Share a workspace in modern lingo / SUN 10-18-20 / Titular film character opposite Harold / Place for a shvitz / Lead role on Parks and Recreation / Subject of Rick Steves's travel guides / Brit's term of affection

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Constructor: Miriam Estrin

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:17)

THEME: "Title Basin" — book titles made wacky by changing last word in the title into a homophone of the original word:

Theme answers:
  • "LIFE OF PIE" (23A: Yann Martel's baking memoir?)
  • "TENDER IS THE KNIGHT" (30A: F. Scott Fitzgerald's chivalric tale?)
  • "CANDIED" (46A: Voltaire's sweet novel?)
  • "IN SEARCH OF LOST THYME" (63A: Marcel Proust's kitchen mystery?)
  • "THE LITTLE PRINTS" (90A: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's pet story?)
  • "JULIUS SEES HER" (112A: William Shakespeare's historical romance?)
Word of the Day: TOE PICK (44A: What a figure skate has that a hockey skate lacks)


one of the sharp teeth in the front part of a figure-skating blade. (
• • •

Jane Air. Huckleberry Fin. Cannery Roe. Native Sun. I could keep going, but why? Why? Why? This is the operative question today. Unless I'm missing some very sneaky hidden element to this theme, I don't see how this very weak theme, with very few elements, passes muster on a Sunday, especially when there is almost nothing to recommend the non-theme parts of the grid. A couple answers here and there are sort of nice (ABOUT TIME, SLUGFESTS), but most of it is just filler, and a lot of filler. The grid is constructed in such a way that it's very choppy, with a surfeit of short fill—3s, 4s, and 5s as far as the eye can see. That doesn't leave much in the way of potential interest, especially when the theme is so one-note, so weak. There's absolutely nothing clever or surprising about the pi / pie pun. It's exceedingly familiar by now (from Pi(e) Day, for one). Same with (k)night. Same with thyme / time. The prints pun is a little better, and the best one of all is probably "JULIUS SEES HER," though it was also the most annoying in some ways because it broke pattern (the pun going to two words instead of just one). CANDIED should not even be here, as it's not actually a pun. it's "Can-DIDE" (pronounced "can-DEED"), accent on the second syllable, whereas CANDIED has the accent on the first. Also, CANDIED really really breaks form by not being a multiple-word title where the pun is in the last word. And by being just a paltry seven letters long (not really theme territory). There are so few answers here ... you can't sneak a 7-letter one in there and expect it to have any impact. My friend Austin had to point out to me that there were six, not five themers, because I totally forgot to count it the first time through. In short, the theme is overly simple, with almost no comedic value, and the fill is bland (ECRU ... FLAX (???))—overwhelmingly short and (consequently) with almost no zip to it. 

Not much to say about this one, actually. There were no real tough spots, no posers, no hot spots, no traps. I just plodded to the end. Oh, OK, there was one sticking point / trap. I wrote in KUMAR for 6A: Titular film character opposite Harold (MAUDE). That was very clearly obviously deliberately a trap. I didn't even consider MAUDE, despite the fact that I love (and own) that movie, and don't even remember "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (or whatever it is they did). In that same section, though far less of a trap and far more of a personal screw-up, 17D: Goes undercover? (SLEEPSreally flummoxed me til the very last cross. I actually had BLEEPS (because if you "bleep" something ... you ... cover it up??). That was leaving me with something like BLOGFESTS at 17A: Knock-down-drag-out fights, which *almost* seemed plausible, but not quite. MUFFIN ended up being very clarifying, in the end. After I got out of that section, I had no trouble to speak of. So I will speak no more. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bruce Fieggen 12:05 AM  

Have to agree with Rex. Why not a common thread amongst the theme answers?

ZenMonkey 12:34 AM  

“Choppy.” Yes. Thanks for putting into words what bothered me about this puzzle the most. The wordplay was kind of blah, but I just like having wordplay in puzzles at all. But a Sunday is a long puzzle of fiddling around with small words, especially on mobile and if you’re like me and change direction a lot. It wasn’t exactly boring but it was wearying.

Ken Freeland 12:44 AM  

Concur with Rex... Really meh puzzle

Unknown 12:53 AM  

FIRST COMMENT REX, i never thought I'd see the day. What a mediocre puzzle, still fail to see if there even is a theme at all.

I can't get my crosswords published but this cuts the proverbial MUSTARD? lol

CuppaJoe 1:16 AM  

It had me at the ROVER clue, I laughed maniacally. (One of four parked on the moon.)

Birchbark 1:51 AM  

Here's why I like this puzzle: OSSO.

In 1990, my mom's cousin Midge, who grew up on the same block in West Duluth, MN (near the industrial harbor on Lake Superior) put together an extended-family cookbook. Everyone submitted recipes they remembered from the kitchens back in the day. It was called "Alla Salute." We all remembered, learned, and continue to cook from it. In 2007, when she was still sharp, Midge made "Alla Salute II." This time it was anything the extended family wanted to share, whether or not out of the old kitchens.

My contribution was "OSSO Bucco -- Braised Veal Shanks." Here's the recipe, a stress-relieving way to spend an afternoon in cold weather:

Coat veal (or lamb) shanks with olive oil and dried herbs of your choice. Sauté in olive oil and butter until browned well on all sides. Add quartered onions, whole garlic cloves , big chunks of carrots, celery, etc. Then add red wine, water, and/or broth until about half-way up the shanks. Add quartered tomatoes, morels, fresh herbs, what-you-will. Cover tightly and simmer on very low heat about 3-1/2 hours. I remove most of the braising vegetables before serving.

We like OSSO Bucco with/over egg noodles with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley or basil. In restaurants it's served dramatically on the bone, but in my view better pulled. You can have it right away, but for some reason it always tastes better reheated the second day. Good to have with crusty bread as well.

jae 2:00 AM  

Medium. Liked it more than @Rex did, but he makes some good points.

Frantic Sloth 2:44 AM  

Title Basin’?  I’ma need an explanation on this.  I finally figured out “Title/Tidal” part, but what does the theme have to do with “basin(g)”?  (I assume it’s Tidal Basin vs. Title Basing??)

