1943 Pulitzer-winning Thornton Wilder play / SUN 11-22-20 / 1960s sitcom set at Fort Courage / Bygone office group / Best-selling self-help book subtitled Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Hear of Mr. Right / Long-running show whose iconic hourglass is in the Smithsonian / Town near Buffalo that sounds like paradise

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Constructor: Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium (9-something)


THEME: "IT ALL ADDS UP" — themers cross at letter strings that spell out numbers, but instead of getting the actual letters of the number (say, "-EIGHT-"), we get one number spelled out in the Across and another spelled out in the Down, and those two *total* the number that's supposed to provide the letter string. Sooooooo....

Theme answers:
  • SONEOPOOL / NINEDED BAR ((9+1= 10, i.e. TEN, thus STENO POOL / TENDED BAR)
  • THE LASONERD / IONENTHURT (1+1 = 2, i.e. TWO, thus THE LAST WORD / "IT WON'T HURT")
  • "DAYS OTWO LIVES" / "SKIN OTWO TEETH" (2+2 = 4, i.e. FOUR, thus "DAYS OF OUR LIVES" / "SKIN OF OUR TEETH")
  • FRFOUR TRAIN / MAKES WFOUR (4+4 = 8, i.e. EIGHT, thus FREIGHT TRAIN / MAKES WEIGHT)
  • BREAKZERO / PRESSEVENT (0+7 = 7, i.e. SEVEN, thus BREAKS EVEN / PRESS EVENT)
Word of the Day: "F-TROOP" (53D: 1960s sitcom set at Fort Courage) —

F Troop is a satirical American television sitcom western about U.S. soldiers and Native Americans in the Wild West during the 1860s that originally aired for two seasons on ABC. It debuted in the United States on September 14, 1965 and concluded its run on April 6, 1967 with a total of 65 episodes. The first season of 34 episodes was broadcast in black-and-white, the second season in color.

The series relied heavily on character-based humor; verbal and visual gags, slapstickphysical comedy and burlesque comedy make up the prime ingredients of F Troop. The series played fast and loose with historical events and persons, and often parodied them for comical effect.[1] There were some indirect references made to the culture of the 1960s such as a "Playbrave Club" (a parody of a Playboy Club) and two rock and roll bands (one which performs songs written in the 1960s). (wikipedia) 


• • •

I have, sadly, come to expect a certain product from this constructor, a product I have never cared for, and this one unfortunately fulfilled all my expectations: architecturally intricate, conceptually ambitious, but in execution, a total mess, and the pleasure factor, near nil. Here's the thing. You are doing addition, right? You've even got a reference to the plus SIGN in the dang grid (108D: + or -). And so when the intersecting numbers in the themers here form an *actual* plus SIGN, well, OK, bam, you nailed it. Nice work (see ONE x/w ONE, TWO x/w TWO). But when the crossing numbers cross off-center, creating one upside-down and two lop-sided crosses that are decided not plus SIGNs, well, then, you've gone and made a mockery of your own concept. Please don't tell me that the formation of a plus SIGN is not the point. You cannot reasonably expect to pull a whole plus gimmick, create two obvious plus SIGNs in the course of executing that gimmick, and then expect me to just ignore that as mere coincidence—a meaningless byproduct of a theme that cares only about crosses and not plus SIGNs. Once you have given me the perfect plus SIGN execution, you have now made all non-plus SIGN instances of the theme look silly and misshapen. So even if you are among the people who believe that gibberish in the grid can be redeemed by math, you are faced with having to explain the awkward, inconsistent mathiness of it all. All the ambition in the world doesn't mean jack if you don't stick the landing. 


Never heard of this allegedly "Pulitzer-winning Thornton Wilder play." There's "Our Town" and then there's "etc." as far as Thornton Wilder is concerned, come on. Actually, for me, there's also The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which I read in 11th grade. It's the novel that taught me the word "gesticulating." I think that was the word used to refer to the bodies as they fell from the bridge. "Gesticulating ants," maybe? Some things stick with you, and "gesticulating" stuck with me (not a lot else did from that novel, though I think it's multi-perspectival ... I really loved that English teacher, anyway, even though he was tough as nails and probably, in retrospect, quite sexist. You take the good, you take the bad, etc. Where was I? Oh, yeah, no one knows that play, Pulitzer or no Pulitzer. But that's not really a problem. The phrase is familiar enough, and gettable here.  


