liked it less than most of the commentariat is about as far as anyone can truthfully go."

What you said is so true, and could/should be a lesson for all of us "cherry pickers" who choose to be "tunnelvisionistic" when doling out criticism. Let our criticism be more critique-ism, being fair and just, rather than cynical and derisive. πŸ€”

Peace πŸ•Š

Runs with Scissors 6:24 PM  

The most funnest entry in the grid: MYOB

If you've never read it, I highly recommend "And Then There Were None," by he who has three first names. It ties in. Really.

Greg 6:26 PM  

I still don't like the way ALTO gets clued. To me, the ONLY context in which to use the word ALTO is in reference to choral singing. A solo low female voice is referred to as a mezzo-soprano or contralto. Thus, I would not clue ALTO as "Soprano's co-star", since to me that implies solo singing. Very rarely, in a choral work, there will be a brief call for a solo voice from the chorus. It's usually not a large enough part to justify hiring a soloist, so it is given to one of the choristers who has a strong solo voice. In this instance, it may be marked in the score as "Soprano solo", or "ALTO solo". Any other vocal musicians, please correct me if I've got this wrong.

Runs with Scissors 6:45 PM  

@Greg 6:26 PM

I hate to burst yer bubble, but something like 99.9% of the population aren't vocal musicians and don't make that distinction. And, I hate to add, don't care. We know (maybe) soprano, alto, tenor, bass. That's it. And it really doesn't matter.

I feel your pain, though. I get the same instinct to rage when I see someone equating fantasy to science fiction. Two totally separate genres that get conflated as one.

But I know better than to rail against that about which no one cares.

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

25 A
Start with the S and go right
SPACE
Then turn around and go left, just like you do in every other line, and go from right to left
CAPSULE
Works fine.
And there are no extra letters or invented spellings in 38A.
Start with the circle W and go right
WALLAW, the turn around to get ALLA WASHINGTON. If you put the first two things together you get WALLAWALLA or WALLA WALLA

syracusesolver 7:32 PM  

I nominate this for Puzzle of the Year!

Lojman 8:36 PM  

@johnk - the complaint is valid. The circled letter is the first letter of the first and second words of three theme answers: WALLAWALLAWASHINGTON, BANANABREAD, and POTATOPANCAKE. The circled letter is the first letter of only the first word in SPACECAPSULE.

Overall no big deal for me.

Lojman 8:39 PM  

The book cover Rex posted is some serious M.C. Escher bizness. The woman is wearing a bikini bottom...with Capri pant hems at her ankles. Mind: blown.

TTrimble 8:50 PM  

Just popping in briefly to say I loved today's NYTXW puzzle. Actually, no, that isn't really why I popped in, although it's true that my love is sincere...

---[SB Alert]---

First of all, all hail to -- and long live -- Queen Barbara! Speaking for myself, I'd love to come party at her palace again, but I've had to remain content with being a mere genius recently.

I was not far off on the 72-word extravaganza, missing what was it? ABEAM, BAAED, BOMBE, and MAMBOED. I think hands up for never having MAMBOED in my life, hence not having that in my lexicon. I live a sheltered existence. Oh, and I BOOED BAAED.

But today's. Thanks, @Frantic Sloth, for the sleuthing on COPE-gate. I probably tried that at least 5 times, in some worried paranoid fantasy of being gaslighted. But I knew it: Ezersky was drinking and editing. Or texting and editing. Really, I think he needs to confer with the owner of nytbee.com, who has the software goods, and who somehow manages to say with a straight and sober face, on the omission of COPE, "because the New York Times considers it offensive or obscure". God bless him.

I'm giving up at G + pangram with 3 to go. Too much stuff on my plate these days.

JD 9:32 PM  

@Runs, I hope you see this. I will cherish this sentence forever, "When I saw NOTGNIHSAWALLAW I got a tear in my eye from the unmitigated beauty of that unintelligible piece of prose."

Best sentence from Sunday suggested the the the puzzle was, "...heavily constained by its own bad idea."

Good writing means so much.

Barbara S. 9:34 PM  

****SB ALERT****
@TTrimble
Nice to hear from you, and good luck with your full plate. I'm thinking it's not laden with cake and ice cream. Thanks for the acknowledgement! But I haven't regained my crown for a couple of days. I'm 1 away today but I'm calling it. I'm tired of these uncomplementary letters.

Cheers!

A Moderator 9:59 PM  

We don't delete SB comments, but we do delete SB comments that contain spoilers.

bocamp 10:09 PM  

@ A Moderator 9:59 PM wrote:

"We don't delete SB comments, but we do delete SB comments that contain spoilers."

My bad πŸ˜” I "represent" that reprimand. LOL

I'll do better! 😊

Peace πŸ•Š

Runs with Scissors 10:39 PM  

@JD 9:32 PM

Thanks!! The puzzle was great fun, but that and its compadres jumped out and said "love my audacioiusnss!"

Ben 10:42 PM  

I loved this theme! Took me a bit to figure out what was going on -- When I first looked at the clue for 17A, POTATO PANCAKE was my immediate thought, but the crosses I already had (CPA, LAPD*, METAL, and PLAY UP), and which I was pretty sure were right, didn't work with it (also, it didn't fit).

The first themer I got in its entirety was ELUSPACE (entirely from the downs), but even after that I still wasn't exactly sure what the theme was -- I assumed that the answer was some sort of modification of SPACE modULE, rather than thinking of SPACE CAPSULE. But then I went back to 17A and saw that POTA sitting there, and had my "aha" moment.

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing and yet also delightful. This is one of those impressive feats of construction that is also fun to solve.



*An answer that, incidentally, I'm pleasantly surprised didn't set off a Rex Rant

Hungry Mother 11:16 AM  

I needed my wife to get me that X. She’s an eX English teacher who has a real feel for the language and complements my math brain. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like to do puzzles. On long drives in the past, we would stop at Cracker Barrel (there’s only one in the universe - think about it, you always get the same waitress) and buy a USA Today. Then, she would read the puzzle clues, not telling me the number of letters or already filled crosses unless I begged for it, and we would joint solve. Lots of fun. She can’t read any longer due to Macular Degeneration.

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