Guess I’ll be back after reading Rex.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch of the Chronically Sleepy, we have YAWNS.  I found this theme rather too easy for a Sundee.  It wasn’t an unpleasant solve, but it didn’t send me either.  No matter.  Any distraction is a welcome one – especially these days – and this one was better than most other distractions available right now. Sadly, that's a low bar.

Probably my biggest nit:

There’s that read-headed stepchild of TEeHEE again.  Why doesn’t everyone just agree that spelled as TEHEE, it looks like it’s pronounced T’HEE??  That’s the titter of someone who cannot be bothered. It’s a sarcasm snicker - if anything.

I know. This cranky nit is a dead end.  TEHEE appears to be here to stay, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 😒

I did like the clue for SPEEDOS.  My opinion on SPEEDOS is that most people who wear them…shouldn’t.  Olympic (or professional) water sports athletes – yes.  Uncle Whosis? Please.  Just…just don’t.

If anyone asked me to define EXTERN, I’d say “background actor in a medical drama.”  But, I’ll allow this other use makes more sense.

Back to Rex. Well, no breakdown/explanation of the "Basin'" issue, so I'm still in the dark there; however, I was happy to see him raise the CANDIED/Candide stinker which bugged me. Frankly, I could agree on a shallower level with most of his criticisms, but I'll spare all y'all that at least.
And then there's...
KUMAR?? Instead of MAUDE??? Even *I* would be embarrassed to admit that one! And you own the movie?? Dude. 🤣

In his defense, he did hit on something close to home with "That was leaving me with something like BLOGFESTS at 17A: Knock-down-drag-out fights, which *almost* seemed plausible, but not quite."

And if he still read the commentariat, "almost" and "but not quite" might have been omitted from that statement. Just sayin'.

Here's hoping everyone enjoyed a pleasant evening and a good night's sleep.


chefwen 3:02 AM  

O.K. Sunday, didn’t exactly hit the sweet puzzle spot, but I enjoyed it.

THE LITTLE PRINTS made the animal lover in me smile.


Hey, GILLY, Have you made the wenderful MUFFIN recipe I sent to you?

Anonymous 5:50 AM  

First time I've ever heard Recherches du Temps Perdu translated as anything other than Remembrance of Things Past, but I see it's legit.

Someone someday ought to put Wasabi, Wahhabi, and Mesabi into the same puzzle.

Lewis 6:25 AM  

@frantic -- Did you see the little happy face in the middle of the grid?

Lewis 6:27 AM  

With the satisfaction that comes from overcoming many vague clues, with warm smiles in the heart from the wordplaying theme, with edification from leaning something new (in this case, the expression “Revenge is a dish best served cold”), and with the motivation to come up with new theme clues/answers, such as:

[William Shakespeare’s saga of a lascivious leader]
[William Thackeray’s ode to a sink, faucet, and toothbrush],

With all of these things encased in a very junk-lite grid, this puzzle gave me a most lovely solve. Thank you for this, Ms. Estrin!

Colin 6:36 AM  

Kudos to Miriam Estrin, a rookie (first-year!) constructor! Any puzzle that features The Little Prince (and Harold and MAUDE!) gets 2 thumbs-up from me. I didn't think Rex would like the theme - a bit of a stretch... Title Basin' from Title Basing? - from Tidal Basin? - ?based on (book) titles?... with "just" the homophone thing, but it was lightweight and not very challenging, but fine for a relaxing Sunday. I figured others would also think this was YAWNSville, but I enjoyed it.

I took a little issue with "Sound like a broken record," which to me usually means one is being repetitious - to me, a SKIP usually jumps part of a track without repetition. And SPEEDOS are perhaps tight, but not necessarily small. TWEE was new to me, OLDCHAP.

I raise a glass of MOET & Chandon, and look forward to Miriam's evolution as a puzzle constructor.

Karl Grouch 7:07 AM  

This tasted stale and unsalted, Karl had no fun and Grouch was kinda mad.

"Candied" was particularly bad for the reasons Rex mentioned.

At least clue 101A as a themer :

L. Frank Baum's ecstatic wizard?

(Yes, I know, no such book exists, but if it did, it could have maybe saved the morning).

Stay safe and calm during the next week, nobody wants things getting uglier than they already are.

Z 7:33 AM  

My main question this morning is whether that Canterbury Tails book cover came from Rex’s collection or if he found it on the interwebs. And whether that it is the most phallic sub sandwich ever.

I use to wear SPEEDOs. I also used to be 6’4” and 160 lbs. I’m still 6’4”.

@Anon5:50 - Good point. In Search of Lost Time looks like a more literal translation, so I wonder why early translations went with Remembrance....

I like the themers fine. But we couldn’t find symmetrical pairs so went with mirror symmetry, apparently. The lack of something more unifying than “books” does make this feel a little light, especially for a Sunday. Not bad, but not great either.

@Frantic Sloth - I believe the only proper definition is “divorced sea bird.”

sf27shirley 7:36 AM  

Rex owns Harold and Maude, not Harold and Kumar

ChuckD 7:45 AM  

If you’re going with the totally played punny, homophone theme for a Sunday - at least do it right. Only 5 inconsistent themers don’t cut it. The grid is loaded with black - I thought at first there was a graphic component but no - just large swaths of black creating choppy fill overall. Multiple director and Brit speak clues?? Probably should keep GERTRUDE out of it if she’s not part of the theme next time. This was one big OOF.

I’m not an aspiring constructor but after doing a puzzle like this I can empathize with @Unknown earlier. Someone must have had the INS with the editor to get this thru.

Clayton Moore 7:50 AM  

@Anon 5:50. You left out Kemosabe.

webwinger 7:53 AM  

Theme today really left me cold—felt stale, inconsistent, just plain dumb.

Also I had a real DNF, with fails in both the NW and SE: Never heard of YOSHI or HOT DESK, could not remember if it was ASTON or ASTiN Martin, so siTDESK managed to stay in the grid until I admitted defeat and used Check Puzzle. That revealed my other problem: Had conflated sirah with SHIRAZ to get the plausible sounding SHIRAh. Googled hESTY and found it was a synonym for skanky per the Urban Dictionary—close enough to Full of spice?

