Lowest rating in showbiz's Ulmer Scale / FRI 9-25-20 / Sister channel of HGTV / Basketball highlight informally / Kind of paste in East Asian cuisine / Half bird half woman creature / Subject of J.J. Thomson's "plum pudding" model / Star Wars spinoff set five years after Emperor Palpatine's fall / Fantasy Focus podcast airer

Friday, September 25, 2020

Constructor: Rachel Fabi

Relative difficulty: Easy (4:39)

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Stanley TUCCI (34D: Actor Stanley) —

Stanley Tucci (/ˈti/; born November 11, 1960) is an American actor, writer, producer, film director and former fashion model. Involved in acting from a young age, he made his film debut in John Huston's Prizzi's Honor (1985), and continued to play a wide variety of supporting roles in films such as Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry (1997), Sam MendesRoad to Perdition (2002) and Steven Spielberg's The Terminal (2004). In 1996, he made his directorial debut with the cult comedy Big Night which he also wrote and starred in alongside Tony Shalhoub. He also played Stanley Kubrick in the television film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Tucci is also known for his collaborations with Meryl Streep in films such as The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and Julie & Julia (2009). Tucci gained further acclaim and success with such films as Easy A (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger(2011), Margin Call (2011), The Hunger Games film series (2012-2015), Spotlight (2015), and Beauty and the Beast (2017).

He has won three Emmy Awards. One for Winchell (1998); one for a guest appearance on the USA Network comedy series Monk; and one for being a producer of the web series Park Bench with Steve Buscemi. (wikipedia)

• • •

I could not have asked for a better blog anniversary present! Today, my blog turns 14, the big one four, and, as if favored personally by the crossword gods, I am blessed with a puzzle by one of the best friends I have in all of Crossworddom (you may remember Rachel from the video of her and me co-solving a Saturday puzzle that I posted here recently). Also, this puzzle is really clearly obviously a good puzzle, so I can mostly just celebrate. I'm looking around for Things That Normally Irritate Rex and honestly there are only a few and they're all three letters long, so pfffffffffft, don't care. And so many things I like ... like POSTERIORS and PRIDE PARADES, OCEANOGRAPHERS and TURING TESTS, Elvis Costello lyrics ("DON'T GET CUTE...") and cheesy Gino Vanelli songs ("INTO THE NIGHT") and mythological metamorphoses (ACTAEON) and olde-timey ways of saying numbers (THREE SCORE), it's all here! I don't give a damn about that "Star Wars" show, but it seems popular, and it's certainly current, so throw that in the Good column too. In short, I was rarely stuck and rarely unhappy while solving this baby. The thing that held me up the most was actually a stupid typo—I wrote in LATES for LATEX and then kept wondering what this fantastic word could be that's 12 letters long, means "Avant-garde," and starts ESPER-... ESPERANTOISH! That would be pretty avant-garde. 

["DON'T GET CUTE ..."]

Rachel just sent me this screen shot, which I found pretty funny. It's xwordinfo data about her puzzle. Apparently she and this "Michael Sharp" guy think a lot alike, huh, weird:

This is a max word-count themeless (72), which I find often leads to maximum awesomeness precisely because you can get a lot of marquee stuff in there and still have wiggle room to make sure that your fill comes out squeaky clean. No stacks here, just a lot of interlocking gorgeousness—six 10+ answers crossing four 10+ answers, for a total of ten 10+ answers, none of which are weak. The only places I had trouble were RED BEAN (just couldn't come up with it, not sure why) (23A: Kind of paste in East Asian cuisine) and OOP (I get that this is a shortening of "alley-oop," but I can't recall hearing anyone say this ... then again, my basketball fandom is mildly out of date, so what do I know?) (31A: Basketball highlight, informally). Oh, and I wanted a few other things before INTO THE NIGHT. INTO THIN ... something? INTO THE ... MISTS? I don't know, don't remember. But THE NIGHT required crosses. Other than that, this puzzle ran mostly resistance-free. So congratulations to Rachel, and congratulations to me on writing this dang blog for 14 years, and congratulations to you ... for I don't know what, but surely you can think of something. Have a great day, everyone.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:00 AM  

Well, I can see the PPP complaints now with THEMANDALORIAN right smack in the middle-ish of the grid.
I don't care. I liked this one a lot.

A little unavoidable poop within the glue, but what fun longs with creative clueing - what more can you ask of your Fridee puzz?

ACROPHOBIA (clued à la Mel Brooks)
OCEANOGRAPHERS diving right in.
PRIDEPARADE marching down the center.
INTOTHENIGHT hiding mysterious characters.
And my fave: DONTGETCUTE demanding I be serious as if!

An appearance by the vowel-monger ACTAEON thrown in just for yucks, I'm sure.
And the Pythonesque clue for usually boring ol' TIS made me smile broadly.

All great stuff.

Alas, then there's POSTERIORS right next to a Kardashian clue which seems apt, if TMI to ponder.
And, again, I don't care.

This was a joy for me. I'm betting I'm not alone.


Joaquin 12:04 AM  

I’m not much of a basketball fan (or player, for that matter) so maybe that’s why I have never heard of an OOP. An alley-oop, yes. But not a plain ol’ OOP.

Joe Dipinto 12:04 AM  

"Into The Night" was by Benny Mardones.

Harryp 12:11 AM  

Liked the clues for 17A and 39A. Had no idea about 34A and 45A, but the crosses saved me. I know Black Bean Sauce but never came across Red Bean Sauce in any Chinese restaurant. Maybe I didn't look at the Menu completely. Another very good debut puzzle. Thank you Rachel Fabi.

jae 12:17 AM  

Medium. I struggled in places...BOD/OOP, ACTAEON...but mostly this was a smooth solve. Great puzzle and a NYT debut and Jeff gave it POW!!

FearlessKim 12:29 AM  

Happy anniversary, Michael, and thank you for creating this community and for your dedication to fine crosswords!

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

I’m going to bet that if Rex didn’t know who the creator was, he would have found many things to hate about this puzzle.

Patrick O'Connor 12:38 AM  

Happy anniversary. You know that your loyal readers also scan the NYT puzzles each day for Things That Normally Irritate Rex, right? You are our cruciverbal Jiminy Cricket, with the same top hat but a big pencil instead of an umbrella, sitting on our shoulder warning us off Naticks and encouraging us to scoff at mediocre fill. Many happy returns!

Birchbark 12:48 AM  

THE MANDALORIAN. Solving the long-Star-Wars-spinoff-answer-I'd-never-heard-of using crosses, and with no real difficulty, sums it up. I usually bide my time for the challenge of a Friday or Saturday. Tonight I wanted a break from difficulty, and the puzzle delivered.

Almost daily commentary from diverse voices says @Rex praises friends, buries others on puzzles that aren't so different objectively. Today's review does nothing to stop that. With no stake either way, I liked this for the same reasons I like many of the puzzles he pans: it delivered what I was looking for at the moment. Surprisingly good even though I usually expect something else on a Friday.


Alexandra M 1:01 AM  

The clue on OOP was terrible. To keep it really fresh it should have been along the lines of "Stan Twitter exclamation with "and I-" (something for the millennials and Gen Zs won't make the sky fall, Shortz!)

["And I- oop!" was a very popular meme phrase based on a video of a drag queen, basically denoting being pulled up short/mid-thought by whatever one is reacting to. "Stan Twitter" is an umbrella term for an online subculture based around supporting ("stanning") various pop idols, and there are many specific memes that begin and are popularized in those communities before infiltrating the mainstream.]

okanaganer 1:06 AM  

Not as giddy as Rex about this. Some good stuff but a lotta stuff I don't like. Personal dislikes such as basketball, Harry Potter, Star Wars sequels, Kardashians, and spelled-out-letter sounds. At least we got a reprieve from Supreme Court justices, thank God.

OOP... you could so easily clue it some other way and move on, nothing to see here. Never heard this, except as the acronym for Object Oriented Programming (nerd stuff).

I've also never heard of MANDALORIAN (I ignore never ending sequel fests). So for 36 down I naturally had a NAP as something you can't have standing up, causing a Finished With Error situation.

Similarly in the early stages for 2 down "Tear" I had RAGE, which caused AGROPHOBIA which looked perfectly fine until I saw the clue "High anxiety". Wrong phobia...fear of crops? Oh yeah it's AGORAPHOBIA, fear of the Manitoba prairie. Which ironically contains a lotta crops.

Sorry Rex, ELS and ESS and MAB and OOP and TARES and HEE are just a bit annoying tonight. But 14 years is a heck of an accomplishment.

bocamp 1:28 AM  

@ Rachel - truly a "Fabi"ulous puzzle; in my wheelhouse all the way, and a relief to be back on the winning track after yesterday's meltdown! @ Rex - congrats on 14 years of "doing what you do." You put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into your work, and I'm sure you wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't a labor of love. Your analyses are always informative and instructive. And, @ Rachel provided you with the perfect puzzle to start out your day with a celebratory bang. I hope you're able to keep up the good work for many a day to come! :)

"Alley Oop" - The Hollywood Argyles

We had a long tradition of youth "umps" at our Little League. Nothing more satisfying than seeing young people volunteering and being appreciated for what they do. :)

"Teatro alla Scala"

Peace 평화 pace paix 🕊

egsforbreakfast 1:50 AM  

Congrats to Rex on 14 years! I bitch plenty about his opinions, but I wouldn’t willingly miss a day of this blog for love nor money.

