Jazz pianist Hines / WED 9-9-20 / Upscale section of airport / Spice that comes in stars / Fermented milk drink / Holder of mitochondria

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Constructor: Jakob Weisblat

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (low 4s)

THEME: September 9 — clues are all [99, in [some field]]; today's date is 9/9:

Theme answers:
  • EINSTEINIUM (17A: 99, in chemistry)
  • NAMES OF ALLAH (28A: 99, in Islam)
  • WAYNE GRETZKY (47A: 99, in hockey)
  • LUFTBALLONS (60A: 99, in pop music) 

Word of the Day: DFC (38A: U.S.A.F. honor) —
The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918." (wikipedia)
• • •

Nine is my favorite number, so this puzzle should've been pleasing to me. And yet. And yet. And yet this answer set feels totally arbitrary and not terribly interesting. I love remembering '80s music as much as the next person, but something about this concept felt tinny and cheap. And the fill had some highs (a few of the longer Downs), but enough awful lows that those were the things I remembered. DEP? (22A: Terminal abbr.) Is that short for "departure"??? Yikes. I generally look at a screen marked "Arrivals" and "Departures," and can't recall seeing that exact abbr. at a "terminal." I genuinely thought it was short for "DEPot" (as in "train depot") before I started writing this paragraph. Note: DEP hasn't been clued as an abbr. for "Departures" since Before I Started Blogging (mid-2006). It's always short for "deposit" (as in "bank deposit"). There's one sheriff DEPuty in there too. You'd think you'd've gone with SEP today—I mean ... look at your theme. Then there was DFC, which was just a random series of letters. I thought, after nearly fourteen years of writing every day about the NYTXW, that I'd seen the entire alphabet-soup collection of three-letter military award abbrs. (truly the junk drawer of crosswordese), but DFC, wow, you gotta go back to 1999 to find an appearance of that little gem. LLCS is probably clued correctly (56D: Hybrid business entities: Abbr.) but financial abbrs. (again, junk drawer) are not my thing and also even financial experts will have to agree (I insist) that the plural here is yuck. The worst thing about the grid for me was PEEP (1D: Look-see). I wrote in PEEK. Because that's the best answer. It swaps out perfectly: "Let's have a look-see," "Let's have a PEEK." See. Perfect. "Let's have a PEEP"!?!?! That's something you say to a baby chick who refuses to come in on cue in your poultry chorus. I get that eyes are "peepers," but yuck and ugh. I had KENCAP at 19A: Something removed before signing (PEN CAPand just stared. All the crosses were correct, as far as I was concerned. What the hell was a KENCAP? Well, it's nothing. A typo for "kneecap," maybe.

Monday's puzzle had a gratuitous reference to so-called "right-to-work" laws, which are some anti-union right-wing bullshit, and today, right up front at 1-Across, we get a right-wing PAC: Citizens United. Look, if you thought the racism and sexism and other garbage that creeps into the NYTXW from time to time was just a matter of ignorance or well-intentioned misunderstanding about word meaning, maybe it's time you start to rethink this. There's no reason, with either of the clues I've mentioned, to showcase right-wing bullshit. You can clue PAC and WORK just fine without doing flak work for bad-faith political orgs. This kind of cluing is highly intentional. As shorthand for a landmark Supreme Court decision, Citizens United is fine. I was actually thinking "what's a three-letter abbr. for a Supreme Court decision? DEC???" But as a PAC, it's garbage. Corporations aren't people and "right-to-work" is some Orwellian nonsense. 

What else. Oh, I misspelled GRETSKY, like so. That made me think 34D: Something that just might work (CRAZY IDEA) was a CRASH ... something. I might even have written in CRASH IDEA before I got wise to my screw-up. And that's it. That's all I've got on this one. Happy September 9th, I guess.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 6:37 AM  

Took a moment after solving this entertaining offering to meditate on it, and it sent me all over the place -- a treat during this stay-at-home era.

Oh, I did see two 5-letter semordnilaps, which are fairly rare in grids (DARTS and ELIDE). But then I started thinking about 99, and that so many prices end in that figure. Really, do people think that $4.99 is that much less than $5.00?

Next I went on a learning spree. I found out that FIDO as a popular dog name started with Abraham Lincoln, who gave that name to his dog (it's Latin for "faithful"), and during Lincoln's presidential run, FIDO was publicized in an effort to show Abe as a man of the people. For generations after that, it was an extremely popular dog name.

Also, I learned that KEFIR naturally contains ethanol, FWIW.

Finally, the last thing a constructor works on is not clues. No, the last thing that happens is that in your final look-over you discover a dupe (the same word appearing twice, usually far apart), then you curse, walk around the block four times, and in a huff redo a quarter of the puzzle. Okay, I exaggerate, but it has happened!

Lovely what can bloom from a puzzle, no? Thank you, Jakob, for your lovely puzzle and the joyride it gave me!

Lewis 6:38 AM  

@z -- You can add KEFIR to SESAME OIL as part of the SEX TALK parental challenge.

Z 6:45 AM  

Oh! Today is 9/9.

Pfft. Four trivia answers for a theme. Might as well be a quote tribute puzzle.

At least we get ourselves some Janelle MONÁE.

ChuckD 7:05 AM  

We’ve seen these date puzzles before - the problem with the themers is that they really have no functional connection other than the date string and it becomes disjoint. The solve here was pleasant enough - decent fill but just flat for a Wednesday. Liked EINSTEINIUM and the FORT KNOX/WAYNE GRETZKY cross. KEFIR is a cool word but I’ll pass on drinking it. I’m assuming KASICH was needed letter-wise by the constructor because there’s no good reason to have him in a puzzle. Didn’t think Citizens United was actually a PAC - but wiki tells me otherwise.

Hopefully a tough rebus tomorrow.

amyyanni 7:07 AM  

With you on Janelle, @Z. Also liked Rex's peeps photo. When I was a PD, had a colleague who affectionately referred to her clients as 'peeps.' And thanx for the Alfie picture-story on Twitter, Rex.

kaoconno 7:08 AM  

What about 99 bottles of beer on the wall? That would have been good.