Still and all, though, I did not find this an unpleasant solving experience. Provided a decent hour of distraction from the state of the world, topped now by worry that the enormous wildfire (now the biggest in Colorado’s history) that has been raging uncontained for months in the beautiful western part of our county could actually reach Fort Collins. To date the only locally visible effect has been an eerie orange-gray haze, accompanied by bits of falling ash and an acrid smell, that intermittently settles on the city when wind conditions are right, and gives the sun an unsettling red color that lasts well beyond its rising (see today's avatar). Heard somewhere this comment from a frightened child to a frightened mom: Is this what it was like when the dinosaurs died?

Having just read @Rex and early comments, have to add that I plunked in MAUDE without Kumar ever crossing my mind, even though I found Harold and Maude, a huge cult favorite in my student days, way TWEE, and am quite a fan of Harold and Kumar, particularly their last effort, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, containing some of the best 3D effects ever.

pabloinnh 8:12 AM  

So here I was, eating a MUFFIN, and wondering what kind of "breakfast order might end in -FIN. Perhaps I should wake up before I start a Sunday puzzle.

EXTERN was new to me and made me question ROVER, which I knew had to be right, although I spent some time considering if FLAN might make a nice neutral paint color. Why not?

The Julius Caesar refence involving a pun made me think of a very long and convoluted story Flip Wilson used to tell about a valuable berry that was sought after by some long ago baddie that ended "I come to seize your berry, not to praise it". I suppose his telling was half the fun, but I've always liked it.

My own contribution to PRINTS came from the days when we used to send film in for developing, and as I mailed it I would sing "Some day my prints will come". Sorry.

Workmanlike Sunday that filled in like a Monday, and fun enough, so thanks ME. And CANDIED made me think of Terry Southern's Candy, which is hilarious.

Lewis 8:18 AM  

(King Leer, Vanity Fare)

pmdm 8:26 AM  

For me, Mr. Sharp asks a pointless questions. A theme is just a theme. There need be no point to it. Go after it for its weakness and leave it at that.

It's the fill that bothered me. Sometimes it seems to me like newer constructors rely too much on PPP for the fill, fill that I don't know. If you rely on proper names for your theme entries (book titles), I'd prefer the rest of the grid by more or less PPP free.

IrishCream 8:35 AM  

This was a snooze. Only saving grace was that it was over quickly. Said a couple Sundays ago that I want the Sunday puzzle to take me a while to get careful what you wish for. This was 13 minutes of mediocrity.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

The clever cluing for LADLE (67D) was excellent.

bocamp 9:21 AM  

Thx, @Miriam, this was definitely not a "slugfest", but provided just the right amount of challenge for a Sunday. :)

Sussed out the theme very quickly, but fully grokking the puzzle title is a work in progress. @Miriam indicates that "the fitting title comes from Erik Agard". (

Ave. Sunday solve time.

Only holdups were "ettern" crossing "flat", and "Aston" vs "Astin". "Flat" was easy enough to morph into "flax" (vaguely recalled "extern" from a previous puzzle). "Hot desk" made more sense than "hit desk", and Bob was my uncle.

"The term 'hot desking' is thought to derive from the naval practice of hot racking, where sailors on different shifts share the same bunks." (Wikipedia). Fortunately, didn't need to share racks on our ship. :)

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

kitshef 9:33 AM  

Language problems for me on several of the themers. Started to type in “Le Petit Prance”, but realized it wouldn’t fit. That one was easy.

Harder was having the CH in place place at 63A. Stated with “A la Recherche” … oops, doesn’t fit. Tried “Recherche du …”, where the CH worked perfectly. But there weren’t enough letters for “temps” plus a homonym for “perdu”.

So then I tried “In search of things …” Again the CH worked. But the only homonym I could think of for “past” was “passed”, which again would not fit. Same problem with "In search of times ..." Eventually, MTV and TOTE straightened everything out.

And finally, I hadn’t clued in that 46A was a themer, so had CANDIDE in for the longest time. That one and Julius didn’t quite work for me – CANDIED has the emPHAsis on the wrong syllAble, and Caesar doesn’t really sound like SEES HER. I guess prince/prints is also slightly off, although closer.

Unknown 9:36 AM  

Sounds good! I’m going to give it a go!

Nancy 9:59 AM  

JULIUS SEES HER is so inspired that it just has to be the seed idea that jump-started this delightful puzzle. It just has to be. I'll go look at the Constructor's Note very soon and maybe Miriam will tell me. Or not.

I'm glad it was the final theme answer. By that time, having figured out the homophonic theme, I was making the puzzle even more fun for myself by guessing the theme titles before doing any of the crosses. I saw that one immediately and smiled broadly.

My kind of puzzle. The homophones were adorable, if easy, but I did have some challenge in the surrounding fill. My writeovers: I CAN before I MAY at 36D made that section tough going and kept me from picking up on the very nice YAWNS clue. And I also had OLD CHUM before OLD CHAP at 12D. As in "Life is a cabaret, OLD CHUM..." Remember that?

And I learned two interesting things in this puzzle. One is that Einstein had a sense of humor (110A). Who knew? The other is that the opposite of an intern is an EXTERN. It makes perfect sense, but I never heard the word before.

A really nice puzzle, Miriam. Congrats. This, added to the lovely Aussie-themed DOWN UNDER crossword of last week, makes two nifty recent contributions to the NYT puzzle world by talented and very promising women constructors.

Brad Findell 10:02 AM  

DNF because I read the Voltaire clue quickly and *knew* it was CANDIDE. Then the downs were ungettable. Why would a reread the clue when the answer was clearly correct? Why should a themer be only 7 letters? Aargh!

Blackhat 10:06 AM  

17 names, 7 foreign words....

Hungry Mother 10:06 AM  

A longish slog today. For some reason I though “bed” spelt backwards was DEl and it took a while to find that typo. I used to teach Zeno’s paradox and yet I wanted him to be from ELiA until I saw that ODiON wasn’t right.

TJS 10:07 AM  

I hated every stinking second I wasted on this piece of garbage. To list everything wrong with this would just make me re-live the experience. Can not remember swearing at a puzzle as much as this one. Blechh.