I also really liked the puzzle, particularly that it featured the story of GM vs. the gull-wing car guy..... THEM AN’ DALORIAN.

Actually, it was a total wheelhouse puzzle for me, and ended too soon. Sweet debut, plus a POW for Rachel Fabi.

chefwen 2:29 AM  

Not in the easy column here. 34A and 45A unknown and filled in with the help of downs.

Finished on a depressing note with 65A? One of my best friends was killed by a guy with road rage who flipped off another driver, ran a red light and TBONED my friends car. This was about 17 years ago and it still hurts.

Congrats on your debut, Rachel.

Ann Howell 2:34 AM  

Despite getting off to a bad start by mis-filling 1A/1D with SUGAR / SNAP, it was a very enjoyable Friday puzzle, with lots to like. Great start to an otherwise gloomy, rainy day!

chefwen 3:01 AM  

Forgot to thank you for 14 years of dedication to this fine blog and congratulations to me for loyally commenting for at least 13 of those years. Took me a while to conjure up enough nerve to actually say something, just a wee bit shy. Sure do miss a lot of the the old timers, too many to mention, but sorely missed.

Loren Muse Smith 3:50 AM  

Rex – 14 years. Sheesh, that’s a lot of work. Dedication. I’m beyond grateful to you for this place.

This played harder for me than most Fridays. I finally found some traction in the southeast and was able to fight my way northwesterly. RED “miso” paste mucked up the middle for a bit, but it all sorted out in the end. (FWIW, I prefer white miso paste, probably ‘cause when I was in Ise, all we ever had was red miso soup, and I just got tired of it.)

“Pour” before PORE. OOPs. I think I knew that was wrong but had forgotten.

The OCEANOGRAPHERS are right under the CURRENT.

First take on the clue “perfume” was that it was a verb, so I was considering “cense.” Too many crosswords. . .

Loved the clues for RATIONS, ELS, STYE, and ACROPHOBIA. (Could “high anxiety” also be the paranoia apparently brought on by pot? Asking for a friend.)

“Spots in which to lie low” – the back of the (librarian-less) library, the (speech therapist-less) speech therapy room, the (teacher-less) classroom across from me. . . perfect places to wolf down a quick lunch sans interruption. I have to eat so fast that honestly the spectacle would frighten the younger, more impressionable students. Since I volunteer for lunch duty, I lose most of my planning period. These restorative few minutes I get to sit alone are good for my soul. And for my poor minimodes currently sore from new shoes. (/mi NIM uh deez/)

“It’s difficult to go against” – the No-Hat rule in our school. I realize no one will agree with me, but I tell ya, what a silly battle to choose in my demographic. I wish I could say, Look. If you’ll be a good sport and act interested in past participles and apostrophes, you can wear your hat in my room.

@chefwen – 13 years? Wow. I’m newer here, and I totally understand how scary it is to comment for the first time. The commentariat here presents as extremely erudite and worldly. Many are openly scornful of typos and grammar “mistakes” in comments – that’d scare anyone.😒 Once I did get the courage to start commenting, no one paid any attention to my posts, but I never once attributed it to cliquery; I just soldiered on until I got someone’s attention. I’ll always remember the day someone did notice – MICE had been clued as a plural for a computer mouse, and I said I’d feel more comfortable pluralizing it as mouses ‘cause MICE feels much more rodentish, furrier. A former stalwart commenter, @Ulrich, responded and I was thrilled.

Rachel – congrats on your debut. Themelesses are beastly hard to construct, and I take my hat off to you!

Casimir 4:11 AM  

Had an easy/average time but no music! Turned into a well above average time as I proofread. I had two mistakes -- I too had "agrophobia," but I caught that quickly.

More difficult to see was the error in the Star Wars title. I stopped at the third one in the 80s. I thought something you can't have standing up is a "nap," even though I myself have done so when I was in the Army! Then it occurred to me that I'd seen "lap" clued like this before. I groaned and wished Will Shortz ill, I'm ashamed to admit.

Liked the puzzle. I'm glad OFL is happy and celebrating his friend. Happy anniversary Rex! Thank you!

ChuckD 6:31 AM  

Didn’t like this nearly as much as Rex - too many nouns and boring trivia for a Friday. THE MANDALORIAN was too easy for the center long - plop it in and everything else fell pretty quickly after that. The rump stuff was weak and we get another version of OVA this time with a brutal clue. I liked TURING TEST and ACTAEON. THREE SCORE is rough and still trying to justify how you get RATIONS from force feed.

I thought thankfully that our Harry Potter kid lit references had ended after the author opined on her gender stance - guess not.

This is not a D LIST puzzle - but not the A that Rex gave it.

sf27shirley 6:37 AM  

I'm a basketball junkie and have never heard OOP used for alley oop.

Very cool to see Stanley TUCCI in the puzzle. Big Night is an all time favorite and we got his cookbook that came out after the movie. Unlike most cookbooks where one of every ten recipes is a keeper, all of them are wonderful. Best pesto recipe ever. We call the cookbook simply Stanley.

pabloinnh 7:02 AM  

Happy 14th and profound thanks to OFL, who never reads our comments, if you can believe that.
And further good wishes and thanks to RF on a smashing debut.

Liked this fine, although why anyone is interested in the Kardashians still baffles me. OOP is just wrong--Wow, did you see that OOP? said no one ever. Would have preferred something like "singular mistake reaction" (hi M&A).

Today I learned TURINGTEST, or at least the letters in it. I'll have to look it up to actually know what it is.

Have a swell Friday all. I envy those of you that are stuck in the rain, as here in NH we're stuck in a drought.

Xcentric 7:02 AM  

This was a pleasant puzzle to solve.
Learned something new today - Actaeon.
Thank you Rachel and congratulations Rex.
One minor pet peeve - the spelling of letters.
Isn’t an el the train and an ell the letter? Els?

Lewis 7:15 AM  

@rex -- Congratulations! Your wit, humor, knowledge, and this community are a gift.

This puzzle went from I will to I can’t
To I will to I think I can
To I will to I know I can
To I did it!

Faith and persistence carried the day, yes, but it needed a foe, a vigilant but fair foe, to chip away at, one that let secrets go reluctantly yet somehow kept alive the possibility that they were gettable.

Such an experience showcases how enchanting and satisfying crosswords can be. It takes skill, talent, and art, however, to make the excellent ones happen, and Ms. Fabi, you hit the trifecta. Thank you greatly, and yours is a name I'll be looking for!

kitshef 7:26 AM  

JJ Thompson and Alan Turing not just in the same puzzle, but in the same row. That’s my kind of puzzle!

Lots of smart clues and smart fill – and the occasional dud like ELS and ESS, ANO and UNO. And BOD = shape seems like a major stretch. And OOP as clued is a flat out no.

Anyone Natick at OWN/ACTAEON? How the Orson Welles Network became a sister station to Home & Garden TV is a mystery.

Keith D 7:29 AM  

No kidding. How about ELS and INS for starters. Not one, but two phonetic spellings of a letter of the alphabet, and close together. And INS for “people to know”? In crowd, sure, but INS?

Plenty more too. Not saying it was a bad puzzle, but pleeeeeease, just a little consistency.

Donkos 7:31 AM  

When I finished this puzzle, my first reaction was, “I hope Rex likes this one because it is a perfect Friday”. I was delighted to read his review. And congratulations on 14 years

TTrimble 7:32 AM  

I think "force feed" refers to the armed forces. So RATIONS means grub for the grunts.

Posted a pretty good time seen against my historical average, and yet this put up some satisfying resistance. I agree with @Frantic Sloth that the longer answers are quite nice (THREE SCORE, OCEANOGRAPHERS, PRIDE PARADE, EXPERIMENTAL, ACROPHOBIA, and my personal favorite TURING TEST) and she also guessed correctly my reaction to THE MANDALORIAN which almost created a DNF for me. And I for one can't be sure that OOP is meant merely as part of "alley oop" and not some initialism.

Congrats on the anniversary, Rex. I come here partly to learn a few things and to compare notes, but more for the wit and the life stories of people mostly older than me who keep their minds sharp on puzzles and continued learning. It's a neat community you have here.

Pamela 7:46 AM  

Happy Anniversary, Rex! And thank you for keeping this blog going for the enjoyment of all of us!

Wow, a record for me, I think. I’m used to having a real struggle on Fridays, and read how easy you all found it with a red face and a sigh. And I must admit, I was a bit daunted at first by all those long, long words. But today was my wheelhouse day.