Bullets:
  • 39A: Gave birth (HAD A KID) — if you're a goat, sure. Otherwise, too informal.
  • 53D: 1960s sitcom set at Fort Courage ("F-TROOP") — struggled mightily to recall this because I had to the FT. and kept telling myself the title was "Fort ... something!" Nevermind that "Fort" was in the clue, argh.
  • 11D: Not custom-tailored (PREMADE) — do you mean "off-the-rack?" Food comes PREMADE. Clothes, ugh, what?
  • 84A: Had a heaping helping of humility (ATE CROW) — I ate dirt at first.
  • 100A: Emotive brass sound ("Wah WAH") — how was this not OOM-PAH, how? I guess there's not enough emotion in OOM-PAH for you? Well, I guessed OOM-PAH because the first two crosses I got were the "-AH."
See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

212 comments:

Colin 12:11 AM  

It took me a while to add this one up! But I thought the theme was dastardly clever - for those of you who don't see the title of this puzzle, it's likely to be a head-scratcher indeed.

I've not heard of a SUNTRAP or KRAKEN. And, I'm not sure HADAKID is a common way of saying one gave birth... maybe the mother "delivered" or "had her baby on [date, time]", but HADAKID as a combination doesn't sit well with me. ALAS is perhaps but one aspect of "C'est la vie" but doesn't catch the gist of the phrase, IMO. I liked the contrast between HOLYTOLEDO and HOLYSEE - low-brow vs. high-brow.

Warm wishes to everyone for a Happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Colin 12:16 AM  

Oh and yes, the theme song from F Troop kept running through my head! - and then at the refrain... "F Troop!!"

Frantic Sloth 12:16 AM  

I’ma start calling puzzles like this “Little Jack Horners” because it’s all about the constructor pulling his thumb out of his…pie…and declaring “what a good boy am I!”

I hope it was fun for him to create, but I sure as hell did not enjoy solving it.  And were it not for my turbo-powered stubborn streak, this nightmare ride would not have invaded my daytime life for ONE nanosecond. Or NINE or TWO or FOUR or SEVEN or…well, maybe for ZERO nanoseconds.

It took me forever to figure out which letters to put into this stupid grid because the ones that made sense could only live in my head, and not only that, but they had to be mathed to even get there! 

How is this what crossword puzzles have become?? HOW???  I know Rex’s answer to that question and I’m starting to drink his Kool-Aid because of dreck like this.

Aside from the theme, there was some fill that I almost liked occasionally, but never enough to cleanse my tainted palate of the sour milk gagapalooza that was all too pervasive.  I’m incapable of narrowing it down to specifics. Even as I write this, my face is frozen in an inflexible scowl of extreme distaste.

I. Hated. This.

 

🧠🧠🧠🧠

-3.5🎉 (I believe this is a new low)

WhoisMark 12:32 AM  

J! people know the play:
#5712, aired 2009-06-09 THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR DRAMA $800: He won Pulitzers for "Our Town" & "The Skin of our Teeth"
#4527, aired 2004-04-20 THEY ALL WENT TO YALE $1600: This Yale grad's play "The Skin of Our Teeth" premiered in New Haven in 1942 (& later won him his 3rd Pulitzer Prize)
#3453, aired 1999-09-15 BEFORE & AFTER $1000: "Sling Blade" Oscar winner who won a Pulitzer for "The Skin of Our Teeth"
#3329, aired 1999-02-11 THEATRE $800: The original production of his play "The Skin Of Our Teeth" starred Tallulah Bankhead & Frederic March
#2186, aired 1994-02-21 PULITZER PRIZE PLAYWRIGHTS $600: Thornton Wilder won in 1943 for "The Skin of Our Teeth" & in 1938 for this Play
#1887, aired 1992-11-17 DRAMA $400: The Antrobuses of Excelsior, New Jersey are an "ice age" family in his "The Skin of Our Teeth"
#957, aired 1988-11-01 PLAYS $800: His offbeat play "The Skin of our Teeth" features a talking baby dinosaur