Joe Dipinto 10:15 AM  

sf27shirley – No, @Rex owns "Maude and Kumar".

Rube 10:17 AM  

Rex's analysis is spot on. The themers brought no smiles except for Big Julie at the bottom.

TWEE? I worked with Brits (they don't like that) daily for 15 years. Never heard twee.


TJS 10:24 AM  

"a junk-lite grid". A JUNK-LITE GRID, Lewis ??? Good God...

Roy 10:26 AM  

@CuppaJoe The ROVER clue is wrong in the app. I see "One of six parked on the moon", not four. Is it right in the paper or elsewhere? That cost me several minutes because I knew the first couple of Apollo missions didn't have rovers, and kept struggling to find something else they parked on the moon.

Also, while I'm nitpicking space stuff, 64D is wrong. An exploding star is a supernova. A regular nova involves a white dwarf, which is the core of an already dead Sun-like star that never exploded, and which is accreting matter from a companion star.

Crossing answers with incorrect clues = no joy. Still finished in average Sunday time, slightly more than 2x @Rex.

Carola 10:27 AM  

Easy (except for the last theme answer) and smile-inducing. I liked the puzzle's sweetness, from the kitchen's PIE and CANDIED to the love-stricken KNIGHT and JULIUS to the aw-cuteness of THE LITTLE PRINTS. I see the point about the grid's choppiness; I thought the non-theme winners were concentrated at the top: HOT DESK, SLUGFESTS, ABOUT TIME, but the ZESTY WASABI zing of the entries was exhausted by the time we got to the likes of HAS A JOB and T-SHIRTS.

Help from previous puzzles: YOSHI; do-overs waFFle, LESter; favorite fake-out: SPEEDOS.

Z 10:32 AM  

@kitshef - Le Petit Prance sounds like a Canterbury Tail

Sixthstone 10:40 AM  

A light an easy solve for me--in fact, my fastest Sunday ever. Mildly amusing theme, but it really isn't enough for a Sunday. Mediocre fill, but some of the cluing was nice. For a moment I thought it was JULIUSSEIZEHER, which actually might have been better.

bocamp 10:44 AM  


"Maude" went in posthaste. Disremembered the movie, but not the name combo. Never heard of Harold and Kumar.


Some say that love is sweet as a rose,
Some say it's honey and the bee,
Well sit right down and let me tell you
What my love is to me.


I call my sugar "Candy"
Because I'm sweet on "Candy"
And "Candy" is sweet on me

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

Frantic Sloth 10:48 AM  

Ohhhhh, @Birchbark 151am - now you've done it! It's been OSSO Bucco weather lately and now I'ma hafta make some! (Must be nice to just have some morels to toss in!)

@Lewis 625am Of course not - LOL! See? I notice nothing. But, there it be! Thank you for pointing it out. 😊

@Z 733am I just assumed Canterbury Tails was part of his personal collection, but who knew there was a graphic novel depicting the construction and *ahem* erection of the Rye *ahem* wooden roller coaster?

@sf27shirley 736am Thanks for your help, but that's actually my (apparently muddled) point. How could he not remember the name of a movie he actually owns vs. one he clearly has no knowledge of or affinity for?

@pabloinnh 812am 🤣🤣🤣 Let me know when you start searching for your keys as you're driving home. And, sorry to tell you, but your EXTERN/ROVER/FLAN mind travels mirrored mine exactly.

@bocamp 921am Well, that title explanation does nothing for me, except learning that it came from Erik Agard says something.
It Came From Erik Agard in 3D, coming to a theater near you. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

@J-Dip 1015am LOL! Or that!

@Z 1032am LOL! Rex owns that one, too.

Bubbabythebay 10:51 AM  

For the second time in a week, Rex has signed off with "Good day". Is that a reflection of his solving experience or a wish for us? From the rest of the write-up I don't think he had one with this puzzle.

aeevans 10:51 AM  

Dumb puzzle. Fabulous book cover!

Teedmn 11:06 AM  

I was thinking "Harold and Kumar" myself at 6A. I had UFO in the grid and wondered if I had put it in the wrong slot when the U didn't line up correctly. Then MAUDE hit me. What a great movie! My favorite line is when Harold's mother says, "Harold, that was your last date!"

I wanted the sound of the defusing bomb scene to be the "snip" of the red wire.

I monkeyed around with that NW area for a while when START over wasn't yielding anything. At least 51A's "Can't keep one's mouth shut?" sort of lent itself to YArNS (keeps telling stories?)

The change of emphasis from Candide to CANDIED didn't bother me. That was one of my favorite themers along with IN SEARCH OF LAST THYME (I never did finish the first volume of Proust. Lost thyme indeed.) But the clue for 90A didn't do anything for me.

Miriam Estrin, congrats on your solo puzzle debut. Thanks.

GG 11:06 AM  

the little prints? I don't get it.

Cyclist227 11:07 AM  

Surprised Rex rated this a "medium." I would give it an "Easy." Please, Will Shortz, retire.

thefogman 11:14 AM  

Pretty impressive to have two puzzles published in the NY Times after constructing for just one year.
PS - Does anybody have a link to the “five amazing puzzles” that were part of the bonus features on the DVD of the (excellent) documentary Wordplay? The app which used to open the files (InterActual) is now obsolete.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

A useless slog of a puzzle.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

I like that there are more female constructors getting published now and OFL has stopped keeping gender score, sticking, instead, to equal opportunity hating. (Prolly 'cause female was never a real thing...which is why you didn't comprehend the comment above.)

egsforbreakfast 11:30 AM  

Native American warrior experienced what it’s like to spin fast?
The post-matrimonial travels of Barbie?
Tale of the biggest ever puddle of feline urine?

Answers appear below, but I enjoyed this since I feel about puns the way Einstein apparently felt about SCIENCE. Well, Miriam Estrin is at least trying to make a sliver of her living off of puns, and for that I salute her.

Brave Knew Whirled
Mrs. Doll Away
The Great Cat’s Pee

KnittyContessa 11:34 AM  

I love a Sunday puzzle that makes me smile. This did not do that.

I had never heard of an EXTERN. I wanted intern so that.little section took me forever. I had to resort to google to figure it out.

Two paint colors, really?