It started at the top, with CREME/CLAP/ETRE popping in right away,
and just kept going. DONTGETCUTE made me smile. Force feed was a good misdirect and took quite a few crosses.

I only got the Star Wars answer because I was just reading reviews of new shows. I’m running out of the ones on my list, need new inspiration soon. Have to do something to fill those many nights at home while theater and concerts and so much else are off limits. Fave show of the pandemic: Call My Agent, a French series about a PR firm that represents actors. Both writing and casting are great- clever and smart and funny. They use well-known French actors for the celeb parts, which makes it even more fun.

A few stalls on the way:

I guess I get TARES, as in tare weight, but could use a full explanation. I only know it’s right because of the music.

I’ve never heard of the TURINGTEST, but I have heard of him so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

Ass before END, and I bet I have tons of company. I thought for a minute, because of 11D, that we’d get a Friday rump- related mini- theme, but that was not to be.

As usual, I ended up back at the top. There wasn’t much left, but I couldn’t decide on ACRO or AGRO for the phobia. I finally decided that RACE, as in ‘to tear off in a rush’ was the better choice than RAGE, as ‘going on a tear’ seemed slightly less plausible.

All in all, unusually enjoyable for a Friday. it’s so nice when a puzzle makes you feel smart!

Hungry Mother 7:50 AM  

Friday slogfest here, with a winning way with the first letter of OWN to finish successfully.

Geneva Girl 7:55 AM  


Barney 8:01 AM  

Clearly, I'm in the minority (at least here). I found this incredibly unpleasant. Twenty 3-letter words on a Friday? Corners that are filled with 3- and 4-letter words and "cut off" from the rest of the puzzle? Really? An OOP is an informal basketball highlight? Informal to who? Has anyone on Sportscenter ever said, "Now let's check out this killer OOP!"? And cluing OWN as an acronym crossing with a mythical hunter/stag? Obviously, Oprah is huge, but when you're crossing a mythical beast (proper name, foreign word with multiple acceptable spellings, etc.), perhaps it's best not to do it with an acronym.

Todd 8:06 AM  

I thought that the O in ACTAEON and OWN were a little Naticky.

Profmom 8:33 AM  

I also didn’t like the oop, never called that. But there was one real problem for me—the Ulmer list doesn’t actually have a D list—lowest rating is the C-list. Pretty easy to pick up what was expected from the cross, but still. Otherwise I liked it.

Z 8:46 AM  

TIS but a scratch was my favorite answer. (👋🏽@Frantic Sloth)

@kitshef - 🤣🤣🤣Orson Wells Network. Thx for the chuckle.

@Birchbark - How did you miss all the kerfuffle about THE MANDALORIAN? The fawning seemed as ubiquitous as LOTR and Harry Potter. I finally got around to watching the first season. As Star Wars goes it is pretty good. I started watching The Rise of Skywalker. Ugh. I’ll probably force myself to finish at some point, but it is hard to get past all the stupid and I’m only a third of the way in.

@Keith D - Sometimes you need an IN to get a job. Two INS are even better.

@Todd - Two proper names crossing at a vowel is always sub-optimal.

I was surprised this was a debut because I’ve been doing Fabi puzzles for awhile. Oh, yeah, that’s right, women constructors have to be better than white guys to get published in the NYTX, I forgot. If you don’t like this puzzle,..., well, you might need a different hobby.

Kenny 8:58 AM  

When we have to squint and enter the letters and numbers to prove we aren’t robots - it’s called a Captcha -
Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart .

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

I agree, with reservations. Again, I’d like to see the puzzle with the original (Rachel Fabi) clues. It is an excellent puzzle but with some clunker clues. Were these Rachel’s or the editor’s? Examples are 26 across, 31across, 32 across and 38 across. Bad clueing. With such careful construction, I have a hard time believing Rachel let these into her very good puzzle. Do you?

Kenny 8:59 AM  

When we have to squint and enter the letters and numbers to prove we aren’t robots - it’s called a Captcha -
Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart .

mathgent 9:12 AM  

I’ve been coming here for maybe eight years. I think of Rex as an obnoxious playground director who unlocks the gate every day. A lot of cool kids hang out here. I really like hearing what they have to say.

Good puzzle. I mostly enjoyed learning some things: Ulmer Scale, ACTAEON (triple vowel!), HARPY, minimus (is the big toe the maximus?).

I wish that 16A had been clued “Political strategist Karl.”

Good clues for MEOW and RERAN.

I’ve liked every movie Stanley TUCCI has been in. My favorite role was in Devil Wears Prada. I hope he made a fortune from his Hunger Games appearances

@Frantic (12:00). Good stuff today. KRIS K and her lovely POSTERIOR.

I agree. Bad clue for OOP. How about, “Add an s and it’s a mistake” ?

I’ve been counting long entries, eight letters or more. The more the better. Today only had 10 but they were all extra long, ten letters.

Z 9:17 AM  

The first hit for OOP when I google is for Object Oriented Programming. I tried “oop basketball” and I get lots and lots of “alley-OOP.” That “informally” in the clue is doing lots of work. I guess someone was tired of “Alley-_____” as a clue.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

From xword info: Rachel Fabi notes: “I started constructing in early 2019...”
From some know it all: “I was surprised this was a debut because I’ve been doing Fabi puzzles for a while...”
I’d say less than two years is a pretty short time from first constructing a puzzle to being published in the Times.

longsufferingmetsfan 9:21 AM  

Put me in the unpleasant column. Too much garbage here. I've been watching basketball for 50 years and never once have I heard the term OOP. O.W.N. ELS SSNS ESS HEE MAB A NO


Another puzzle by a good friend where impartiality flew out the window. Lets be consistent, if Randolph Ross made this three letter word bonanza, he would have been skewered.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Amen! This puzzle was not up to snuff. And as you rightly note, oop is just wrong. There is simply no evidence of that usage. Friend of Mike review if ever there were one. And while its not PC to say so, pride parade doesn't pass the breakfast test.

Mr. Cheese 9:33 AM  

@kenny - your post led me to a Wikipedia discussion of CAPTCHA. Very interesting!

Hoping my entry passes the captcha and gets posted......

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Why not: “No longer available (abrv)” for OOP.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

For what its worth alley oop didn't originate with basketball but football. back in the late `50s and early `60s, the 49ers had a receiver--R.C. Owens--- who could out-leap everyone. So, when the Niners were desperate at the end of a game ( sometimes the half) Y.A. Tittle would throw a rain making pass and let Owens out jump the defense.
There's a wonderful radio call saying "it's got to be the alley-oop there's no time for anything else." It was a favorite of NFL Films for years.

Ernonymous 9:43 AM  

@alexandra M I agree with you on the "And I OOP" meme. It was huge and would have thrown a bone to younger solvers. But I could not see Shortz agreeing to that in a million years. Could you imagine the outrage of all the three-score solvers if they used that? Then again the basketball OOP clue is getting hammered, so it couldn't have been much worse.
I had the same problems as many of you: RAGE-AGROPHOBIA was my DNF. I got the Greek god and OWN but spent a long time working that out, longer than it took Rex to finish the entire puzzle! Two things I
hate: any Greek, Roman or other Gods and TV channels. I actually love TV channels but in puzzles, but you know what I mean.
And add me to the Standing up NAP club, until my son gave me MANDALORIAN. That was right up his Alley And I OOP.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Actaeon is awful.

Ernonymous 9:47 AM  

@Z now Google "AND I OOP" and see if you get more hits than Object Oriented Programming.

Conrad 9:47 AM  

@Rex: Congrats on the Big One Four!

@chefwen and @LMS: I'm very glad you finally did get up the courage to share your thoughts. I enjoy your posts tremendously.

Overall, a little harder than average for me, Mainly because I wanted OCEAN explorERS for 34A . That messed me up for a while.

Words I was sure were wrong so I was surprised when the happy theme played:
25D BOD ("shape"? Really?)
35D ANO (was thinking "AN O")
47D OWN (knew about both networks, didn't know they were kin)
45A ACTAEON (I remembered seeing a sculpture of him but couldn't call up the name)

Bruce R 9:48 AM  

Rump, rumps, end, and posterior would have all tied together nicely if the Kardashian answer was Kim, but not so much with Kris. And the OOP clue is so bad that it is obvious that the constructor knows nothing about basketball and didn't bother to consult with someone who does.

DeeJay 9:52 AM  

John Mullaney's take on having to tell a computer robot that you're not a robot is priceless. We saw Kid Gorgeous live at Radio City and my elder just completely lost it. When we watched the Netflix special of that show my same daughter lost it all over again. I've never heard her laugh louder or longer than during that bit.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nancy 9:57 AM  

Well I did learn something of interest from this puzzle. I always thought that a HARPY was simply a shrill, nagging woman or, conversely, a misogynistic putdown of a smart, talented woman being unfairly smeared as a shrill, nagging woman. Now I find out that it's a "half-bird, half-woman creature". Gee, I never knew that.