SouthsideJohnny 7:09 AM  

Lots of unpleasant aromas emanating from this one, which really downgrades the solving experience. I wish Rex had more street cred with the Times (his unnecessary and misguided rants about which PACs are deemed acceptable, for example, squandered whatever influence he may have had long ago). The obvious Natick EMILIANO crossing MALLE should never have made it past the first edit. LUFT BALLONS is way, way too esoteric for a Wednesday theme entry. Then they threw in the malodorous DFC and the even more rancid NEB. Please, please - somebody here tell me that they have ever once used NEB in a sentance as clued. So sad, so avoidable, - it seems like the staff at the NYT has given up and is just going through the motions . . . smh.

kitshef 7:13 AM  

Biggest hurdles for me were to of the themers (livermorium to californium to EINSTEINIUM and RED BALLOONS before LUFT BALLONS), and that awful DEP.

Before I got 4A I had _LIPS OFF at 4D and though "would they go there?".

Initialism overload (P.A.C., U.F.O., D.F.C., H.D.L., T.S.A., L.L.C.S, E.M.T.S, P.T.A.S.)

pabloinnh 7:24 AM  

Well, I didn't find the themers "arbitrary", since they all had to have something to do with 99, and they do.

PEEK before PEEP (I think either one is OK) and SHOVE before SHUNT but otherwise nary a slowdown in this . EMILIANO was a gimme but I for some reason misspelled his name, which led to a bit of confusion with RIPEST.

OK Wed. by me, JW, and other than the "bottles of beer on the wall" thing, I'd say you choices were just fine.

G. F. Barbato 7:33 AM  

One more thing: chili/BEANS?? Really?!? Not in my house.

JD 7:35 AM  

Rex wrote passionately today about "right to work" and other issues and I don't even completely disagree. But because I woke up thinking that you can never go wrong overestimating the gullibility and ignorance of American voters (both sides) it's too much and I was already slightly depressed.

That's why I'm gonna rant about the use of "ad speak" as an excuse to invent the word Spex! Not buying it, a word so patently absurd that for a 10th of a nano second I actually wondered could there be a Fort Knoc?

Beneath Spex was Luft Balloons, from an album I bought 37 years ago. Old enough to know it and lucky remember it, which made the puzz easy.

But again, Spex. Sext. Clue for a wacky theme: Wearing glasses while sending lewd texts, Spexting. It wouldn't surprise me.

lukiegrifpa 7:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ow a paper cut 7:50 AM  

Great start to the morning.

Music Man 7:51 AM  

Besides “99 LUFTBALLONS” (60A), there was a song by Toto in 1980 called simply “99”.

Interesting trivia about “99 LUFTBALLONS”: The Song was recorded but German pop singer Nena and hit the US pop charts in early 1984. The song was recorded in both German and English, and the 45 RPM single featured the German version on one side and the English version on the flip side. In English the song was translated as “99 RED BALLOONS”.

Hoboken Mike 7:59 AM  

Just try to ruin my enjoyment of this lovely puzzle. Not a chance on this lovely day.

To your specific complaints. When you're talking about a trait that all LLC's share it is entirely appropriate to use the apostrophe s.

And if the hybrid status LLP's enjoy is opaque to you I should think you would feel glad for an opportunity to broaden your horizons.

I for one think that law firms and accounting firms having largely succeeded in protecting themselves from unlimited liability for their failures is something that more people should be aware of. The puzzle in the neutral way points out there something here and maybe someone will wonder about the hybrid status and look it up.

As for Citizens United, much as I wish ignoring it would make it go away, I know it won't. Reminding us every day that citizens united exists and is a PAC, and is out there everyday undermining our democracy and has to be dealt with and thought about is a really good activity for 60 days before an election. Especially this election.

As for DFC, I found it a welcome change from for example endless PSATS and obscure muses.

The most disappointing thing about your write-up was that you didn't attach the lovely German version of the Nina song.

Because I really do look forward to you write-ups I urge you to go look it up on YouTube.

I'd link it if I was of a generation capable of doing that in a response box to a blog.

Joe Welling 8:01 AM  

And nothing about Barbara Feldon?

MarineO6 8:08 AM  

Interesting puzzle, I so much enjoyed the use of Citizens United in cluing and Monday’s right to work references. Hopefully the NYT will expand their use of references such as those since they make the puzzling experience so much the sweeter knowing Rex’s head is exploding. Ta!

Frantic Sloth 8:11 AM  

THE: Well, it's a word.
"Fill-in-___blank": Yeah. It's a clue.

Moving on...

So, 99 huh? What - no Barbara Feldon clues? Har!

Interesting theme. Didn't know that ALLAH has 99 names, although the concept seems vaguely familiar somehow. I guess somebody's gotta count 'em.

First time hearing of EINSTEINIUM, which sounds like it's made up by some hack who wanted to see his name on a chart. What a loser.

99 Luftballons is just a lousy, CRAZYIDEA in every sense of the word. They're bad for wildlife, the environment, some unsupervised children, and in this particular case, my ears.

Pretty average Wednesdee, time- and difficult-wise. Nothing to crank about, but nothing to run up the flagpole and salute either.


Rug Crazy 8:15 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one. Plus: https://getsmart.fandom.com/wiki/Agent_99

Hungry Mother 8:21 AM  

SW corner did me in. LUFTBALLONS was way out of my reach even though I had LUFT_ALLONS. I wasn’t seeing DEATHBED, which was very gettable and MONAE was unknown. Worst I’ve done in a long time.

RooMonster 8:28 AM  

Hey All !
Islam has 99 words for ALLAH? Seems excessive. Like the Inuit language with words for snow.

LUFT BALLONS was my favorite. That song has stuck in the ole brain I think because of the big deal at the time of Nena (wasn't that her name?) releasing both language versions. Weird the stuff that sticks with you. Plus, it got lots of airplay (both versions.)

Anyway, a nice theme. 99, why not? LOL at the "Beers on the wall" wanters. Funny, but tortuous song. If someone tries to start that song, I'll leave the room! EINSTEINIUM was new to me. Stopped paying attention to the periodic table after high school.

Nits about threes and abbrs. Gotta have nits, life just isn't the same without 'em.