RooMonster 11:34 AM  

Hey All !
Just could not parse SEES HER as such. Kept saying, "what is SEE SHER?" Then thinking something about a SUSSE chalet, or whatnot. Seeing as how I had suN for ION. Really wanted ODEON, but didn't go with my wrong EtnA(!?) and suN. Ended up with a cluster of wrongness in that section. Had GEReRaDE/HEARSe/EtnA/suN/JatsUSSEESHER. Yeesh. You don't remember that novel titled JAT SUSSE ESHER? I have two copies. Autographed by MC himself. 😁

Anyway, got 1A and 6A right off the bat. Turned out both were wrong! koopa for 1A, kumar for 6A. Good stuff. Had a couple of other wrong letters in a few spots.

Did enjoy this puz, even though I panicked when I realized the theme was Novels. Being as unread as I am. But got 'em all except JULIUS SEES HER.


Ernonymous 11:45 AM  

@Joe Dipinto you read that wrong, Rex owns Harold and Harold.

yinchiao 11:48 AM  

Belated feedback for those puzzled by "in Search of Lost Time":
The first English translation, by Moncrieff, used "Remembrance of Things Past" because the phrase is from a Shakespeare sonnet & would evoke associations for English readers, not because it accurately recreates the French title.

Some people give Moncrieff a hard time over this, but it works pretty well to convey the spirit, if not the letter, of Proust's oeuvre.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Ummm. There are only three ROVERs on the moon. Apollo 15, 16, and 17 were the only missions to have 'em.

satellite73 11:54 AM  

I'm going to put a sign over the litter box. Plus, now I know how to refer to either lousy movie. Thank you.

Bill T 11:58 AM  

After getting the first two theme entries I was hoping that the added letters might at least spell something. But then I got THYME and that hope disappeared. I was solving with down only so also didn’t see CANDIED as a theme entry.

satellite73 12:00 PM  

Pi/pie, time/thyme, night/knight, stale/trite

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

"In Search of Lost Time" is the title used in a new translation by Penguin in England done around the turn of the 21st Century (i.e.. 2001), so it's totally fair. That said, I really didn't like this puzzle. Too stale, and the puns were too obvious. I went with MAUDE immediately, so I can't figure out why OFL was fooled. I must admit I don't get the Little PRINTS pun. A small pet may leave little pawprints but the pet itself isn't a print.

Paul Rippey 12:01 PM  

The first themer I got was CANDIED, so I thought they would all involve moving the accent to a different syllable. So for me, all the other themers seemed wrong and bland. I think that’s called “priority bias”.

GILL I. 12:04 PM  

Instead of homophones, I almost wish Miriam had gone with Mondegreens. I can't get "The Towels of Marco Polo" out of my head.
A Sunday diversion with a head scratching title...Like @Frantic, I'm not sure what TITLE BASIN means. Is it missing a G-string?
My favorite was LIFE OF PIE....I love making them. I get all fancy with the crust and because of it, the ends always burn....Speaking of CANDIED and such...@Birchbark, your recipe sounds yummilicious. Thanks for sharing. @chefwen....NOT YET! BUT I WILL...We just got back from Auburn and my BFF doesn't have any baking stuff. I'll make the for Thanksgiving.
Does anybody around here say they are going to get a Shvitz? If I were going to the SPA, I don't think I'd tell anyone I got shvitzed today.
The malls are already playing "Fleas Navidad."

Nancy 12:05 PM  

Got your theme contributions on my own, @Lewis! Nice!

Here are my own contributions. Anyone is free to venture in with their answer(s). I'll provide the answers much, much later today, though I doubt they'll be needed. Going out now.

1. Dreiser's novel about the raising of a nun.

2. Sondheim's torch song about the theft of one's diamond lode.

3. Rodgers and Hammerstein's advice about taking a cab on your way home from the bank.

Good luck! Talk to you later.

Miranda 12:14 PM  

Shout out to the epic “Toe Pick!” scene in The Cutting Edge

What? 12:15 PM  

Really awful. The only thing worse than the fills is the theme.
I’m told there’s about a six month wait time from Shortz and crew and this is what they publish? Somebody knows somebody.

rjkennedy98 12:21 PM  

Surprised this got publish at all (and I haven't felt that way in a while). The theme answers were weak and the rest of the fill is short and uninspiring. I'm honestly not sure what Will Shortz saw in this puzzle that made him want to publish it.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

Sniff all you want , but Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle is actually quite well done. And while We should all be forgiven for our Hal Ashby phase, Mr. Ashby’s reputation has faded badly the last couple of years. And there’s no sign it will be rehabilitated any time soon.

Anonymoose 12:28 PM  

I got curious about the number of lunar ROVERs and did some googling. All sources are old. I pieced together that perhaps there ARE 6, USA-3, (USSR)-2, China-1.

Newboy 12:34 PM  

Why asks OFL. Why indeed? It’s Sunday 🤢

Crimson Devil 12:47 PM  

Re: Barack, Michelle, Hillary and Bill: let’s not forget Joe Shapiro, per First Niece-Mary and First Sister-Judge.

Maddiegail 12:50 PM  

Z @7:33 a.m. What a GREAT sense of humor! LOL! Thanks.

Nancy 1:03 PM  

You've got big shoes to fill, Rexites. Someone named "Bob T" came up with all three answers on the Wordplay blog in less than a half hour:)

Hoopla 1:03 PM  

Curious as to the purity of people’s definition of DNF: If I am solving on a phone, insert the last letter, and the clock does not stop, have I failed? Or can I keep going until I find my mistakes(s) and still count it as a victory when the clock stops? The app counts it as a continuation of a streak - but how about people here?

Michael Moroney 1:22 PM  

Prints? I don’t get the connection to pet. Paw print is a real stretch.

Jeff in Ann Arbor 1:22 PM  

Deer (forest grazer:doe) are not grazers, they’re browsers.

Ms. Goldberg 1:36 PM  

Rex's nitpicks are my delights. Thought it was a fun and easier than normal Sunday. Some tricky clues, some cute titles for books, constructed by a woman (for a change) and nothing truly cringeworthy. Less crosswordy filler. Hardest part for me was spelling "Aston" (mostly because I know nothing about video games). I enjoyed the puzzle.

bocamp 1:37 PM  

@thefogman 11:14 AM wrote:

"Does anybody have a link to the “five amazing puzzles” that were part of the bonus features on the DVD of the (excellent) documentary Wordplay?"