As for the rest of the puzzle: I'm not thrilled with an almost grid-spanning Star Wars clue, a Harry Potter clue and a Kardashian clue. I'm also not thrilled with all the 3-letter answers and partials: HEE, OOP, TIS, TRI, ESS, ELS, and ANO (clued horribly here). It seems to me that in a themeless puzzle, where you have many fewer limitations and constraints than you do in a themed one, these are choices you don't have to make.

An inspired clue for RATIONS (38A) doesn't compensate. We've had some really great Fridays recently. This one, alas, is on my D LIST.

RooMonster 10:00 AM  

Hey All !
ACTAEON can take a bounding leap off a cliff. Does OWN own HGTV? Only way they are "sister" channel. Had INTO THE lIGHT, and figured it had to be OWN, but never heard of the hunter/stag ANO. 😋 So missed that, plus one other miss for a two-letter DNF today. Had RAgE/AgROPHOBIA. Originally had the C in there, but decided the G was better. Whah whah.

Otherwise, a nice puz that didn't automatically fill (at least for me.) Tough all over. Upper middle section UMPS clued differently, plus MAB who? and SCALA.

INTO THE abyss first, INTO THE scene next, INTO THE lIGHT finish. Ugh. REDBEet-REDBEAN, Rend-RAgE, Lexan(?)-LATEX, ass-END, sURebeT-CURRENT, CREam-CREME.

Gonna go rest the ole brain now. Har.

No F's - OOPs

Frantic Sloth 10:08 AM  

@Patrick O'Connor 1238am I couldn't imagine a more perfect metaphor. Bravo!

@Rex (should you be lurking) Like @FearlessKim 1229am (and I expect many others to follow) I'd like to congratulate you on this very impressive milestone and give thanks for everything you do. It's easy to take your steady dedication (steadication?) for granted as many of us too often do, but I hope our continued involvement as the motley commentariat confirms our devotion to you and this big, wonderful circus you've provided for us. Thank you and happy anniversary! As you were.(read: please continue!)

@egs 150am THEM AN' DALORIAN! Brilliant and hilarious!

@chefwen Congrats on 13 years! In many ways an even more impressive accomplishment than Rex's!

OOP = Obvious SOC, but I'm sure some clever sprite out there has a good alternative clue for it...sort of an "I meant to do that" kind of OOPs. OOPs! I see @pabloinnh 702am gets it, too!

@Loren It seems unbelievable that you could have been ignored - ever! But, your comments are as encouraging as they are hilariously edifying. Tell your friend it's a safe bet, but with the advent of medical's much-improved quality, much less likely these days. So I'm told.

@Pamela 746am You might enjoy "Enola Holmes" on Netflix. Watch the trailer - it'll suck you right in! I'll look for "Call My Agent" on the several streaming platforms we currently have. (They all must be doing killer business this year!)

@Z 846am Now I'ma hafta watch THEMANDALORIAN, I guess. Not that I'll mind...

Thanks to @Kenny 859am for the interesting tidbit on TURINGTEST. Good stuff learned here!

Charles Flaster 10:08 AM  

Congrats to Rex.
Absolutely loved this one.
Favorite cluing for RATIONS and ACROPHOBIA — found out I had it on return bus ride from Hearst castle.
Got quagmired at 26A — ELl or ELL.
Have a great “visual” story for TARES concerning weighing waxed paper at a deli in Miami Beach!
BTW — OOP is a stretch.
Thanks RF.

MissScarlet 10:15 AM  

Kinda cool that Rachel Fabi is also today’s constructors of the USA Today puzzle. Double congratulations! Well done, Rachel.

jberg 10:24 AM  

@okanaganer— hey, Douglas Coupland wrote a whole novel (mostly) about OOP!

jberg 10:31 AM  

@Pamela— with my electronic kitchen scale, I first put a bowl or plate on it, then TARE it by pushing the tare button. The readout resets to zero, and the scale will now give the true weight of whatever I put in the bowl.

Z 10:38 AM  

@Frantic Sloth - You did see my “for Star Wars” qualifier I hope.

@Bruce R - If it’s the grid blame the constructor, if it’s the clue blame the editor. How many clues don’t get changed is a point of pride with some constructors, but regardless, Shortz and his team decide what the final clues are.

@Giovanni - The google machine tells me it was the meme of 2019 and somehow I missed it. “And I _____” seems like a much more likely Fabi clue based on what I know about her. But NYTX solvers skew anti-meme pretty heavily so I doubt we will see that clue here anytime soon. Now, if this had been published by Inkubator...

I see some have looked up CAPTCHA. When I started here, around the same time as @LMS I think, the wavy random letters was the CAPTCHA and getting one that sort of made sense was a game we played. Anyhoo, TURING TEST is a really common trope in the AI sci fi sub genre. With the prevalence of “artificial intelligence” all around us the notion seems especially current and topical to me.

jberg 10:39 AM  

Congratulations, Rex! And thanks!

Despite the Star Wars and Harry Potter clues, I enjoyed this because of the generally great long entries. Fortunately, I resisted my urge to pit in OCEAN explorER from the O—-N, or it would have been a lot harder

@Roo, have some sympathy for poor ACTAEON. what a horrible way to die!

Joe Dipinto 10:39 AM  

I would have used "___ Bop Sh' Bam" (Dizzy Gillespie tune) to clue 31a. But, you know, it's probably just too old for the NYT crew. Even if it does get a person of color into the puzzle (or the cluage, anyway).

@pabloinnh – check out the excellent "Ex Machina" (2014) for a Turing test-related movie plotline.

Whatsername 10:50 AM  

@Lewis (7:15) “... a foe, a vigilant but fair foe, to chip away at, one that let secrets go reluctantly yet somehow kept alive the possibility that they were gettable.” Without a doubt the most eloquent description ever of the consummate crossword puzzle.

Lewis said it beautifully this morning (as usual), and I agree this one hit the trifecta. Like a good book, it captured my interest right away, held it throughout, and left me feeling pleased that I happened upon it and discovered the delights within. Thanks Rachel, well done!

Happy anniversary Michael Sharp, and thank you. 14 years is a long time to keep at something which requires a daily commitment, and there must have been times when it seemed like a drudge. I can’t say I’ve been a fan since Day One, but I referred to this site many times for answers years before joining the conversation. So I appreciate the assistance and I’m sincerely grateful for those of you among the commentariat who have made me feel so welcome. I’m in awe of all of you, and I learn something nearly every day from at least one of you. It’s an eclectic mixture of knowledge, intellect, wit, humor and cutting edge thinking. I’m continually amazed to be a part of it.

Frantic Sloth 11:00 AM  

@Z 1038am Of course I saw that - why else would I watch it? 😉
Actually, at the risk of adding further evidence of my "me-ness", I like the Star Wars dreck. Mindless diversions and all that...the only kind I do. With relish. And a hot dog. At the marina. You know where.

And I OOP!

bertoray 11:05 AM  

Happy Anniversary Rex Parker. Thanks for providing a forum for a terrific bunch of puzzling people.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

An awful lot of three letter dreck. If you like this puzzle, maybe it's time to reconsider your crossword hobby.

Andy S 11:08 AM  

My perfect week vanished INTOTHELIGHT

Nancy from Chicago 11:16 AM  

Great debut puzzle Rachel! And happy anniversary Rex! Thanks for the blog! I don't comment that often but visiting here is a daily pleasure for me.

Carola 11:16 AM  

@Rex, happy anniversary, and thank you!

A treat of a Friday - on the easy side, but lots of fun to fill in from top to bottom. I especially enjoyed DON'T GET CUTE, INTO THE NIGHT, the double nod to Greek mythology, and the RATIONS clue.
Help from previous puzzles: K-POP, LAP as clued.
Help from grandson: a few weeks ago, he texted me a drawing he'd made of the distinctive MANDALORIAN helmet.
Help from years of art history classes: Titian's Diana and ACTAEON.

@okanaganer 1:06 - Fear of the Manitoba prairie. Too good!
@Pamela 7:46 - I second your recommendation of "Call My Agent." I was sad when I ran out of episodes.
@Kenny 8:58 - "Turing test" as part of "Captcha": I had no idea - thank you!

@Rachel Fabi, congratulations on your debut. I'm looking forward to more.

PhilipArtGlass 11:17 AM  

Tucci: Yiddish rump.

Bax'N'Nex 11:17 AM  

Joe Dipinto @12:04 am...exactly my first thought.

Interesting song, that. Starts off "She's just 16 years old, leave her alone they say..." Uh, yeah, 'cause she's 16 you creep. Could that get written and played today? Maybe by R. Kelly...

Really fun puzzle, Rachel. Got Mikey all in a lather.

jb129 11:41 AM  

DNF but congratulations Rex!

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

Jope D and Bax,

Different rules for friends of Mike. If say, Bruce Haight had included the Mardones song, we would've been treated to a lecture about misogyny and patriarchy and how icky men are in genera. A pal of his uses it and crickets. The silence is of course deafening. It doesn't tell you everything about Michael Sharp, but it tells you all you need to know. He's an ideologue. And like all ideologues, he's either blind to the weaknesses of his position, or venal enough to ignore what he knows full well. Either way, it's useful to unmask such a person, anniversary or not.
Well done fellas.