Puz seems more Tuesdayish. SPEX no one has ever said nor wrote. πŸ˜‹

Five F's (CRAZY!)

albatross shell 8:29 AM  

A lot of royalty in this one.


The theme a bit meh. LUFTBALLOONS is one I did not know at all. You'd think there would be zingier stuff for 99. Maybe a train wreck or something. Eye cee nothing myself. Well 3 not bad out of four is not terrible. Good day for it I guess.

Nice fill and fair enough cliuing.

Saw PENCAP early but resisted putting it in as long as possible.

CRAZY IDEAs are often entertaining. I mean let's gargle Lysol and take Q seriously. Always kind of liked the one in STAR Trek anyway.

TokyoRacer 8:29 AM  

Thanks for mentioning the natick, SouthsideJohnny.

Frayed Knot 8:36 AM  

Let the great chili debate begin!

Smith 8:36 AM  

Easier than yesterday. Just read clue, write answer. But how old does it make me to have written LUFTBALLONS just off the F?

Fritz the Cat 8:56 AM  

I think “Dep” stands for “departed” as in “the departed” I.e. the dead. Hence the “terminal” abbreviation... though maybe if that was the intent it ought to have had a question mark?

pabloinnh 9:04 AM  

Hey SPEX haters--didn't you ever answer an ad for X-Ray Spex?

OK, neither did I, but they were a thing.

Sixthstone 9:06 AM  

Simple theme with some fun themers. Mediocre fill with some bad stuff as folks have pointed out. At the end I spent several minutes finding my error at the naticky crossing of MONAE and AWS--I had MONEE and EWS. So that stole the joy from this one for me.

albatross shell 9:06 AM  

DEP for departed? I thought it was depot.

Z 9:12 AM  

Was reading @HobokenMike on my iPhone and wondered at his Nena comment since a version in German was there this morning when I first read Rex. Scrolled up and neither it nor Toto’s 99 are there. I click on the “web version” link at the bottom and, yep, still there. So, @mobile Rex readers - If you want the full Rex experience including videos you need to opt into the web version.
I remember Rex mentioning before that he was considering going to a different platform. I know it would be a major move and headache, but it’s times like this where I wish he’d just do it. Blogger is so archaic in software terms.

Nancy 9:28 AM  

Gee, and I was having such a good time until I got to LUFTBALLONS. What/Who on earth...?

Maybe others had just as much trouble with WAYNE GRETZKY. I didn't know he was a 99, but at least his name was very familiar. I guess LUFTBALLONS is familiar to some people, too -- just not to me.

I didn't love that LUFTBALLONS crossed an abbrev., but I guessed right on LLC.

Still, this was otherwise a fun puzzle to solve. Who knew that there were so many PEE? words that mean [almost] the exact same thing: PEEK; PEER; PEEP. PEEP was the one I thought of last, actually.

And then "push aside" can be either SHove or SHUNT.

And since I don't drive, my first thought for the "Out of my way!" indicator wasn't HONK. It was either CONK or BONK.

"Shears" can either be snIPS OFF or CLIPS OFF.

Lots of opportunities to go astray in this lively puzzle. And I loved the clues for PEN CAP; CLUES and TONSIL.

(P.S. There's a "Baby YODA"? Good grief.)

mathgent 9:32 AM  

A couple of the Terrible Threes in today’s puzzle are welcome because they permit twelve-letter entries (EINSTEINIUM and LUFTBALLONS), but there are 24 of the little pests.

Nice clue for ATLAS (Book often stored horizontally).

What a great name, EMILIANO Zapata.

Nice to be reminded of My Dinner With Andre.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  


GHarris 10:23 AM  

Started by peeking and thought shears was being used as a noun so I entered clippers. Tonsils enabled me to reboot and peek changed to peer then to peep when the k proved unworkable. Must have been fairly clued otherwise I would never have gotten Luft Ballons.

Anon 10:25 AM  

No comments on the anti-capitalist, holocaust denier Noam Chomsky yet? Other than that and DFC, i really liked the puzzle. Though ARNO-REB is a much better cross than ANNO-NEB.

Canon Chasuble 10:42 AM  

Just a nice puzzle for a Wednesday, and the first one I filled in was 19a since I do the newspaper puzzle with a fountain pen, a device probably never even seen, let alone used by many others. The 99s were pretty obvious, but Like some bloggers today, I would have loved to see Barbara Feldon in there also.

jberg 10:43 AM  

Not sure if I solved this or not. I wrote in HDL, correctly—but when I checked the downs I thought the L was a C, so I had cLCS, well known as the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. So all the bland were right, but my understanding wasn’t.

I did know DFC, though.

jberg 10:45 AM  

You know who probably doesn’t know DFC? Donald Trump.

Old White Guy 10:45 AM  

virtue signaling in the review, not the puzzle - well, it's in there, too, it's the NYT after all ...

GILL I. 10:46 AM  

I think parts of a crossword that a constructor works on should be this: PAC LAP PAL ALP SAL...Oh...we also have PANS.
I'm not much of a numbers person but if I were, it wouldn't be 99. @Lewis...It's called psychological pricing. An EINSTEINIUM probably come up with that marketing glory. The 99 cents is brilliance in advertising only because it communicates low prices to consumers. You do know that we're all idiots....
I thought that LUFT band had some balloons. No...only BALLONS. I got it because DEATH BED crossed it. I want my last words to be : "Dinner is ready."
I guess I learned something today and I guess I will probably forget it. I'm happy for ALLAH and his 99 names. I'm happy my HDL is the good kind. I'm happy EMILIANO Zapata is dead and I'm happy that no one on this earth names their dog FIDO nor FIFI.
More smoke today.

William of Ockham 10:48 AM  

Viva Emiliano Zapata - Gato Barbieri
add to playlist

JD 10:49 AM  

@pabloinnh, Never realized they were called X-Ray Spex! Now wondering why we didn't we see anything amiss with their advertising ... boys could use them to look through a woman's dress. Comic books lied. Sea Monkey's didn't have those little crowns either.

@albatross shell, Pencap of Tonsil, funny! I think he was at Eton with Bertie Wooster.