Patrick O'Connor 12:56 AM  

I pass serenely over Rex's typical snark (lopsided crosses are perfectly good plus signs to me; perhaps my handwriting is not so neat when I do math), and only take issue with his grumpiness about The Skin of Our Teeth. It is performed quite a lot; it is funny enough, has a mammoth and a dinosaur in the cast (since middle-class family the Antrobuses represent all of humanity from pre-historic times to the present), and Tallulah Bankhead got to be the maid who broke the fourth wall and talked trash. I was very happy to see it in the grid.

Bax'N'Nex 12:57 AM  

Knew immediately when I saw the constructed that this would a “WAH-WAH”. From Mike.

I thought this was really clever and quite a feat of constructing. Found it fun, interesting and engaging.

But what do I know?

Thank you Alex, for the fun puzzle.

Anonymous 1:13 AM  

Yawwwwwn to Rex's comment.

teevoz 1:23 AM  

Come on. I know that play

Robin 1:45 AM  

I pondered whether an "Emotive brass sound" WAHWAH was supposed to be the sad trombone noise, but I think that's more of a WAHWAHWAH.

jmiz 1:55 AM  

WAH-WAH

Mr. Alarm 2:08 AM  

Thanks Frantic Sloth, I am in total agreement with you. It’s a crossWORD puzzle, please, I’m not here to jump through your number games that are convoluted at best!
Yuk! Hated this!

ZenMonkey 2:12 AM  

Ah yes, thé “If I haven’t heard of it, it must not be important.” Imagine being snarky about a famous play just because you’re ignorant of it.

Otherwise, please reread @Bax’N’Nex’s comment (12:57am) as I agree entirely with TWO + TWO lines of it.

Diver 2:31 AM  

Didn't enjoy this one.

okanaganer 2:52 AM  

Rex hates math. So I guess naturally he hates this.

For a very different take, see xwordinfo.com. Puzzle of the Week, no less!

My take is kinda in the middle. A bit of love, a bit of hate. I was feeling negative about it until the final theme answer, the zero thing, which made me kinda love it. SEVEN plus ZERO is SEVEN. Really cheeky!

jae 2:54 AM  

Pretty easy except for sussing out the theme. It took some staring until the penny finally dropped. Fun Sunday, liked it a bunch and Jeff gave it POW.

...and add me to the growing list of folks who knew the play.

Laura 3:00 AM  

I didn’t mind the lopsided plus signs, but I did not like seven + zero. PRESS EVENT is the only themer that can be read as is - all of the others are nonsensical at first blush. That’s the lopsidedness that bugs me.

I knew “Skin of our Teeth” from a performance at summer camp theatre. Though admittedly the title is the only thing about the play that I remember...

Ando 3:12 AM  

I was very familiar with SKIN OF OUR TEETH but maybe because we did scenes from it in drama class in high school. That's also the only reason I tend to nail the ALBEE and INGE answers that periodically crop up.

JFS 3:24 AM  

I'm not in love with AGILE for "Fleet of foot." I suppose it's close enough not to be wrong, but to me AGILE carries the implication of nimbleness, dexterity, and balance, whereas "fleet of foot" just means "runs quickly."

Geneva Girl 5:23 AM  

Also know The Skin of Our Teeth. Sometimes I'm surprised by what Rex doesn't know and then by his "well not important enough" type of comment.

Also I don't think he got the 77D/116A gimmick correct. I believe it's "breaks even" and "press zero" (as on a phone). But then again, what do I know. Maybe it's "not important enough"!

I enjoyed this one!

Andrew 5:43 AM  

Another lousy puzzle by my least favorite constructor. He should take up knitting instead. If they’re anything like his crosswords, he’ll be the ugly sweater champ!

Anonymous 6:04 AM  

I just want to point out the stupidity of the "?" in the 21A clue.

mooretep 6:10 AM  

ctrl-F "Loren Muse Smith".
Not found.
Goodbye.

Y'all can wallow with Michael, save those who found the puzzle valuable waste of time.