This may be what you're looking for: "Five Unforgettable Puzzles" from the WordPlay DVD pamphlet.

Search the webpage for: "Five Unforgettable Puzzles" or scroll approx. 1/2 way down for the first one and 2/3 of the way down for the other four).

Hope this is what you wanted. 🤞

PS - checking my iPad app, I see that I've done two of the five; will look forward to taking on the remaining three.

BTW, that was such an excellent doc.; watched it some years ago (on Netflix I think). :)

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

JOHN X 1:42 PM  

@Anonymous 12:22

You’re full of sh*t. Hal Ashby’s reputation has never dimmed. He was one of the greatest directors of the “golden age” of 1970s American filmmaking.

Harold & Maude, The Last Detail, Bound For Glory, Coming Home, Being There, etc. The man’s body of work speaks for itself, and each film is remarkably unique yet each clearly carries his unmistakeable stamp.

Harold & Kumar Get High is a passable cable-TV stoner comedy series from two borderline-funny millenials who are not quite Cheech & Chong.

Colin 1:46 PM  

@Anonmyous, 11:53; and Anonymoose, 12:28: At first and as a devotee of manned space flight, I was embarrassed I missed that there are only 3 Apollo lunar rovers on the Moon. However, Anonymoose appears to be correct, since we should include unmanned or robotic rovers and not be so US-centric (the clue did not specify what kind of rovers):

Thank you, Anonymoose!

thefogman 1:56 PM  

@bocamp Thanks a bunch! And yes, it is an excellent documentary, especially for crossword fanatics. I highly recommend it. It would be great if they made a sequel to it. Maybe Rex and some of today’s young guns could be featured in it.

Joe Dipinto 1:58 PM  

@Nancy – not positive on 1 and 3, but:


I'm not sure the theme's point was to change specifically the last word, though it sort of worked out that way. As @Rex noted, CANDIDE is only one word; and TITLE BASIN' changes the first word.

Speaking of mondegreens (waves to @GILL), I was reminded of a fave by 80d:

Life will be ecstasy
You and me and Leslie–

This puzzle was dullsville, man. Pi/pie, night/knight, prince/prints, time/thyme – yeah, I bet no one ever thought of switching those off before. JULIUS SEES HER is a good answer, but it would be better served by a theme where it could be clued more cleverly, say as "76er Erving attends 2013 Joaquin Phoenix film".

Anyway. Here's Roy Hargrove doing a Debussy mash-up of "Girl With The Flaxen Hair" and "Dr. Gradus Ad Parnassum".

sixtyni yogini 2:05 PM  

What Rex said.

“We are not amused,” said the print-says..


🤗Happy Sunday! 🤗

Ethan Taliesin 2:12 PM  

@Jeff in Ann Arbor: Firefox, like a deer, is also a browser.

I didn't think the puns were good enough to carry the bland fill, and I'm certainly not helping.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Puns were hopelessly trite, cluing was off--I thought, it's got to be Little Prints if it's as unoriginal as the other puns, but "pet story"? So...pawprints, heh heh? Oh please. Ugly fill, almost no satisfying answers. How did this get to be a NYT puzzle at all, let alone Sunday? Very disappointing.

Joe Dipinto 2:13 PM  

Btw – @Barbara S, if you're here, I think it was you who was curious about the Diagramless puzzle recently? The one in today's NYT Magazine is pretty easy, imo, so you might want to try it out.

Joe Dipinto 2:23 PM  

@Giovanni – @Rex also owns "Melvin and Howard", I saw it on a shelf in one of his Alfie photos.

bocamp 2:24 PM  

@thefogman 1:56 PM 👍

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

jberg 2:24 PM  

Count me among those who thought PRINTS was too much of a stretch -- sure, some pets make prints (tropical fish, not so much), but so do many other things. I'd have gone with something about lithographs or silkscreens. does list doctors who don't live in a hospital as an example of EXTERN,but it's ridiculous -- hardly any doctors live in hospitals. Interns and residents may sleep there overnight when they're on call, but they don't live there.

I don't want to get too far into the weeds, but did Zeno of ELEA actually teach? Zeno of Citium, who foundered stoicism, certainly did -- but all we know about the former is some of his paradoxes.

Oh, the puzzxle -- i kind of liked the bilateral symmetry, which made it OK to have one 7-letter answer, but the pattern-breaking of JULIUS SEES HER bothered me.

@birchbark, thanks for the recipe! I'll try it soon. I especially like the instruction to add "big chunks of celery, carrots, etc." Truly old-style!

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

John x
Charming. But I remain unconvinced by your opinion.
He’s the darling of the film school set and it’s they who write the reviews and books. But the truth is, his films have aged very poorly.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

@Colin @Anonymoose Looks like there were two Chinese rovers. Also, there's an Indian rover, but it crashed. That'd be a hard park.

Either way, the clue/answer is plain wrong.

Barbara S. 2:42 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 2:13 p.m.
Hey! Thanks for remembering that conversation. Technical difficulty, though. I don't get the hard-copy paper and I don't suppose the diagramless is online.

Nancy 2:54 PM  

Mazeltov, @Joe D!

Andrew 2:55 PM  

Totally agree. An English language newspaper should have an English language crossword.

Doc John 2:57 PM  

Not a big fan of the puzzle today, either, but any puzzle that gives a shout-out to "Harold and MAUDE" is OK in my book.
And then there's this: toe pick

JC66 3:06 PM  

@Barbara S

Just go to The NY Times puzzle page and scroll down. It's right under Spelling Bee.

DigitalDan 3:11 PM  

Rex says you can't slip a seven letter one-word themer in there. She CAN, and DID.

Z 3:43 PM  

@Anon2:37 - Your link lists exactly 6 things called ROVER, which is what my clue says.

@Anon2:28 - Never been to film school, never wrote a film review, and the truth is Ashby’s films are fantastic. Harold and MAUDE is still droll and laugh out loud funny. Being There is still an accurate depiction of fame. On this issue put me firmly on Team @John X.