@Nancy, Conk if you're a walker? Priceless.

MetroGnome 10:50 AM  

*Sigh* Here we go again. Clues and answers that represent someone/something "I" disagree with should be banned.

For the record, I admire Noam CHOMSKY and I abhor the PAC called Citizens United. Also for the record, both Prof. Chomsky and Citizens United exist in the real world, they're both relevant and newsworthy, hence they both merit inclusion in what's supposed to be a PUZZLE, not a PAMPHLET.

Why isn't our Virtue-Signaller-in-Chief, who gets so exercised every time the initials NRA show up (regardless of context), railing about the AMMO in 29D, as well?

NavyO5 10:57 AM  

MarineO6- spot on, colonel(I assume)! Knowing that Rex's head is exploding makes solving a puzzle so much sweeter.

saynotoredface 11:01 AM  

I’m really confused about ELIDE, I don’t get it.

Cam Jansen 11:04 AM  

You say anti-capitalist like it’s a bad thing. Also, Holocaust denier? Wtf are you talking about?

sixtyni yogini 11:06 AM  

Haha, I had love potions for Luft Ballons (no idea!) 🎈but that was love potion number 9.😍...I think.
Liked it otherwise, but I too stopped at citizens united PAC. Ugh for us lovely “llibrals.”
πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ€— πŸ§©πŸ€—πŸ‘ŽπŸ½

Carola 11:08 AM  

I nicely resistant Wednesday for me, as there were a number of places I had to wait for crosses in order to see my way forward. Two of these were for the theme answers EINSTEINIUM and WAYNE GRETZKY (nice pairing of two geniuses in their own way). I'm old enough to remember Nena and still have enough intact short-term memory to have retained the ALLAH information from a recent puzzle.

- Citizens United: I looked at the three spaces allowed and wondered how I could fit in "disaster" or "travesty."
- DFC and DEP: I was surprised at @Rex's objections. Maybe I've just read too many novels involving the London Blitz, but DFC was anything but random for me. And in family itineraries, I always noted Arr. and Dep. for the flights we used to take,
- Enjoyed writing in: CRAZY IDEA, FORT KNOX. - Still shuddering from yesterday's theme: DEATHBED.

TJS 11:09 AM  

Checking with Wikipedia, it appears that Chomsky's involvement with Holocaust denial was actually a defense of the right to free speech, not an endorsement of the idea itself. Just sayin'.

Pamela 11:20 AM  

Like Rex, I found the theme disappointing, just a bunch of random answers that landed with a thud, no Aha. And like Rex, I had SHove before SHUNT, and PEEk, therefore kENCAP, and assumed DEPot was intended.

OTOH, I knew DFC-Distinguished Flying Cross- from WW2 novels, and I’ve seen LLC lots of times.

All in all, pretty easy, not unpleasant, just meh.

One thing that stood out: I really, really wish I had a STRAD. Someone here posted a link to The Violin’s Voice, a documentary about a 1770 Stradivarius, and also the making of a new violin. I’ve watched it 4 times. The first time was on my iPad. The second time was with headphones, which really brought out the sound. Then I bought an AppleTV so I could see it on the big screen- amazing! Since then, I feel like I have to revisit it on a regular basis. I’ve also shared the url with many others, including the luthier who does my repairs.


So many thanks to that original poster.

Pamela 11:21 AM  

Oops!- the STRAD in the film is from 1711, not 1770

Ernonymous 11:24 AM  

I knew LUFTBALOONS only from crossword puzzles. Sometime this year (I started this hobby end of January 2020) NENA was an answer and there was much commentary about the 99 Red Balloons song, so I looked it up. Then it was stuck in my head for days. I was also told to remember NENA because this one- hit- wonder singer appears a lot in puzzles.
We need a term for something that you only know about because you learned it doing a crossword puzzle. I'm going to call that a NENA, so LUFTBALOONS was a NENA for me.

Ernonymous 11:29 AM  

@saynotoredface too bad Loren Muse Smith isn't here. She would have a field day with ELIDE.
But I'm sure someone here can explain it to you better than I can. OH LMS where are you when we need you?

Unknown 11:38 AM  

Re LLCS as a plural, I can't believe rex has never encountered that, as it is a term that is regularly used by lawyers and financial folks.

Re: Citizens United, i wish rex would get over his virtue signalling. yes, it was a terrible decision by the SCOTUS. I suppose we should never see SCOTUS as an answer in a puz, since it made such a bad decision. Honestly, outside of a small handful of answers that I'd rather not see (HITLER, CHILDPORN, SNUFFFILM), sometimes it's okay to see an answer that doesn't necessarily fall in our political "like" zone. Virtue signalling is a real form of censorship, and who really wants to go down that road? Apparently rex does.

Masked and Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Clearly a "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" tribute puz.

staff weeject pick: yep, ... DEP. Assumed it was short for DEPot, like the @RPmeister.
Primo weeject stacks in the NW & SE, plus bonus dedicated middle Across weeject row. No problemo, with DFC.

sparkly stuff included: FORTKNOX [4 consonants in a row, in there - brave and bravo]. COUNTMEIN/IFICAN.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Weisblat. And congratz on yer solo debut puz.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Pamela 11:48 AM  

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

QB in record time today. Go, Bee-ers!

Yesterday, OTOH, Boo, Hiss! Of the 3 I didn’t get, one was so unbelievably obscure- I just couldn’t COPEπŸ˜–

Joaquin 11:52 AM  

@Anon (10:25) - You may disagree with Noam Chomsky on any number of issues but he was NOT a Holocaust denier. He did, however, come under fire for defending the right of deniers to speak their opinion.

Whatsername 11:54 AM  

This was challenging for me and not in a good way. Maybe I’m just rusty from my brief hiatus, but I had a tough time with all the 99 themers except GRETZKY. Pop music/LUFT BALLONS was a big WTF; the others were at least inferable. Had a Natick at 42A/38D. DFC is not a commonly known abbreviation for anything that I know of, and the name of the actress from that wonderful movie escaped me. Plus you know what else has 8 letters and answers the clue for “final words?” OBITUARY

@JD (7:35) SPEXTing = wearing glasses while sending explicit texts ... or wearing only glasses while sending sexts? If someone hasn’t already thought of it - it’s probably just a matter of time.