Anonymous 6:10 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. The theme was clever without being tedious to solve.

Unknown 6:18 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It took a little extra time than usual, but I figured it out and had a nice time. I just did the crosses and downs and got enough to figure out the deal with the numbers. Rex’s posts are starting to remind me of a guy I knew who ate the same meal at the same restaurant every day for 15 years, and nearly every day he would come back from lunch and complain about the food.

Simply raising awareness about the quality of puzzles isn’t getting the job done. If you want better puzzles, raise money. If you’re not prepared to do that, be prepared to lower your expectations. In the meantime, “Tuna on rye (blah, blah, blah)....”

Lewis 6:28 AM  

I don’t know where Alex pulled the idea for this theme from, but it’s original, gave me an aha when I figured it out, and even after I figured it out, sussing the remaining theme answers was fun and involving. That’s an excellent theme – take any of these qualities away and it becomes plain.

It’s a theme tough to bring off, as Alex details in his notes (in XwordInfo)– coming up with equal-length theme answers in a four-way symmetrical grid, very restricted in what numbers can be used in the theme answers, and having answers in which the number doesn’t serve as a number in the answer.

On top of that Alex kept the dreck to a minimum, added to the NYT canon of answers six debuts, all of which are deserving – HAD A KID, IT WON’T HURT, MAKES WEIGHT, SKIN OF OUR TEETH, SUNTRAP, TENDED BAR – and gave care, it’s plain to see, IMO, to each of 140 clues. The wordplay-lover in me liked the return of the play on “wander” in the TSA clue (which we saw in April) and “dash” in the GPS clue (last seen in 2011).

This was a puzzle I loved solving, and I appreciate the skill that went into it. Kudos and thank you, AES.

Matthew B 6:46 AM  

I enjoyed this, both for the theme and the grid itself. Very little junk and some clever cluing.
Here's the thing : number one, Will Shortz is a puzzle guy, not primarily a crossword guy. Themes that are puzzles in themselves will always get his nod. And for those of us who have become obsessed with Shenk's and Gaffney's metas... I have... this type of theme is welcome. Second, we are in the GOLDEN AGE of crosswords... frankly thanks to Will.. so there is no shortage of puzzles for every taste and skill level. You want 21x21 options, you've got Birnholz at the Washington Post, Shenk and crew at the Wall Street Journal among others. You like themeless, there's the New Yorker... I just don't get anger at puzzles you don't like. Change the channel. (My wife will read to the end every book she starts no matter how much she dislikes it. She once read Kinflicks only in the bathroom, flushing each page as she finished it.)
Third, a more generic comment. The vast majority of Times Sunday solvers do not finish the puzzle in minutes as most of us do but rather it lasts for days if they even finish it. Try to remember when Sunday was a challenge and completing a Friday and Saturday were unimaginable. That's most of the market. A little perspective never hurts.
Finally, if an unpleasant crossword puzzle is a serious annoyance in your life, just appreciate what a fortunate life you lead.

Anonymoose 6:47 AM  

Applying the theme to your example, you have to add seven and zero. That sum, SEVEN, is what you mentally put in the circles to get the answers. presSEVENt and breakSEVEN. Hope that helps.

The Joker 6:52 AM  

I feel SO stupid. I always thought a viscount outranked an EARL. Go figure.

Rob Hagiwara 7:05 AM  

The Skin Of Out Teeth is a brilliant play, one of my faves.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Rex (an English professor!) makes a big fuss about a cultural reference that is pretty well known, except to him; the commentariat express dismay at his lapse.

Obla di, obla da, life goes on.....


Also: don't really love the off-hand references to mob violence,
such as 8A (which I struggled to suss) and 34A which made me
cringe with disgust. Please, there is NOTHING cute, funny,
or entertaining about the terror guns have brought upon our
society. Nothing.

tc

Todd F. 7:22 AM  

I think it’s a violation that the words created by the ONE ONE cross in the center are the same —. OFOUR.

Unknown 7:37 AM  

A little story about Forrest Tucker, from before F-Troop.