Robin 11:50 AM  

I spent roughly 40% of my solve time on this puzzle trying to track down a single bad letter. Kept staring at TARES and thinking that's not a word. But all the crosses were legit.

GILL I. 11:51 AM  

At first I was surprised at how much I could actually get. What didn't surprise me was how much I didn't. I had to struggle mightily in some areas but I did my OOP calisthenics and struggled on.
I liked this puzzle. Yep....it got me in some areas but I liked it. Sorta like taking a lick of licorice, saying yuck... then because you're obstinate, keep licking it to the end. You finally get to the last morsel and you have a big black tongue grin.
I hopped all over the place. My first obstacle was at 23A. I'm no trained chef by any means but I love to cook and try all sorts of recipes. I immediately thought of Biryani. Head is scratching for the East Asian paste. First Google. I HAD TO FIND OUT WHAT IT WAS. Oh..it's that sweet yucky RED BEAN. Move along and let your brain do some fantasizing. Let me go back upstairs and try to figure out who wants more tuna. Oh...CUTE....it's a little MEOW. Flood gate opens a bit. Some water comes trickling out and I get the CREME CLAP. My high anxiety clicks in and ACROPHOBIA it is. Move along and letters pop in and pop out. Put this down...walk the pups, pour some coffee and brush your teeth. THE MANDALORIAN and the OCEANOGRAPHERS move me to the AHAS galore. I'm on a roll. You can do this. Uh Oh. Who's this hunter that turned into a stag? Dang...Second Google. He sounds like nail polish remover. I'll never remember this. Please don't use it again says I. I'm doing pretty good; I remember things from my past like PORE and TEEN and Chariots of Fire..... My final entry: HARPY. I suppose it's better than being called a battle ax.
Thanks for this enjoyable work-out, Rachel. I feel smart.

@Rex....So glad you started this blog. It's my must go to ritual. Like @chefwen and @Loren, I too, was a bit hesitant to enter the fray of smarty pants. I think I started about the same time as @Z and have kept on ticking. I was reluctant because of my hideous grammar, run-on sentences, too many periods and not enough commas or maybe too many..... I even remember an Anony old geezer telling me my English was atrocious. It was, it still can be. I really hope that people who lurk here just take the leap. New blood is always a good thing.

@Loren...I'm pretty sure you were a star from the start. I also remember the fun bantering between you and our friend @evil Doug.....So many from our past that I miss as well.....Happy Trails.

bocamp 11:52 AM  

Brooklyn Nine Nine | Baby Basketball ("OOP ME")

@ Kenny 8:58 AM wrote:

"When we have to squint and enter the letters and numbers to prove we aren’t robots - it’s called a Captcha -
Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart ."

Thank you for this Kenny! Didn't know it; will apply a "Harry Lorayne/Jerry Lucas" mnemonic to it for future recall. :)

@ Frantic Sloth 10:08 AM

Nice coincidence re: "Enola Holmes". Got it on my "next up" list.

@ jberg 10:31 AM

Thx, perfect "tare" example. I was spinning my wheels trying to figure it out, and meant to research it… you saved me the trouble. :)

Peace 평화 pace paix 🕊

Newboy 12:05 PM  

Ditto @whatsername (10:50). What a day: Rexblog birthday, Rachel NYT debut and Chen’s POW plus that other grid for a national audience and spot on commentariat (@mathgent —9m12ish—). Bravo all,

Masked and Anonymous 12:09 PM  

Happy Anniversary, @RP. Keep up the good snark. U have always been full of surprises, and are a pleasure to hang-blog with.

M&A didn't know THEMANDOLINDUDE. Or ACTAEON, REDBEAN, OOP & OWN. Most of that stuff didn't cross, so the only real problemo was at ACTAEON/OWN. Lost very few precious nanoseconds.

thUmbsUp to the EXPERIMENTAL Jaws of Themelesness plus one. Only saw four ?-mark clues, but a lotta clues were feisty, at our house. MEOW's, f'rinstance.

staff weeject pick: OOP. I bow to @pabloinnh's superb suggestion for a better OOP clue. Much superior to M&A's {Gnud??} clue.

sparkliest of the sparklers: ACROPHOBIA [cool clue]. OCEANOGRAPHERS [another primo clue]. INTOTHENIGHT. PEEWEE. Good stuff.

Thanx for the fun, Ms. Fabi darlin. And congratz on yer NYT debeaut.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Joe Dipinto 12:11 PM  

@Bax'N'Nex 11:17 – I know! The video is hilariously awful. And he kept re-recording the song – it made the Top 20 again nine years later. Weirdly, he just died this June, having re-recorded the song *yet again* in 2019 – a 72-yr old lusting after a 16-yr old! Total ickitude.

What? 12:25 PM  

Why do people marvel at words they never heard before. “At least I learned a new word.” You want to learn new words, use a dictionary or thesaurus.

chance2travel 12:36 PM  

Congrats on 14 years! Can't believe I only discovered your blog in the last 3 years or so.

Finished around 12 minutes, with light resistance in various places, like ACTAEON and that tiny SW corner, where I had 63A --EN and brain didn't think of of the hard E TEEN.

Loved the clue on 10A KPOP

Embarrassed I took so long on my treasured european clue - Milan's Teatro alla SCALA.

And sounding very Italian - we got Stanley TUCCI! If you enjoy SNL - go back and watch their video tribute to him - Tucci Gang https://youtu.be/Aw5NG580rBk It stars Sam Rockwell!

Keep them coming, Rex, and feel free to be as subjective as you feel like :)

Mohair Sam 12:40 PM  

14 Years @Rex? Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you. This blog is a blast.

This puzzle had a lot of little things I don't like in puzzles. Yet I enjoyed the solve nonetheless. Think it was the quality cluing and the great long answers (THEMANDALORIAN excluded). Speaking of which . . . .

@Nancy - How dare you HARP about a Star Wars clue. How dare you. And you know what I'm talking about.

@Z (9:17) - Google is like the Bible - you can find justification for anything there. OOP indeed.

"Big Night" starring TUCCI is one great little flick you've never seen. Take the time. Featuring Tony Shalhoub, and Isabella Rossellini (swoon), and Louis Prima too (kinda sorta).

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

Congrats, Rex! And thank you! I doubt that I'd still be doing these crossword puzzles if I hadn't stumbled across your blog awhile back. Certainly wouldn't be trying every day. Not only did you make them solvable, but enjoyable, too!

Anoa Bob 1:01 PM  

Yikes, 39 black squares in a themeless grid? That's a bunch and is why there is so much short fill, more like what we would see in an early week themed puzzle.

I always notice, not in a good way, when some of the longer entries need help to fill their slots. Happens today with POSTERIOR and OCEANOGRAPHER. POC to the rescue!

ACROPHOBIA reminded me of a Gary Larson of "Farside" cartoon with a psychological twist. It is a satirical look at a controversial PHOBIA treatment called Implosion Therapy where a person is exposed to an intense level of the feared object or situation. The panel shows a guy in a small cage that is suspended high in the air and is crammed full of snakes. Going for the Implosion Trifecta!

JC66 1:06 PM  


@ Rex

Mazel Tov on 14 years!

Put me in the 13 year camp. I don't think I've missed too many days of reading you and all the comments, and although I only post occasionally, the blog is an important part of my day. Thanks for all your efforts.

Teedmn 1:13 PM  

I had a lot of write-overs today. Starting up top with Rend at 2D, but I figured 20A wasn't going to start with PD___.

On the other hand, I had SCALA in and took it out because I figured 21A wouldn't start with DL (I failed to read "showbiz" in the clue).

I started out with the popular INTO THin but backed off when "air" was too short.

And then there's 61A where I threw in ETna using crosswordese-think and then questioned why a movie about running would have filmed at a volcano (the Chariots ofFire part seemed plausible anyway.) In that case, Harry Potter knowledge helped me dig out ETON.

But O, that ACTAEON/OWN cross was a hail-mary throwdown. My meager knowledge of Greek names had me assuming it would be a vowel there and running the alphabet made me decide E/I/U were unlikely and AWN for the crossing network looked wrong. I know nothing about OWN. Post-solve Google reminds me it's Oprah (I have NEVER seen an episode of Oprah's show so...). Sister network? I agree with @Roo that there must be ownership in common to be a "sister" network, but Google didn't cough up the answer fast enough before I lost interest.

Rachel Fabi, nice puzzle and congratulations on the NYT debut.

Z 1:19 PM  

@Bax’N’Nex & JoeDipinto - Yuck. He was 34 at the time. That video is just a little creepy. I vaguely remember the song and if the singer were some Boy Band 18 year old it would be one thing. I can’t imagine what a 34 year-old has in common with a 16 year-old, though, so just 🤮. Glad I missed the 72 year old’s re-recording.
@Anon - The song isn’t in the puzzle.