@Franric (8:11) “EINSTEINIUM, made up by some hack who wanted to see his name on a chart. What a loser.” Actually, a little known fact - he was more commonly referred to as a sucker.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

I so much enjoyed the use of Citizens United in cluing and Monday’s right to work references.

The funny thing about The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) and his lemmings is this: the Radical Red States only exist because -
1 - they have Blue states to which they can ship all that non-union produced output; there's no money in Radical Red states to buy it, of course (same is true of all autocratic exporters, btw)
2 - the Radical Red States have been sucking at the hind teat of Uncle Sugar for more than a hundred years, and if The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) and his lemmings get their way by destroying the Blue state economies, all that sweet milk goes away, because it's supplied by the Blue states.

IOW, be vewy, vewy cawful what you wish for. A USofA with nothing but slave wage Radical Red States will look just like Russia. Da!

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

Thanks to Rex and everyone else for sharing their opinion on Citizens United. Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, Capitalism, etc. They’re fascinating.

Todd 12:06 PM  

I really wish my puzzles were all prescreeend by someone like Rex for all things not hard left. Justice Alito, NRA, Right to Work, Citizens United, etc, etc, etc. I would certainly feel much safer. NOT!

Anonymous 12:07 PM  


one might only hope your being sarcastic. the element was named in honor of the guy, not by him. he wasn't quite dead yet.

Anon 12:14 PM  

To misquote Churchill: “Capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others,”

Chomsky's criticism of Israel has led to his being called a traitor to the Jewish people and an anti-Semite.[288] Criticizing Chomsky's defense of the right of individuals to engage in Holocaust denial on the grounds that freedom of speech must be extended to all viewpoints, Werner Cohn called Chomsky "the most important patron" of the neo-Nazi movement.[289] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), called him a Holocaust denier,[290] describing him as a "dupe of intellectual pride so overweening that he is incapable of making distinctions between totalitarian and democratic societies, between oppressors and victims".

TTrimble 12:31 PM  

Yeah, the thing about "Holocaust denier" (10:25AM) is either dumb or a willful misrepresentation. (Of course NC has heard it all.) You can read about it here. Defending the right to free speech of someone he vehemently disagrees with is something Chomsky has done consistently throughout his life.

Okay, that out of the way -- let me just tone down the temperature a notch and say that I find adorable the fact that Rex has 9 as his favorite number. I think that was my favorite number when I was in the third grade. All those little facts about 9 that one learns in school, like take any number divisible by 9, add the digits, and you get a number divisible by 9 -- yeah, I liked that stuff then. But they're all based on the fact that 9 is 1 less than 10 which is the base we use for decimals. So attribute it to the biological fact that we have 10 fingers.

A much deeper fact about 9 is that if you write down the list of all numbers greater than 1 that are either squares (4, 9, 16, ...) or cubes (8, 27, 64, ...), or fourth powers, etc. -- write all of them down in order -- then 9 is the only one on the list which is one greater than another one on the list! And that was only proved in the 21st century. It's quite a hard theorem.

FWIW, I do agree with commenters who say that the idea of expunging letter strings like NRA can get a little silly. Heh, I remember as a kid getting certificates from the NRA awarding me with 'Marksman' and 'Pro-Marksman' status (with a BB rifle) -- that was all part of summer camp along with archery and swimming and crafts and whatever else, and the NRA was a much smaller, nonpartisan, and family-friendly outfit -- not the grotesquely politicized thing it is today. Still, it's part of our world and it should be possible to refer to it.

Oh yeah, I enjoyed today's puzzle! Nice to see the golden ratio in there (PHI). I was half-expecting to see Rex complain about that one.

DrMabuse 12:34 PM  

If you're having clue problems I feel bad for you, son
I got 99 problems but KASICH ain't one

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

For Johnny at 7:09 AM: Birds have nebs. Uncap a pen and you’ll see its nib.

Teedmn 12:48 PM  

I didn't need EINSTEINIUM to solve this today, but it did put up some resistance, in a good cholesterol way, so I liked it.

I circled the clue for 54A as a fun meta. "Fill-in-___-blank" just makes me smile.

And rats, I just figured out that I had a DNF. As I wrote in NOAh Chomsky, I thought to myself, hmm, that doesn't seem quite right. No wonder Janelle hONAE looked so odd. Oh well.

"My Dinner With Andre" is such a great movie. I watched it for the 2nd time a couple of years ago and it still worked. Though I kept expecting Wallace Shawn to spit out, "Inconceivable!". And I kept thinking that the wait staff must be getting rather impatient to get rid of these two diners who've been sitting for hours taking up table space.

Nice job, Jakob, on your solo debut. Thanks.

elleplante 1:06 PM  


pabloinnh 1:07 PM  


The comic books lied!? Oh no. That must be why I could never make it sound like my voice was coming from inside a trunk and no one looked in there to let someone out.

The things I learn on this blog.

elleplante 1:10 PM  

Or Agent 99 from Get Smart!

Z 1:16 PM  

@JD - re: Spexting - No kink shaming allowed.

@saynotoredface - ELIDE is exactly as clued, “omit, as a syllable.” For example, the southern “y’all” for “you all” ELIDEs the “oo” sound in “you,” making “y’all” basically one syllable.

There was a famous case of the ACLU defending Nazi’s right to march in Skokie, IL. That doesn’t make the ACLU anti-semitic although I can understand residents’ distress.

Dave S 1:43 PM  

@GFBarbato : surprised there wasn't mre of a huff abut this (well, not from Rex. I don't think that's his turf). Far from a major component, real Texas chili has no beans: There Are No Beans in Real Chili: Just Ask a Texan https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/there-are-no-beans-real-chili-just-ask-texan

saynotoredface 1:48 PM  

I guess I’ve never heard that term before. And I’ve taken a few linguistics classes! The more you know i guess

Mike B 1:51 PM  

I share most of the comments already said- I would have tried to make the answer to 99 in pop music associated with its position at the end of the top 100 chart somehow, playing of a possible LAST...ALMOST or something, I DK.