Many Westerns were filmed in Tuolumne County, where I grew up, in the former gold rush area of California. In fact, my great-grandmother was a silent actress who later moved to the area, which she knew from filming there. The movie companies used to eat at a place next door to our house on the main street (Washington St) in Sonora. Officially named "Rosa's Italia," everyone called it Mama Bisordi's, after the owner and chef Josefina Bisordi. It had been a boarding house for Italian miners -- the gold mines still operated, run by large corporations now after that brief period of individual miners and small groups they formed. Mama Bisordi had come from Liguria in the early 1900s and her cooking reflected her origin. On Thursdays she made minestrone soup and townspeople lined up with buckets to buy it.

Anyway, by the 1950s Mama's had become a favorite place for movie companies to stay, mostly because of the great Italian food. There were plenty of rooms above the dining hall and a full bar. (It's now a hotel.) I was born in 1952 and my mother, who'd grown up next door, was very close to the Bisordi's. (I was even named after Mama B's granddaughter, who was herself named after Shirley Temple.) We would walk over to Bisordi's most evenings, especially when a movie company was staying there.

My mother later told me that Forrest Tucker fell in love with me when i was an infant. Whenever he came to town to make a movie, the first thing he supposedly said when he got to Bisordi's was "Where's my Shirley?" Someone would go get me and I'd spend the evening on his lap while he ate and drank and partied with the other movie people and with all the regulars at the bar.

Because of this he was my family's favorite actor and my parents watched F-Troop every week. By then I was a teenager into the Beatles and thought Forrest Tucker was just another old guy. It was a bit surprising to realize that when he used to come to Bisordi's he was only in his early 30s.

zevonfan 7:45 AM  

What @MatthewB said... There's so many other puzzles available out there. I've never cared for this particular constructor's puzzles, so I typically avoid them. Looks like I didn't miss much.

Repeated crankiness about a particular constructor, Will Shortz, or NYT puzzles in general is the epitome of a First World problem.

Wit 7:45 AM  

I got the theme straightaway in the NW by getting all the crosses and ending up with the SONEOPOOL. Everything else was pretty easy from there on - SUNTRAP was new to me, so I stumbled momentarily there. I came within 30 seconds of my record Sunday (no time spent hunting down a typo that can stymie me for a bit on Sundays).

Not a ton to comment on here except for Rex's comments.

I was fine with the theme conceptually and am willing to give a pass on the asymmetry. There are very limited options for numbers that have the same number of letters. I looked sidelong at SEVEN + ZERO and I can't decide if it's naughty or nice that PRESSEVENT is the only themer that is unchanged as a result.

FTROOP - I have vivid memories primarily because it seems the only time I saw it was in a fevered state when I was sick at home.

PREMADE - I got PRE and got excited about PRETAPORTE which would have been much more interesting and a more common term in the fashion world.

WAHWAH - Fine with this. It is not the same as oompah. It's the primarily jazz-related term for playing with an articulate mute - expressing emotion. See Gershwin and many other jazz greats.

ATECROW - I'm not sure if I'm the odd duck here. In my family ate crow or humble pie were more common. It looks like all three expressions hail from the mid-nineteenth century. Interesting fact I just learned. Humble pie comes from umble pie, which is a pie made from offal. Offal was called numble since the 13th century. Who knew?

KRAKEN was timely. Sidney Powell said last week that their legal team was going to "release the kraken".



Joaquin 7:46 AM  

@Matthew B (6:46) - Love your perspective on xwords (and life in general). Words of wisdom for Thanksgiving week, 2020: "Finally, if an unpleasant crossword puzzle is a serious annoyance in your life, just appreciate what a fortunate life you lead."

TheHoney 7:47 AM  

Seriously? One of the worst Sunday puzzles ever.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

I read a mention of The Skin of Our Teeth earlier in the day on an internet rabbit hole reading about the film Man on a Tightrope. (Frederic March had previously worked with Kazan in the play.)