@Frantic Sloth - David Brin wrote some pretty good essays about how Star Wars ain’t so mindless. They used to exist on his website, but now I think you’d have to buy Through Stranger Eyes, or borrow it from the library. Brin is a science fiction writer who is also a scientist, almost totally killing the nerdy scientist stereotype.

@Joe Dipinto 10:39 - I might have suggested the original Blade Runner, although Dick called the TURING TEST something else. And, of course, the question of whether or not HAL is sentient has been discussed and debated since 1968 (The link is from 2008, so it’s speculations about the distant future of 2019 are interesting). Then there is also the early buddy detective combo of Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw, with Olivaw developing the Zeroeth Law of Robotics. And, of course, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, which manages to take the dark Ex Machina perspective and turn it, eventually, on its “deus ex machina” head.

Why, yes, I have consumed lots of science fiction. Why do you ask?

@Mohair Sam - Just to reiterate because your comment could be taken to suggest otherwise, I didn’t find any support for OOP as clued using the google machine. Lots and Lots of “alley-OOP,” but no OOP by itself. The best I can come up with in defense of the clue is that “informally” gives tons of wiggle room, but that’s pretty weak sauce IMHO.

Mr. Cheese 1:21 PM  

Forgot to thank Rex for his time and effort.
14 years!!! Wow!

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

Those of you wishing for a more modern or slangy version of one of the clues should check out Rachel's puzzle today in Matthew Stock's blog, happylittlepuzzles.com.

CDilly52 1:44 PM  

My solve of this Friday gem was like my very ornery orange tabby, OC when faced with a new food but is really hungry, I blazed across the top of this like a wildfire, then suddenly realized “Oh, it’s Friday and this is a Rachel Fabi” . . . screeeeeeching halt and sudden wariness.

OC is very distrustful of food. She was born in a house and had never ever been outside in her two short years when a tornado demolished her house and her family never returned. They had to go to shelters and left Oklahoma, we think. By being suddenly required to forage, she barely lived but was rescued by wonderful volunteers looking for lost pets. She acquired some very tenacious and as yet (6 years later) unidentifiable parasite or bacteria or something that gives her GI system fits from time to time. Every time we have a serious bout she refuses to eat anything she has ever tasted before and the food hunt begins anew.

As a result, she is a picky eater. Faced with some new taste, she begins to just dip the tip of her tongue in to taste, taste again, wander around the house waiting to see if she has to vomit or head quickly to the litter box. If all is well, she will come back and keep tasting, waiting and walking, rinse and repeat - or just give up and walk away and beg for something else.

Anyway, once I got the top three chunks, I just hunted and pecked a tiny “taste” at a time and had to get up and walk around just like OC in her food trepidation, trying to decide on answers. I did finish more quickly than usual, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. Great puzzle, as usual from Ms. Fabi.

My very favorite clever clue was “Force feed.” As it happens, ‘jam down’ fits in there snug as a bug. That area was the last to fall for me and I laughed when I finally got it: military grub. FEED - either actual edibles, or a big meal itself as in “put on a FEED.” Brilliant; absolutely brilliant. I would love to know if she also thought of the alternate answer that I did as a misdirect.

Very enjoyable Friday. Happy weekend everyone!

Whatsername 1:55 PM  

@GILL (11:51) Your grammar is not hideous and your English is not atrocious. But even if it was, no one would care. We love you just as you are.

sara 1:58 PM  

so appreciative for this blog - and ESPECIALLY for you folks who post prolifically with lots to say free-associating to what's in the puz and clues... surprised you felt insecure about it, you are such a gift!! wish i had more interesting thoughts myself, i'd post more! ...as it is, this blog is so invaluable, there are always a few things that i know are right, because of crosses, but i just don't get.. and then someone here can tell me, e.g. today TARES, oh yes, i Have heard of it vaguely..

Pamela 2:00 PM  

@Frantic- Thanks for the recommendation. Call My Agent is on Netflix, too.

@jberg- Thanks for the explanation. That makes so much sense.

TTrimble 2:14 PM  

I didn't know that about CAPTCHA!

Re TURING TEST: many of you may know the name Douglas Hofstadter, who wrote the book Gödel, Escher, Bach. After Martin Gardner retired from his post as columnist for Scientific American, Hofstadter took his place and renamed the column Metamagical Themas (anagramming Gardner's column Mathematical Games), and used the column to explore an array of topics of consuming interest to him, centering on cognitive science, artificial intelligence, the nature of mind, phenomenology (broadly construed), music...

And he wrote on Turing and the Turing test, in the form of a fictional coffeehouse conversation between a physics student, a biology student, and a philosophy student, on whether or not artificial intelligence is possible. As the philosophy student explains, Turing changed the terms of the question from "will machines someday be thinking entities?", a question which tends to push people's emotional buttons and lead to rabbit holes of definitions (are you suggesting that we are nothing but machines? what do you mean by machine? what do you mean by thinking?), but rather: might it be possible for a machine to convince a human that it is a human? A question that is more objective and testable. So the idea of an "Imitation Game" is that you are told there is a human in one room and a computer in another, and you get to ask both the computer and human questions over email, and each responds trying to get you to believe that it is the human. You, the interrogator, get to ask the entities anything you like.

Over the years a number of computer programs have been upheld as supposedly passing a Turing test, for example the notorious ELIZA which simulated the responses of a psychotherapist. But perhaps these programs weren't really probed by a skilled interrogator. Hofstadter for his part knew what to look for, and so he was excited and interested when a band of students he had gotten involved with told him about Nicolai, developed by the Army, and which was rather more sophisticated. At a party thrown in Hofstadter's honor, the students were excited to watch how quickly Hofstadter would be able to unmask Nicolai, and so a dialogue was set up, with the students looking on as Hofstadter teletyped in his questions (this was 1983). If you want to find out what happened, read the Post Scriptum to the coffeehouse conversation article, here.

Frantic Sloth 2:19 PM  

@GILL 1151am In the name of all that is holy, please tell me "I get the CREME CLAP" isn't what it sounds like. Remember: Family Blog!

Seems original reticence was the norm for all you "old" commenters. Some things never change. I was petrified at first, as well. Leaned heavily on my moniker to break the ice and thanks to some lovely people (who will remain nameless - and therefore blameless - for their own protection) it worked!

@Bocamp 1152pm That trailer is brilliantly edited, IMHO. Enjoy!

@Joe D, @Bax, @Z et.al, What is it with Benny Mardones, Gary Pucket, Neil Diamond, and Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll for those who wonder) anyway?? Skeeve me. 😝

@Z 119pm Thanks for the recommendation, but I didn't mean to imply that the story of Star Wars is mindless - just the movies, which is really more about the screenplay and dialog being...let's say...inelegant. Oh, and I don't read anymore. Just let the shock of that revelation wash over you like so much notshock. 😉

Hand way up for the "Big Night" bandwagon - especially if you are a chef and/or Italian!

Unknown 2:21 PM  

One of the puzzles I didn't really care for. The crossing of the mythological hunter (I had ARTEMIS for the longest time) with the TV channel screamed NATICK.
Rex would have agreed had this puzzle been done by any one other than a friend of his.
(C'mon, you all know it's true! LOL.)
And OOP by itself as a basketball term? Just. No. I've followed hoops for a long time, and have NEVER come across that. Never.
I've been doing archived puzzles from 2010 & Rex was much more cheerful back then.
Not sure when the drone of constant complaining and virtue sharing started to set in; it really gets in the way of his occasional thoughtful analysis of a puzzle, which, when it happens, I always appreciate.

Aelurus 2:35 PM  

Favorite clue today is for TOE—which did GET CUTE, after all. Favorite answer: PEEWEE, because it’s fun to say. I looked it up and it’s also a marble and a tyrant flycatcher (named for the Tyrannidae Family, some of whom have an aggressive nature).

Happy anniversary, Rex! Thank you for this wonderful forum for puzzles that often have some ‘splaining to do. For your critiques all these years, and for the gathering place for a commentunity (@Loren’s coinage) that shares crossword camaraderie as well as stories. May there be THREE SCORE more!

TTrimble 2:37 PM  

Oh, and on the topic of the Turing Test and to what extent we humans are like machines, I heard something once about how the Norwegians during WWII were able to unmask German spies. (I don't know if the story is true, but it did impress me.) The spies spoke Norwegian impeccably and were well-versed in Norwegian culture, etc. and easily passed themselves off as born and bred in Norway.

So how did they do it? Nothing to it: simply ask them to solve a long division problem out loud. If you learned your arithmetic in German, then apparently the subvocalization is so hard-wired in your native German that you will be unable to do it convincingly in Norwegian. If I understand correctly, this of course would be true across all cultures.