@Hoopla - DNF has a wide range of definitions. I prefer apps that don’t tell me that the puzzle is correct until I ask. Right now the apps I use don’t offer me that option.

@Anon11:27 - I’m sure Rex knows how to find the data.

@GG - A pun on The Little Prince.

@Me - Rex owns it.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Easiest Sunday in quite a while.
Pi Day has nothing to do with PIE. It's March 14 (written 3.14)

Smith 3:54 PM  

@Frantic 2:44

While I agree with you on the missing e in TEHEE, there's a defense for that spelling: if you put the syllable break between the first E and the H, making the first syllable TE, it's an open syllable (not "closed" by having a consonant at the end), giving the pronunciation a "long" e sound. An easy example for comparison is 'bed' (closed, "short" e sound) vs. 'be' (open, "long" e sound).

Of course, if you move the syllable break after the H, you have TEH as the first syllable, which would be a closed syllable, but since it would also be unstressed it would sound just as you wrote it!

Yep, it needs another E.

Colin 4:00 PM  

@Z, 3:43: It turns out Lunokhod 1 and 2 (deployed from Luna 17 and 21, respectively) were also rovers, just not listed as such on Anonymous' Wikipedia reference. As Anonymous also pointed out, the Indian Pragyan rover crashed (well, the spaceship carrying it crashed, the Chandrayaan-2 with the Vikram lander) and so maybe is not technically "parked" on the Moon!

BTW Z, I *love* Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!
To paraphrase Capt. Jean-Luc Picard: "I. See. Seven. Rovers!"

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

Check out the 1992 movie "The Cutting Edge" which prominently features the term "toe pick!"

joe in Newfoundland 4:20 PM  

Don't get the title at all.
ps I appreciate the changed recapcha. This time I just had to yell "I am a human being!" and it worked.

Werner V 4:23 PM  

I submit that the crashed Indian rover is technically no longer a "rover" but a debris field, and therefore doesn't count.

Masked and Anonymous 4:24 PM  

Seems ok by m&e.
All themers are punny title versions of literary works. The puztitle of Title Basin' means that the themers are based on such titles -- while also hintin at the puns, by bein a pun itself, on Tidal Basin.

E-W symmetry is always a plus. Plus plus it works extra well, when U have all-different themer lengths of 7, 9, 13, 15, 17 and 19. Which I think adds up to 80 characters of theme material. Is that less than normal, for a SunPuz? Not sure, but offhand I'd hafta say it seems maybe a smidge light-ish, but ok.

What struck M&A as unusual was the heavy-ish 90 squares of the black shade persuasion. This tends to pare a lotta yer fillins down in length, as others have already mentioned. Got us a healthy litter of 36 weejects [3-letter pups] today, f'rinstance.
I'd grant that a whoppin 8 of them black squares were due to one weird humongus podium erected at the central-bottom of the puzgrid, tho. A stage set up for JULIUS SEES HER to bask on, no doubt. har

staff weeject picks: Most of the 36 are actually pretty darn respectable. I'd say ISA and III might be the most desperate of the bunch. Especially with both splatzed into that same SW weeject stack.

Definitely enjoyed: SLUGFESTS. MONKEYS. SCIENCE [Please don't ignore that one, especially if U is a state's governor]. OHSTOP. HEADSLAP. ABOUTTIME. EUROPE. TOPGUN. WASABI.
Nice touch of Ow de Speration: HASAJOB. INASNAP.
On the fencer: TOEPICK.

Overall, an enjoyable & slightly humorous SunPuz. With hardly any adverse conse-quincunxes.

Thanx for the fun, Ms. Estrin. And congratz on yer first Sunday NYT outin'.

Masked & Anonym8Us
["M&A feels the need … the need for a U's feed."]


Z 4:39 PM  

@Colin - I wish I knew who created it. I’ve had that image in my photos for 7 years and pull it out every so often. It cracks me up every time. Of course Picard would play lead guitar left-handed. I do see the two Lunokhod ROVERs listed, just not called ROVERs, on that link. I think this Wikipedia page list 7 moon ROVERs. One of the Chinese ROVERs is operational so isn’t “parked” I guess. All of which makes we wonder Does anyone really know what time it is?

bocamp 4:46 PM  

@Frantic - Help! I can't find the "Wordplay comments section" you recommended yesterday. I think I tried to locate it the first time you made that suggestion, as well. 😊

Here's where I'm looking.

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

JC66 4:55 PM  


Yeah, you have to be a NY Times puzzle subscriber to access it. I assume @Barbara S is because she doesn't get the paper delivered.

Sorry for the tease.

Nancy 5:01 PM  

@bocamp -- Re: finding the Wordplay comments section: Click on whichever puzzle you want. Scroll down a few lines*, then look up at the upper right hand corner. There will be a number contained in a tiny rectangle. That's the current number of comments. Click on that number and a column of comments will appear on the right-hand side. Then all you have to do is figure out how to scroll through them, since the Deb's column (or Caitlin's) scrolls separately from the comments section. They have separate arrows. (Don't ask.)

*The number only appears up top once you've begun scrolling a little bit. (Don't ask.)

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

I have been to film school. I have written reviews, and naturally, had my work reviewed.
I assure you Ashby’s reputation is in decline in professional circles. And it should go without saying, with the public.
It’s true he has his champions. Mostly the sort who used to smoke clove cigarettes and misquote Sartre. It’s one reason he was the subject of a pitiable bit of Hagiography (The docuportrait Hal) was produced a couple of award seasons ago.
But make no mistake, Ashby’s oeuvre is now considered a yawn. That’s a fact, I concede, I cannot prove.
I’m giving you the insider’s look. Accept it or not. I mean, who cares what you think or John X? Or me for that matter. But realize what I’m saying.
I’ve offered no personal opinion on his work , nor will I. But the industry’s opinion is clear. And not favorable.

bocamp 5:16 PM  

@Frantic - Mea culpa! I dug deeper and found it! :) thx, again, for the suggestion. 😊

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平

bocamp 5:24 PM  

@Nancy 5:01 PM - ty :)

Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

Masked and Anonymous 5:38 PM  

Since they bothered to build a podium at the bottom of today's puz, M&A has decided to spout off …

M&A wanted to give a special thanx to all the teachers out there, who are riskin their health and sanity to try to figure how to educate America's kids during this potently scary pandemic. M&A used to teach a few classes in college, but I can really appreciate that this current effort, at all class age-levels, makes my minor experiences totally pale, by comparison. Shoot, I didn't even have to wear a Mask, in those good ol' days.