Lobster11 7:52 AM  

Didn't enjoy this at all. The themers were good and it's a clever idea, I suppose, but the grid felt super-choppy and I felt like I spent 99% of my solving time writing in ELS, EKE, EDEN, END, ETA, etc. -- and those are just the E words. To me this was (yet) another example of a "Lookie what I did!" stunt puzzle with little consideration of the solver's enjoyment other than impressing him/her with his feat of construction. Then I went to xwordinfo and read the constructor's comments, which amount to -- wait for it -- "Lookie what I did!"

JJ 7:53 AM  

This was a fantastic concept. Of course you can’t have perfect plus signs unless you have odd numbers in the names of the numbers. The fact that they aren’t perfectly symmetric doesn’t bother me one little bit.
I had most of the grid filled in, then stared at it for a while, trying to find those final entries. Great “AHA” when I saw the conceit.
Thanks for a very entertaining puzzle

Areawoman 8:00 AM  

Amen to that mooretep 6:10am. I miss her wit and bright light as well, especially these days...

Z 8:03 AM  

I have, sadly, come to expect a certain product from this constructor, a product I have never cared for, and this one unfortunately fulfilled all my expectations: architecturally intricate, conceptually ambitious, but in execution, a total mess, and the pleasure factor, near nil.

I’ma start calling puzzles like this “Little Jack Horners” because it’s all about the constructor pulling his thumb out of his…pie…and declaring “what a good boy am I!”


Nothing much more to add. Sussed it out at the first themer while shaking my head as my eyebrows arched and eyes rolled at S(TEN)O POOL. You are the sort who thinks addition is clever and you’re going to start us out with a clue out of the 1950’s? The sad thing is I wasn’t surprised.

To elaborate on yesterday’s comments, cluing SKIN O(F OUR) TEETH via the play is sub-optimal at best, “look at me” precious at worst. It may be a fine Jeopardy! clue, but trivial trivia is always less than actual clever wordplay. As for the “hey, I knew it” crowd, let me propose this test: Ask everyone you run into today (from a safe distance of at least 6’) to name something Thornton Wilder wrote. After they (maybe) say Our Town ask them “what else?” A Pulitzer might extend a work’s 15 minutes, but a Pulitzer can’t undo the essential ephemeral nature of fame.

bocamp 8:08 AM  

@Alex, wow, what a trip; very multi-cultural, with lots of languages represented. This one provided me the kind of Sunday challenge where I feel like I'm in sauna with the heat turned up and the only way I can escape is to crawl to the door, which won't open until the final cell falls. I did it and am now cooled down and able to reflect on the marvel of this construction. Kudos to you for this creation!

Slightly over av., but felt it took much longer. Not since starting school, has adding two numbers together seemed so difficult. Had the general idea but couldn't grok it fully until 3/4 of the way thru.

Got a relatively good start in the NW, except for the circled part of 3D. Wish I could say that I had given more thought to the theme at that point, but, alas, that was not the case, and the lack of focused thought at that juncture came back to haunt me throughout the solve.

New: "suntrap"; "moto" (as clued); "morrow" (as clued); "skin of our teeth" (as clued); "Insecure" (as clued); "Zac"; "The Rules"; "Days of our Lives" (as clued).

Rewrites: 25A "the last word"; 116A "break even" (obviously missed the pl. clue); "She Rules".

Hazy: "York"; "Noonan"; "F Troop"; "Oslin"; "Rises"; "Olga"; "Ted"; "occupy".

Fav. clues/answers: "menu"; "capo"; "icicle"; "oars"; "gats"; "TSA"; "People"; "ate crow"; "out of it"; "GPS"; "tended bar"; "alas"; "makes weight"; "swat"; "Forbes".

Question: does "agile" really mean "fleet of foot"? I think of "agile" as being quick, nimble, spry, acrobatic, etc., but not necessarily "fleet of foot" as in being able to run fast (but then running fast is relative, isn't it?). Just don't connote agile with running fast. Could be wrong here … just sayin'.

Third grade politics: wearing my Adlai/Estes pin among a horde of "I Like Ike" pins ('52); Oregon was not a blue state then. LOL

Niece lived in an ashram in Asheville, NC.

K.T. "Oslin" - Hold Me

y.d. -1

Peace امن Pace शांति Barış ຄວາມສະຫງົບສຸກ Pax ειρήνη 平和 🕊

sf27shirley 8:09 AM  

I made the post about Forrest Tucker, not sure why it shows as "unknown" poster. My name is Shirley.