GILL I. 2:39 PM  

@Whatsername:...You are one sweet sugar plum. But (sigh) I HAVE gone back to read a few of my posts and did a few winces. English really isn't a pretty language. If you are fortunate to be able to speak some of the Romance languages, you have fun with your voice and translate it to paper .In English....not so much...unless you are @Frantic. :-)
I guess what I really want to say is that there are lots of people who read @Rex and may feel intimidated to post - especially if they ain't scholars. Everybody has an opinion and most of them are very interesting. Forget the commas and the dots; come here and join this diverse and really interesting (and not so interesting) group.
PS @Frantic: What do you mean "In the name of all that is holy?" As in guacamole?

Frantic Sloth 2:43 PM  

@CDilly52 144pm If that is OC in your avatar, I've loved her from first sight! Too bad you didn't feed her something new just prior to sitting down to solve the puzzle: Enter "Synchronized Trepidation" with the both of you meowndering around the house, forefinger on lips, paw on boop-point, furiously pondering the near future. Ye gods and little fishes! I'm so glad she found someone like you! FYI I found Purina Fortiflora (food additive) very helpful for aiding kitty digestion, etc. Obviously, check with your vet first, but mine always recommended it.

@GILL In case it isn't already obvious - what @Whatsername 155pm said!

Alison 2:49 PM  

Great puzzle, Rachel, especially Pride Parade, Oceanographers and Don't Get Cute. And thanks, Rex, for 14 years of blogging!

Adam 2:54 PM  

I'm going to like any puzzle with the Black Knight in it (44A, " 'TIS but a scratch!"). ROAM before ROVE, and I've never ever heard of ACTAEON nor would I have been able to spell it if I had, but the crosses were fair and it *is* a Friday.

Happy Blogiversary, @Rex!

@Whatsername: "even if it were". Gotta love the subjunctive. :)

pabloinnh 3:00 PM  

Hey M&A-

Thanks for the shout out. Praise from the praiseworthy is high praise indeed. (I stole that from LOTR, I just don't get to use it very often.)

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

If you're East of the Mississippi** and anywhere near a good stretch of woods, head to them next Spring or Summer. There's a good chance that a Peewee will be calling. And it's unmistakable: Pee-a-Wee, Pee-a-Wee, Pee-a-Wee.... peeeer.
That last syllable is slurred downward. Sometimes its only two pee-a-0ways and sometimes the peer gets swallowed up. But no matter. wait a couple of seconds and you'll get the full song. As i say, next year is a better bet than now. They vocalize far less in the Fall. It's a handy call to know.

*I;m guessing there's a western wood peewee given the fact that there's an eastern wood pewee. Taxonomists don't generally use one term ( like eastern or western) without its opposite number.

Ernonymous 3:31 PM  

@frantic LOL, Jasmine Masters. Believe it or not, I know who she is!
I vaguely remember a discussion here about VSCO girls, but xword.info doesn't show it as an answer or a clue. Am I cracking up? Only because their favorite expression is And I Oop.
Anyway, let me know ASAP if I'm cracking up.
I'm about to turn THREE SCORE in 2 weeks and it will be fun to say that I'm three score.

Kathy 3:34 PM  

yes! the python clue tickled my flesh (hm, perhaps no way to ref “flesh wound” w/o sounding icky, ah well)

bocamp 3:41 PM  

**** "oop" alert ****

Reasons why "oop" is ok by me:

1) Clue indicated: "informally"; formal would be "alley-oop"

2) AFAIK, Google returns only one hit referencing "oop" as directly related to bball (see vid and script below); however, since Google's probably not a very good mindreader, and not being privy to what's "not" in print, chances are that the "informal" term may, in fact, be occasionally employed by those closely involved with the sport. IOW, the hoi polloi would "not be knowing," but "grokking" is a possibility, when one is willing to step outside the box.

3) When I played bball, and if the term "alley-oop" had been in the jargon, I could absolutely envision the informal "oop me", or I'll "oop" you, being used. "Alley-oop me" is too much of a mouthful! LOL

4) I love seeing constructors push the limits. It forces me to think more broadly, and to realize that there are many ways of saying and doing things that are outside my ken, but not necessarily out of reach, given an open mind.

Brooklyn Nine Nine | Baby Basketball (OOP ME) In this short excerpt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Stakeout | Season 02 Episode 11), Jake and Boyle do the mini-basketball thing ("ooping" included).

"Oop me. Ready? Ooping. One, two, three!" Jake and Boyle on a 8 day stakeout in a condemned hotel. "Lead-up" conversation:

"Great news, my friend.

We have a bathroom pet.

His name is Horace,
and he's either a small rat

or a large cockroach, and
he's either sleeping or dead.

Here's the schedule:

Eight hours both on watch;

Eight hours I sleep, you watch;

Eight hours you sleep, I watch.

I set an alarm.

I made the perfect ringtone.


♪ Stake me out tonight ♪

♪ I don't want to let you go
till we catch the guy ♪

I love it.

All right, we got binocs,

camera, night vision goggles,
computer, and...


Oh, my God, I love that.

My whole problem with basketball
was big ball, tiny hands.

Tiny ball, problem solved.

Oop me.

Ready? Ooping.
One, two, three!

Did that look as cool as it felt?

How cool did it feel?


Peace 평화 pace paix 🕊

Karl 4:02 PM  

Got full on Naticked at the ACTAEON/OWN crossing. I am usually pretty good on my mythology, but I didn't remember this guy. As for OWN, I don't watch the shopping channels or that much TV in general so no help there.

Barbara S. 4:08 PM  

A question for all you multi-year blog veterans: how do you recall what stories you've already posted and thus avoid telling the same anecdote about your great-uncle Methusalah half a dozen times? I've been participating only 7 months and already I'm losing my grip on what I've said. To wit, the following story: apologies if I've already told it (and anyone remembers -- hey, maybe that's the key!).

Many moons ago I saw a performance of Verdi's "Luisa Miller" at La SCALA. It was a thrill to be at one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Being poor students, we were up in the nosebleeds at the back of the top balcony. The view of the stage really wasn't good from there: you had to stretch and crane to see what was going on, although the music floated up very satisfactorily. Further compromising the sightlines was a man in the balcony's front row, leaning over the rail at an alarming angle and conducting! I couldn't see the "official" conductor from my vantage point, but he can't have been any more animated or involved than this guy, head awagging and arms aflailing. I loved him at first sight! How can you not love passion and intensity like this? At one point he dropped something onto the heads below and there was an outraged squeal. Fortunately, it was only his program. Ah, what can I say? The opera was great but he was better!

Krytykal 4:20 PM  

Congrats, Rex. Don't always agree with you but appreciate you hard work!

Whatsername 4:33 PM  

@Adam (2:54) I appreciate your sharp eye, but the way I was taught (admittedly a long time ago) is that the subjunctive is used only when speaking of a situation which is contrary to fact. For example, “If I were you, I would not take that route” because it is not possible for me to be you. Conversely, the indicative verb is proper when referring to a factual possibility: “If I was driving, I would not take that route” because it is possible for me to drive. Or “I wish I were taller” as opposed to “I wish I was wearing higher heels,” etc.

Rules of language evolve with the vernacular, and I’d venture to say this rule has become relaxed over time as many others have. @Loren Muse Smith would be the expert on that. In either case, the intent of my comment is the same, which is that how we say something isn’t so important as what we say in this type of casual conversational setting.

Ernonymous 4:40 PM  

@barbara feel free to repeat your stories! Frantic does, it's part of her charm (I kid I kid).
I liked your Italy opera story and it reminds me of mine. In 1980 I was 19 and in Rome for the summer for my first trip to anywhere. I was utterly broke, my parents wouldn't help, jobs were scarce etc but someone from our group convinced me to spend 7000 lire on a ticket to see AIDA in the Baths of Caracalla, said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I got there and like you, I was in the nosebleeds. I couldn't see much, was bored out of mind, and left after 30 minutes! I was so pisses off that I wasted all that good drinking money!
Years later, I love opera and I go every chance I get. I was really looking forward to this season at Atlanta Opera as Barber of Seville, La Boheme and Madame Butterfly were all on the schedule and Covid has them all canceled. Now I could kick myself for not appreciating Aida! Oh Youth!

Birchbark 4:43 PM  

@Z (8:46 et seq.) -- Like T.S. Eliot's universe, Star Wars and I started with a bang (saw the first one in the theater seven times) and ended with a whimper (lost interest early in the Clone Wars cartoon series).

On this scale, THE MANDALORIAN is refreshingly post-apocalyptic. Not a judgment on the merits -- it simply doesn't exist. This is why it was easy to infer from the crosses. With no universe to get in the way, letters appear of their own accord.

Barbara S. 4:58 PM  

19A Interesting, unusual clue/answer combo (both full sentences): "You don't need to tell me what happened." I SAW.

38A I thought the "Force feed"/RATIONS pair was inspired, but I've just seen the documentary on PBS about the fight for women's suffrage and I had to shudder a little.

Not a "Rumps" sub-theme, thought I, but a Mercutio sub-theme! Take 7D. In Act I of R&J, Mercutio has a meandering speech about Fairy Queen MAB and how she interferes in people's "dreams" (which is the clue for 50A). AND before the Black Knight said "TIS but a scratch!", there was this:

BENVOLIO: What, art thou hurt?