Rex- back to your initial review;

DEP. short for "depot" as in shipping a car from terminal to terminal or to a transit depot. (or maybe Home Depot as a terminal destination?). Mike

Mike B 1:54 PM  

Rex, back to your initial review;

DEP is short for depot, as in shipping a car from terminal to terminal or to a transportation depot, like bus depot, or as in Home Depot a terminal destination- I'd say ok on that one, but like everyone else- poor marks for 99 pop music. I'd have tried to link it to LAST OR ALMOST on the top 100 chart or something like that...


bocamp 1:56 PM  

Thank you @ Jakob for a fine puz. – learned a bunch of stuff (I hope). "99" seems appropriate for a Sept. 9 puzzle. πŸ€”

Had to "whack-a-vowel" on 43D, so, technically, a dnf. Interjections of the of ("aw", "aww", "ah", "ahh", "aah" "ew", "ow", "oh", "ooh") kind have always confused me, and crossing "Monae", of "Hidden Figures" (both of which were unknowns) was my undoing. I frequently use "aww" with my granddaughters, e.g., "aww, that's so sweet/cute", etc., tho, can't recall ever using "aw", as in, "aw, that's a shame", etc., although, it does look right, now that I've written it out. This is just one more example of "poor thinking" on my part: 1) "… disappointment" doesn't evoke the stronger sense or an "ew" or "ow". The softer exclamation, "aw" fits the bill much better. 2) The name "Mon_e, much better served with an "a" ("Monae") than with an "o" ("Monoe") or an "e" ("Monee"). I didn't take the time to give it a serious "eyeball" and/or reason it out. Aw, don't despair, mon ami, you'll do better next time! 🀞

BTW, I will be renting "Hidden Figures" (unfortunately, it's not streaming on Netflix or Prime Video in Canada). I'm really looking forward to watching it, as there are so many meaningful and edifying aspects to it.

Currently reading: "How to Be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi

Peace πŸ•Š

Z 2:06 PM  

@Dave S - I can say with some certainty that I have never asked a Texan’s opinion on chili nor will I ever. Prescriptivists are bad enough, food prescriptivists have their own circle in hell reserved for them.

albatross shell 2:11 PM  

I resisted commenting on @Nancy's negative view of tic-tac-toe. But since we are talking math and 9 I cannot resist. It was the first game I ever logically analyzed. Maybe 6 years old? Quite a revelation.

I would ask Nancy to consider the numbers 1-9 Play a game where two players alternately choose a number from that collection of 9, one at a time, with the goal of getting 3 numbers that add up to 15 before your opponent does. She might find it more difficult than tic-tac-toe.

Now fill in a tic-tac-toe grid as follows;
Row 1: 2 7 6
Row 2; 9 5 1
Row 3: 4 3 8

You will find the 2 games are identical. You will discover that in math terms they are isomorphic.

No need to change your mind about any particular thing. But anything is potentially interesting. Even boredom.

albatross shell 2:20 PM  

Bob Dylan's 99 song.
Actually Percy's Song.
Fairport Convention version best known?
It starts:

Bad news, bad news,
Come to me where I sleep,
Turn, turn, turn again.
Sayin' one of your friends
Is in trouble deep,
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind.
Tell me the trouble,
Tell once to my ear,
Turn, turn, turn again.
Joliet prison
And ninety-nine years,
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind.
Oh what's the charge
Of how this came to be,
Turn, turn, turn again.
In the highest of degree,
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind.

Frantic Sloth 2:32 PM  

@Whatsername 1154am Welcome back! And really?? But, are you referring to Einstein or the actual discoverers/namers? Why "sucker" I wonder?

@TTrimble 1231pm Where you been? Binging Ron Howard movies? πŸ˜‰
The thing I always liked about the number 9 was how it made it easier to find a maddening transposition of numbers in my checkbook. 😊

@JD & @pabloinnh Didn't they used to sell "X-ray Spex" on the back of the Bazooka Joe comic?? Those and Sea Monkeys.

@Smith 836am Approximation:

YOUNGER ————Methuselah ———— Dirt ———————— You ———— OLDER ——— Me

Z 2:52 PM  

@albatross shell - When I think of Percy’s song this what I think of.

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

Ttrimble -congrats on the marksmanship. But you missed the mark on your BB gun. It wasn't a rifle. And I don't mean because it wasn't powerful or some such, I mean it literally wasn't a rifle because its barrel was smooth. The term rifle comes from rifling which are the grooves used in barrels to give greater accuracy to the projectile --bullet.
BB guns are in fact hard to shoot accurately precisely because they're not rifles. Same with shotguns. They don't have rifled barrels either ( Typically. Nowadays manufactures offer some shotguns with a second rifled barrel for longer shots --deer hunting mostly). That's why shotguns are also called smooth bores.

Nancy 3:07 PM  

Wow, @albatross shell (2:11). I'm speechless. That was how you analyzed tic tac toe at age six?? Or was it the "game of 9s" you were analyzing? Either way, it is beyond my ability to do even now...and to do it at age 6???? Fuhgeddaboutit!

I learned how to avoid a loss at tic tac toe at a young age simply through repetition, rote and experience. Your opponent puts an X there and you put an O there and that will block him. He then puts an X there and you put an O there and that will block him. To tell you the truth I don't even remember the moves anymore, having not played the game in too many years to want to admit to. But I'm pretty sure I'd remember them quickly enough after playing 5 or 6 games.

But what you did???!!! I strongly suspect you're a Mathematician. (Have you ever told us what you do, @albatross shell? If you have, I've forgotten.) It never occurred to me to analyze tic tac toe mathematically and, had I wanted to, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have. So I'm quite impressed.

@Mathgent -- do you understand what @albatross shell is talking about? Anyone?

Barbara S. 3:08 PM  

Liked it, enjoyed solving it, didn't adore it.

I think the 99s, or probably The Ninety-Nines, is an organization of women pilots that's been around for a long time -- maybe since early in the 20th century. But that's a bit NICHE.

Surprised no one's mentioned that WAYNE GRETZKY used to be an Edmonton Euler. (OK, stop throwing things. I know that's bad humor, even for me. But the pronunciation's right!)