Ellen C 8:12 AM  

More of a "Peanuts"-style wahwah

Sue 8:14 AM  

I didn't like this puzzle at all. In fact, I still don't really understand it, and I'm pretty smart-- I teach three languages. One thing though, Rex, if I might. One of the reasons I enjoy doing the puzzle in general is that I like to learn new things. I even use Google when I'm stumped and I don't regard it as cheating for even one second. I'm learning stuff. So, Rex, just because you didn't know something before doing the puzzle, doesn't mean you need to be as snarky as you sometimes get! You are a professor and a very smart person. But there's always something to learn. "The Skin of Our Teeth" is fairly well-known, even if you never met it before. Think of it as a piece of new knowledge and move on. Learning is our job and even more, it's our purpose in life. Thanks for all you do.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

Yeesh people! I had never heard of The Skin of Our Teeth, either, but it was fairly easy to get the answer anyway. And now, I have heard of it! God forbid you actually *learn* something when doing a crossword puzzle.

mmorgan 8:22 AM  

No one knows THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH??? Sorry, Rex, I do, as do others here. “I’m nobody. Who are you?” - Emily Dickinson.

Took me a while — quite a while — to get the theme, then it was smooth sailing. (Actually, it was the FOUR in the above-mentioned play that got me going.). Never realized the crossing numbers weren’t symmetrical plus signs. Now that I know that, it doesn’t bother me in the least.

OffTheGrid 8:30 AM  

I don't care for puzzles that result in gibberish in the squares. It's not worth whatever clever trick the constructor came up with.

Telvo 8:33 AM  

Rex, get some more sleep. This was fun, challenging, and current, just what you always say you want in a NYT Sunday. I enjoyed it -- and, IMHO, 'Skin Of Our Teeth' is a totally legit clue.

jfpon 8:42 AM  

I hate to pick a nit, but how does a lit prof not know of the Wilder play? And on the subject of nits, not to mention gibberish, how is "oompah" emotive, and of what? Belching? And so what if the plus signs are a bit clunky? The concept was devilishly clever and, for me at least, fun to unravel.

John H 8:47 AM  

Sure, if all the crosses had been plus signs it would have been perfect structurally, but limited mathematically to 1, 2, 6 and 10. I imagine the concept would be doable, but much more difficult to execute. I am not even going to try.

I enjoyed this quite a lot.There was very little junk in the fill, and I loved F Troop and BTSOOT, especially in that many people seems to know both well despite their age. How many of you remember how the Hakawi's got their name, and that the story is based on a dirty joke? Their ancestors wandered around for ages looking for a place to settle, and when they found a spot one brave questioned the leader, saying "where the heck are we?"

ChuckD 8:48 AM  

Rex finally shows his hand for his disdain of this constructor and dies on the hill of plus sign symmetry? Today’s review is not a bright moment for him. This was a decent, interesting solve which we haven’t seen on a Sunday in ages. The trick became apparent to me with IT WONT HURT - but I enjoyed parsing the other ones. Loved SKIN OF OUR TEETH - we saw the New Audience remake in Brooklyn a few years ago.

There was some glue here no doubt - but I thought he majority of the fill was fine. Loved F TROOP, GOOD GAME and OVERLOOK. Not the same feeling for PREMADE and BLEARS.

The constructing chops here are clearly evident - but contrary to the norm the result is a rare enjoyable Sunday solve. I have the F TROOP box set which I watch and laugh out loud from time to time - “where the heck are we”?

Z 8:58 AM  

@sf27shirley - I don’t know, but I have noticed that blogger seems to be doing that (labeling posts as by “Unknown”) a lot more often lately. I remember Blogger doing it to a regular and never getting to the root of the issue (@numinous maybe). I don’t know if it is any comfort, but I don’t think it is anything you did, just Blogger being Blogger.

pmdm 9:00 AM  

Figuring out the theme resulted in a pleasant AHA moment for me, resulting in my liking the puzzle. The theme itself is a bit more complicated than might seem, according to the constructor's notes found over at where Jeff awarded it with a POW. Interesting to me that enough of people seemed to hate a puzzle that others seem to love.