I wish all our teachers the very very best success and wellness for their students, themselves, and their families. I am aware thru our blog that our mighty @Muse darlin is part of that ongoin struggle, in West Va., right now. Ditto, I think, for @RP, in NY.

If anyone can get the job done well, I reckon @Muse and @RP can.

And we miss U here a lot on many days, @Muse darlin, but we understand.

Spout alert concluded.


Anonymous 6:10 PM  

Why does “let” mean call to reserve? 119 across

Z 6:39 PM  

@Anon - You mean like this this? or this? or this? or this? or this? I found these by googling “Hal Ashby critique” and skipping the reviews of the documentary. That’s an awful lot of positive press for someone who has been dead for 40 years and, yeah, pretty much supports your “I cannot prove” comment. I have no doubt that there are people like you describe, there always is. But the “industry?” Pshaw. More likely it’s the film school crowd trying to look superior by criticizing people more talented than them.

@anon6:10 - It is “call to re-serve” as in to serve again in tennis, when the Chair Umpire calls LET. And, no, the hyphen is not in the clue, which makes it look like something involving a sergeant or librarian.

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

Thank you.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

You’re serious? go with God man. Enjoy his films to tour heart’s content.iK

Anonymous 7:21 PM  

Those are, ahem, journalists. They are not in the indusdry.

BVTUCK 7:39 PM  

Director’s cry...AND scene? Don’t get it.

Anonymous 7:44 PM  

Um, Mods?
@Nancy gave away two pangrams to the SB in her post!
You don't have to post this, just wanted you to know!

Barbara S. 7:47 PM  

Like @Nancy, I couldn't get to the Diagramless through your link either (although I appreciate your effort). But that's not the way I get into the Spelling Bee, so I went the SB route and realized that I had just never scrolled down far enough on that page to see that the D. was there -- yay! This will be my first D. EVER, so I expect it'll keep me busy for the week!

Are you now a candidate for Spelling Bee aficionadoship? It's a fun puzzle
a) in a lightly masochistic way (it's not whips and chains, but more silken cords and feathers), and
b) whether you talk about it on this blog or not.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

Wanna see a film filmmakers acclaim? Tune into TCM right now.

A Moderator 8:04 PM  

@Anon 7:44

The SB @Nancy commented on is "Teaser" and not the one that appears today either online or in the paper.

JC66 8:09 PM  

@Barbara S

Glad you found it, Enjoy!

Smith 8:13 PM  


Actually you just have to be a print subscriber!

SBer 8:58 PM  

@A Moderator - It may have been a teaser, but both those pangrams are part of today’s SB. You should look for yourself.

A Moderator 9:14 PM  


Thanks, I removed her post.

Joe Dipinto 9:23 PM  

@BVTUCK – it's a film thing – when the scene being shot has been completed to the director's satisfaction, (s)he says "and...scene!"; the actors relax, the cameras shut off, etc. while the next scene is being set up to be filmed.

Nancy 10:22 PM  

Sorry, everyone, Mods included. I thought it was just some perennial SB puzzle the NYT uses to lure schnooks into signing up for a subscription. I had no idea it was an active puzzle and something people were working on today. There was no way to tell. Didn't mean to spoil it for anyone. Hope my post was removed before anyone's solve was adversely affected.

BTW, I've never even seen the term "pangram". In the Sunday Mag version, the only SB I get or have ever done, they simply say that you get 3 points for using all 7 letters and l point each for all other words. They don't call it a "pangram".

bocamp 10:42 PM  

@Nancy 10:22 PM - 🕊


Peace Paix 平和 Pace 和平 🕊

Anonymous 5:31 AM  

Rex loathes the puzzle, the commentariat love it. Obladi obladah life goes on.


burtonkd 8:48 AM  

Doesn't Rex rant against pangrams in the xword puzzle, or at least when it leads to scrabbly words.

While the Voltaire play doesn't have a strong accent on the first syllable, neither does it have a strong one one the second. French is not a strongly accented language, which can make it hard to discern word patterns for non-natives.

For any francophiles out there 10 Pourcent, or Call Your Agent in English is a fantastic series on Netflix. It features excellent writing, Parisian backdrop and cameos galore from the French cinema ALIST.

Ruth Lambert 11:55 AM  

I really enjoy puns so I chuckled at the book titles & enjoyed them. Also: I seem to be on the same “wavelength” with women puzzle makers than many men — especially with lots of sports clues (ugh).

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Re-serve, like in tennis

spacecraft 12:28 PM  

I liked all the different length themers. A grid design to fit them all was a neat trick itself. Not bothered by CANDIED: I think it's the best one! A few fillers were wince-worthy; I guess I'll never like IDEATES, word or no. But OK, par.

Burma Shave 2:40 PM  


who's CUTE in SPEEDOS AND might
say, "IT's just ABOUTTIME, LORD,


rondo 3:00 PM  

Inoffensive. Not very wacky. Seeing SHEL Silverstein at the end helped ease any pain.

Rather see ARNOLD clued as Fred Ziffel's 'son'.

Hope Vikes beat PACKERs.

I've got FAY Wray circled; old school yeah baby.

It's ABOUTTIME there was a Sunday puz that induced something other than YAWNS.

Unknown 4:39 PM  

Just a comment about Rex's book cover. It's always been my thought that adolescent boys could be taught to read better with those old porno novels. It would give them the motivation to learn words like turgid and engorged, as well as a host of others.

Diana, LIW 5:58 PM  

Wacky - nah.

Punny - yeah.

Fun on a Sunday.

Diana, Lady-in-waiting for Tuesday?

rondo 6:57 PM  

When you live where I live, celebrate a PACKER loss to the Vikings.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

Write down the numbers 314 then hold it up to a mirror.

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