****SB ALERT****
Congrats on QB! I haven't been commenting on SB lately due to my mediocre performance but I got Queen status today, too. Don't we look grand in our shiny gold crowns. Lots more crowns for the taking today, Spellers -- go for it!

jae 3:12 PM  

On the tough side for me. The only theme answer I knew off the top of my head was the BALLOONS one (my car radio is tuned to an FM station that plays a lot of ‘80s stuff) so needed a lot of crosses and nanoseconds to finish this. Liked it more than @Rex did, pretty good Wed.

albatross shell 3:17 PM  

I don't blame you. On the other hand Dylan's song is titled Percy's Song so what can one do. Strangely I had forgotten that Dylan wrote it. I knew there were a bunch of songs with 99 year prison sentences. The judge was kind, the DA asked for life, but man only gave me 99.

jazzmanchgo 3:22 PM  

No love for . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNdcFPjGsm8 ???

chefwen 3:26 PM  

My father in law, who taught me the love of crosswording would have been 99 today. He would have liked this group. He passed away just shy of his 9;9/99 birthday. He loved numbers too and would have enjoyed that one.

Struggled with this one a wee bit but managed to finish with a wild ass guess at 8D and 15A.

pabloinnh 3:39 PM  

****99 Alert ****

It was a most unsatisfactory trial
They gave me 99 years on the hard rock pile.
99 years on the hard rock ground
And all I ever did was shoot a deputy down.
--Kingston Trio, "Bad Man's Blunder"

Also, there is a "chain" of at least two restaurants here in NH called, simply 99. Generic upscale diner. Not too bad.

Hand up for wanting Barbara Feldon. Classic stuff.

albatross shell 3:49 PM  

No no. Not close to prodigy level at all. Just experimented with tic-tac-toe enough to figure out how not to lose to my brothers. That if you go first any corner or the center will do. And the best options for traps.

The 15 game probably came from Martin Gardner. I used to get fifth and six graders to think mathematically. I thought it might make you think tic-tac-toe wasn't as dumb as you thought. Or the strategy is only easy because it's visible.

JD 3:55 PM  

@pabloinnh and @Frantic, Not only lied, but bait-and-switched. Mechanical engineer friend, obsessed with magnets as a kid, sent for The Giant Magnet and got an envelope and note. Magnet out of stock, but here's a giant corn seed. He's still bitter. No sure about Bazooka having them but chewed enough and should.

(@Whatshername @Z heh heh heh:)

Jersey Boy 4:37 PM  

Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin' for a job but he couldn't find none
He came home too drunk from mixin'
Tanqueray and wine
He got a gun shot a night clerk now they call 'm Johnny 99

Bruce Springsteen- Johnny 99

Frantic Sloth 4:46 PM  

@JD 355pm A corn seed?? That's hilarious! What did the "seller" do - root around in his garbage for an "alternate"?? I'd still be bitter too. Almost as bitter as that corn seed probably was.

@chefwen 326pm Sorry to hear of your father-in-law's untimely passing. I'll bet he was a real pistol if he would have liked this group! RIP

Elizabeth Sandifer 4:52 PM  

Mostly had fun with this, but the northeast corner was a disaster. Two proper noun crosses, and I had SUE instead of SAL, then NICEST instead of RIPEST (which gave the plausible CHI) and the result was an awful lot of oh dear.

bocamp 5:00 PM  

To remember element "99" (Einsteinium), The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School, and at Play by Harry Lorayne & Jerry Lucas) suggests using the letters "p" or "b" to represent the number "9". Therefore, the word "pipe" could represent the number "99", as the vowels are not figured in. A mental image of Einstein smoking his "pipe" would evoke the number "99", hence: Einsteinium = element # "99".

99 Red Balloons - Nena's (English version)

22A "dep" depot came to mind, but departures would also make sense, I guess, esp. since "arr" stands for arrivals.

I never mind seeing "DFC" and such, as reminders of – and as tokens of gratitude for – those who have put their lives on the line for us.
God Bless those who serve/d. πŸ™

Baby Yoda Song - A Star Wars Rap by ChewieCatt

This clip of Gretzky on Conan is so skookum; he takes his kids to the NHL Hall of Fame (he goes incognito), and gets "owned" by his 9 yr. old son in an interactive hockey shooting test. πŸ’

@ Rex wrote: … "but DFC, wow, you gotta go back to 1999 to find an appearance of that little gem." Coincidentally, Gretzky was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1999. What a class person he was/is. πŸ₯‡

"kefir" just didn't look right to me. Having done crosswords since back in the early '70s, I surely must have come across this word before, but, alas, no recog at all. It looks like a pretty healthy food; since going vegan last year, I'll be looking forward to trying some coconut kefir . πŸ₯₯

@Hungry Mother 8:21 AM – yes the SW corner was a bit of a "kerfuffle" for me, too. Strangely, "Luftballons" (which I did know) more or less bailed me out, providing the "f" in "kefir". I didn't realize "anise" comes from the Illicium verum tree which produces fruit bearing, star-shaped pericarps of anise seed.

Lest I forget, God Bless all "emts" and medical workers everywhere, especially, in these difficult times. πŸ™

Peace πŸ•Š

bocamp 5:42 PM  

@ chefwen 3:26 PM – Condolences for your loss; sounds like your father in law was a bright and shining light, some of which was obviously passed on to you. God Bless! πŸ™

Peace πŸ•Š

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

@Z- Not only did the ACLU represent Neo-Nazis, they also filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Citizens United. Those were a long time ago before the ACLU became just another progressive advocacy group. I’d bet if the Citizens United Case were re-litigated they’d come out against the 1st Amendment. Similarly I find it hard to believe they’d defend the Proud Boys or some other Neo-Fascist group today. It’s sad but these are the times in which we live.Oh, well.

TTrimble 6:11 PM  

@albatross shell

The isomorphism between the 15-game and tic-tac-toe is awesome; thanks!