MERCUTIO: Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, 'TIS enough.
Where is my page? Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.

Hah! I've just looked up the Black Knight (Monty Python) in Wikipedia before posting and the article mentions this speech! So either I think like the Wiki writer (which would be fine) or like the Pythoners (eek!).

Barbara S. 5:22 PM  

Oh, for heaven's sake, I really would forget my head. In both the last two posts, I meant to congratulate Rex for his blog: for daily being his entire, authentic self in front of an audience (which is sometimes empathetic, sometimes indifferent, sometimes incensed), and for providing us with a stimulating second home. He and you are among the best parts of my day.

kitshef 5:23 PM  

*** runtpuz alert ***

If anyone can explain the 4-D clue to me, I would appreciate it.

JC66 5:33 PM  

****runtpuz alert****


What do pandas eat?

Masked and Anonymous 5:36 PM  

***more runtpuz alert***

Dear @kitshef,
Also, maybe think "4-Down entry", for 4-D.

M&A Help Desk

Petri 6:26 PM  

Thoroughly, wholly, enjoyed this one too. I'm 30, work in the physical sciences, and watch Steve1989, so you can see how this is relevant to my interests

But even without that, this was one of my favorite Fridays in AGES. It nailed the balance between clever, interesting answers and tricky cluing, while being a relatively easy solve. Sometimes ya just wanna feel clever on a Friday, and this one did that with great style.
Minus ACTAEON, really could have done without that one.

PS: congrats on 14 great years! This site has been so invaluable to so many.

PPS: When will the loudest mouthed critics stop hiding on Anonymous accounts? It really is quite lame. At least stand for something openly, if you must be wrong.

bocamp 6:30 PM  

@ TTrimble 2:14 PM

Thanks for the link. Looking forward to reading the conversation. :)

@ Whatsername 4:33 PM wrote:

"Rules of language evolve with the vernacular, and I’d venture to say this rule has become relaxed over time as many others have. @Loren Muse Smith would be the expert on that. In either case, the intent of my comment is the same, which is that how we say something isn’t so important as what we say in this type of casual conversational setting."

Amen to that! I have to constantly remind myself that a person's meaning is not always readily apparent, in any case. I need to focus more, not only on the writer's content, but also on the context, as well as on the deeper meaning in the words (reading between the lines, when in doubt). If all else fails, I ask for clarification. :)

Touching video by "Pee Wee" Reese's son, Mark, recounting the relationship between "Pee Wee"
and Jackie Robinson in their Brooklyn Dodger days of the '40s and '50s.

Peace 평화 pace paix 🕊

Frantic Sloth 6:39 PM  

@Giovanni 331pm Yes, I believe we did have a discussion a while back about VSCO girls, but I can't recall what precipitated it...maybe Billie Eilish? And yes, you are cracking up as it is a requirement for life after your impending doo...er...birthday, yeah, birthday.
I know whereof I speak because my memory blows. Obviously. Only, when (won't even try to get "if" to pass) I repeat my stories, I am blissfully ignurnt of it. One hopes with repetition ad nauseam I might eventually remember.
Not bloody loikly.

Z 7:47 PM  


@Giovanni - So it came up in January by Rex. In July somebody complained about the term appearing in a different crossword which I think was actually published a month earlier. So you’re not crazy.

albatross shell 8:01 PM  

Happy one score minus the number of fingers on Hound Dog Taylor's hand Anniversary. Congrats.

Found this puzzle fun to solve. Clever clues. Crafty corners. Lots of jumping around after getting a solid start across the bottom. I do not have hulu or Disney so the spin-off went in a cross and a guess at a time.

OOP is rarely or never used in b-ball but I can certainly imagine it being used in a pick-up game as a hint or suggestion. Better clue in that vein: End of a basketball highlight.

Liked Junior for PEEWEE.

How many curves on an ESS hook?
How many days of TIS before we decide TIS crosswordese?

DLIST, Ulmer list:
Never knew it was so official researched updated and calculated. Or so widely used. Makes it even more yucky and creepy than when I thought it was just a kind of informal slang.

Never knew what CAPTCHA stood for. Never knew CAPT. CHA either. Hear he was a pretty good one-legged dancer. It seems the test of intelligence is either the ability to deceive or to detect deception. Are there other types of intelligence or is that what it comes down to? How about the ability to decide to deceive and to learn how, both on your own?

Don't know TARE? Too old to have dealt drugs in college or to young to have been to a butcher shop?

Monty Boy 8:03 PM  

I sorta liked this one a lot. Had to rely on uncle Google a lot for the PPP.

How about "Singular mistake" instead of the basketball term?

ow a paper cut 8:10 PM  

Oop? Hoop and alley-oop make sense but oop?

Barbara S. 8:40 PM  

@Giovanni 4:40 pm
Aw, thanks!
Loved your story (despite the lost opportunity aspect). And I, too, saw Aida at the Baths during that same Italy trip. We had much better seats for Aida but I can't think why: we were, if anything, poorer by then! Although maybe by Rome we were so close to going home that we'd become less careful with our money. It was fun, and I remember horses on stage in the triumphal procession -- neigh! I feel your pain over the cancelled operas. I'm glad opera turns up on PBS from time to time.

Ernonymous 9:44 PM  

@Z thanks for letting me know I'm not crazy! And for the links. I'm in awe that you are able to find this stuff! Bravo!

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

Ask Z to research his predictions of the 2106 presidential,election. Be even more amazes at his perspicacity.

Ernonymous 11:52 PM  

@anon 10:17 no one asked you

Anonymous 3:05 AM  

Congrats on 14 years. The clue for OOP was an OOPS. I guess Alley____ would be too obvious. More challenging but spot on would have been: Like a rare DVD (abrev). OOP, Out Of Production. Trust me, it is a common term well-known to collectors.

kitshef 7:38 AM  

Thank you, @JC66 and @M&A. @M&A's explanation was the one I was looking for.

Sami 8:57 AM  

I envy all of you who don't know Mandelorian by the vapid and hideous baby yoda, a facsimile of which my kid is currently earning her way to owning with a self-styled system of rewards involving a plastic marble jar. I didn't know who the heck Michael Sharp was, or that Stanley Tucci had a cookbook -- so you got me there. I guess I cannot call myself a solver if I don't know Queen Mab. Finally, why has everyone been so silent on the subject of Plum Pudding?

Whatsername 9:42 AM  

@Sami: Michael Sharp is the writer of this crossword review. Rex Parker is his pseudonym.

thefogman 9:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
thefogman 9:47 AM  

I knew Rex would love this one. And I thought it was pretty good. Unlike him, I love a good themer but this one was spot on for a
Friday. I am not a Star Wars fan so 34A was solved via the crosses and made things tricky in the middle

Burma Shave 11:57 AM  


KRIS WISHES to GOD, while APT to look INTOTHE mirrors,


spacecraft 1:07 PM  

hey y'all, spacecraft here, alive (thanks to many, many a HERO) after a ruptured aneurysm. Yep, I'm a ten percenter. Now home convalescing slowly. Finally got back to puzzles--and what a pleasure to get restarted with this one! Maybe a bit easyish for a Friday, but not exactly hitting on all 8 at the moment, so, about all I could handle. I probably won't be blogging every day, but will try to get here as often as I can. Be well, all. and VOTE!

DOD: who else? Rachel Fabi.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

Like or not, this was not an "easy" puzzle.

RONdo 2:52 PM  

Hey @spacey!! Glad to see you’re back. Puzzles are small potatoes to what you must have been through. Hope you get back to 100%!

How bad can a puz be if it has RON in it? Well, there was a little trouble having to bank on the ESS & ELS. HEE HEE. OOP. And there were 20 THREES, PEW. And OVA clued as some sort of egg drop or such. That O in the 47 hole was a guess. ACTAEON? But in the END it wasn’t so PORE.

None of the Kardashian klan will ever get a yeah baby.

I guess the good outweighed the bad. Now if everyone WISHES @spacey well, we’ll have done something really good.

Diana, LIW 4:46 PM  

Dancing the happy dance for @Spacey's return - stay well and prosper!

Had one incorrect spelling that I had to look up - otherwise, between last night and today I got this.

Happy Friday all around.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 6:50 PM  

Is ACTAEON, the hunter, Orion’s bro? Could be for all I know. With a bit of a stretch, EXPERIMENTAL could be "avant-garde” I guess. Liked PRIDEPARADE and DONTGETCUTE, but for that matter, why not?

Maybe I should take one of Rex’s happy pills. Not really happy with this one.

leftcoaster 6:56 PM  

OOP! Happy anniversary, Mike.

Jokr22 12:43 AM  

My thought exactly!

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

This blog post was so full of bias. If any of constructor for the Times made this it would be full of criticism. I thought Rex was supposed to be impartial when reviewing these puzzles but I guess he would rather suck up to his friend then share his real thoughts of the puzzle.

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