I understand what @albatross shell is talking about. First, there are 8 ways in which a set of three distinct numbers drawn from the list 1, 2, ..., 9 can add up to 15:

1, 5, 9
1, 6, 8
2, 4, 9
2, 5, 8
2, 6, 7
3, 4, 8
3, 5, 7
4, 5, 6

and each of these combinations appears either as a row or column or diagonal in albatross's configuration (not necessarily in the same order). But moreover, there is a perfect correspondence between game-winning sequences in the 15-game and game-winning sequences in tic-tac-toe. That's essentially what "isomorphic" means here.

To illustrate, suppose you are playing the 15-game and you start by taking the 2, and your opponent O counters by taking 3. Now O just played a losing move, because you consult albatross's cheat-code and take 5. O had better take the 8 now to prevent your forming 2+5+8 on your next move. O now has 3, 8, so you prevent O's 3+8+4 by taking the 4. But now O is in double-trouble, because you have in your pile the numbers

2, 5, 4

and you threaten to take on your next move either the 6 to form 5+4+6, or the 9 to form 2+4+9. O cannot prevent both threats, so O will lose.

You can see this entire play-sequence enacted on the tic-tac-toe board according to albatross's cheat-code.

Thanks for edifying me. BB gun it is.

Unknown 6:11 PM  

Must be generational? Many of us reaching our mid teens in the early MTV era have a cult-like attraction to this song. I still turn it up when it gets played on the radio.

Music Man 6:14 PM  

Yeah - that’s what I thought, too!

bocamp 6:36 PM  

As for the "Noam Chomsky" "Robert Faurisson"
affair, this paragraph is revealing: "Chomsky had long publicly criticized Nazism, and totalitarianism more generally, but his commitment to freedom of speech led him to defend the right of French historian Robert Faurisson to advocate a position widely characterized as Holocaust denial. Without Chomsky's knowledge, his plea for Faurisson's freedom of speech was published as the preface to the latter's 1980 book MΓ©moire en dΓ©fense contre ceux qui m'accusent de falsifier l'histoire.[112] Chomsky was widely condemned for defending Faurisson,[113] and France's mainstream press accused Chomsky of being a Holocaust denier himself, refusing to publish his rebuttals to their accusations.[114] Critiquing Chomsky's position, sociologist Werner Cohn later published an analysis of the affair titled Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers.[115] The Faurisson affair had a lasting, damaging effect on Chomsky's career,[116] especially in France.[117]"

Sounds to me like a classic "Hatchet job". I would love to have taken a class from this intelligent, free-thinking, kind-hearted person.

Peace πŸ•Š

Marcy 6:38 PM  

I think DEP is short for DEPOT, not departure.

bocamp 6:55 PM  

How To Make Milk Kefir 101

Peace πŸ•Š

Z 9:21 PM  

@Anon5:51 - The google machine will lead you directly to the ACLU’s position. The ACLU is wrong on Citizens United. Their position rests on the notion that a corporation is a “person” and therefore the Constitution protects a corporation’s right to free speech. Accept that premise and everything else the ACLU says makes sense. Reject that notion and it’s perfectly reasonable to ban any or even all participation in the political process by corporations. As soon as we figure out how to put a corporation in prison for committing a felony I will accept that they are people whose rights are protected by the constitution.

BTW - I’ve been a card carrying member of the ACLU for 30 years or so. As every patriotic American should be. You’re welcome.

Anonymous 10:01 PM  

@z- meh, Floyd Abrams is one of my heroes. He was the lead lawyer for the NYT in the Pentagon Papers case. He supported Citizens United and argued on their behalf. The 1st Amendment is my favorite amendment in the Bill of Rights. Thank God the Supreme Court got the Citizens United case right,

Anonymous 10:02 PM  

Absolutely. . . Culturally cancel the NYT x-word. . . Fascist.

Anonymous 10:06 PM  

The ACLU used to care about the 1st Amendment. They obviously don’t anymore...cf Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado

Anonymous 10:10 PM  

Corporations aren’t people. Thankfully, nowhere in Citizens United decision says they are.

Anonymous 10:29 PM  

Citizens United was an important 1st Amendment case and the 1st Amendment won thank God.

Whatsername 10:55 PM  

@Frantic (2:32) I was parodying the orange $h!tgibbon. You know, his penchant for calling those he deems beneath him suckers and losers.

Anonymous 10:55 PM  

Hey Z - serious question. Do you think the ACLU should support the Proud Boys and other Neo-Fascist groups the right to march in the public square?

Big Jim 12:10 AM  

All I can say about this puzzle is that real chili is one hundred percent devoid of beans. There. Are. No. Beans in chili. It is one thing for clues and answers to be esoteric… But they shouldn’t be flat out wrong. For some reason it is important to me that people know that chili, real chili, has no beans. Will should know that. The NYT should uphold chili standards. This bothers me much more than any (imagined) intentional PAC promotion!

GHarris 12:43 AM  

@Anonymous said 10:29 PM
No, thank Alito and his cronies on the court and the big, anonymous money has screwed up our politics ever since.

Frantic Sloth 1:29 AM  

@Whatsername 1055pm D'oh! You'd think I'd have known that since I was doing the same thing. Well, you apparently got my own joke better than I did. πŸ™„ Story of my life.

thefogman 10:41 AM  

Two great puzzles in a row and now this. Yes. “Tinny and cheap” just about sums it up. Next!

rondo 2:25 PM  

Was looking for my 99 bottles of DOS Equis on the wall. Not often Tuesday is better than Wednesday.
@D,LIW - got your periodic table memorized?
One great thing about this puz: WAYNEGRETZKY.

Burma Shave 2:43 PM  


don’t BETRAY or SHUNT me,” she said,
I’ll TEMPT you to your DEATHBED.”


Anonymous 4:01 PM  

Worst Natick in memory. You know what I'm referring to...

leftcoaster 4:48 PM  

Nicely constructed puzzle, CLUES and all. Was glad to see it tighten up a bit after a pretty loose start (except for having 1A PEEk before PEEP).

The “F” at the LUFTBALLOONS/ KEFIR cross was the last letter in. Didn’t know about the balloons or the fermented milk, but the spouse came up with the F. (Thanks, dear.)

Diana, LIW 8:21 PM  

Sure, I knew EINSTEINIUM, but my downfall was the DEATHBED. Thought of everything else, where there's a WILL...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

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