Symbols are not exact depictions of what they symbolize. Seems that the plus sign symbolization is not perfect seems besides the point to me, but obvious not to others.

SouthsideJohnny 9:03 AM  

Well, they are bound to have a few real stinkers, and this one certainly has a foul smell emanating from it. I’ve been able to successfully complete a couple of Sunday puzzles without assistance, so I’m not a novice, and I just could not suss out the theme - and even after it finally hit me it was a huge letdown - just “ooh yuk!”. I guess you could enjoy this one if you admire the cleverness and ambition, however, for me at least, the solving experience just fell flat.

There is some real gunk in the grid as well, such as a completely esoteric NEMEA crossing a made-up word (a Times specialty) WAHWAH. ASHRAM crossing MOTO scores highly on the “out in left field” scale as well. I don’t mind slogging my way through the rough spots if the rest of it is at least somewhat enjoyable - alas, there was no joy in Mudville today.

ow a paper cut 9:05 AM  

Took me forever. I agree with Rex on Wilder. This was my least favorite Sunday puzzle of the year so far.

Giovanni 9:06 AM  

I almost quit midway. I thought I had the concept, but I always forget to look at the title so I wasn't sure so was thinking it was subtraction. I typed in THE LAST WORD first, and the word TWO is in the circles and if you type in IT WONT HURT, the word TWO is in the circles so I wasn't sure if you kept it like that or what- but that was the design, I see. I knew it was numbers in the circles but not which words were supposed to be wrong. Then I tried a rebus. I eventually figured it out but that section confused me. Also PRESSEVENT, the original phrase isn't changed so it looks wrong like the rest of them.
I'm not up on crosswordese so things like H for ETA get me. I just stared at that. I'm sure for most of you, that was a gimme. But by mentioning here in my whine, I know it now.
The theme besides, it was a tedious. joyless slog. It felt like work and not entertainment. We do these for fun, not as a chore, which is why I almost gave up.
On a happier note, I'd recently sent that F Troop opening clip to my brother, because we watched it every night on Channel 11 for years. It's the kind of humor that is perfect for 10 year old boys. Do you know how the Hekawi got their name? They got very very lost and the Chief said: where the Heck Are We (Hekawi) well I need to find the clip...

Leon 9:08 AM  

The Skin of Our Teeth directed by Irene Lewis and starring John Goodman and Kristen Johnston played at the Delacorte Theater in 1998 as part of the summer Shakespeare in the Park productions.

Great line from the play:

Plato: “Then tell me, O Critias, how will a man choose the ruler that shall rule over him? Will he not choose a man who has first established order in himself, knowing that any decision that has its spring from anger or pride or vanity can be multiplied a thousandfold in its effects upon the citizens?”

Giovanni 9:09 AM  

@unknown 7:37 Shirley, that's a fantastic story. I was some of Bisordis minestrone!

TTrimble 9:11 AM  

I thought maybe Rex read too much into the plus sign business. I for one didn't feel a compelling need to interpret the crossings as plus signs, much less perfectly formed plus signs. I just added the numbers, as the title implicitly instructed me to do. After all, if a number is spelled as a word that is even in length, then it has no middle letter to make the cross through, which means that it will be impossible to make a perfect plus sign, or "stick the landing" (to use Rex's words). I.e., in order to stick all landings, one would have to banish "zero", "four", "five", and "nine" from consideration. Also, to get a perfect plus sign, the numbers that cross would have to be spelled as words of the same length. Which starts to become a significant constraint. You can use ordered pairs (across, down) both of whose components are members of the set {one, two, six}, or of the set {three, seven, eight}. That leaves 18 possibilities out of the original 100.

All of which occasions me to wonder: (1) perhaps Rex's perpetual grouchiness is largely an act? because this complaint seems a little over the top to me, and (2) maybe Rex, who craves perfect symmetry in his plus signs, has a mathematical aesthetic that's more refined than he realizes? I'm half serious about both. I know that I sometimes put on an act (e.g., I don't *really* hate Sam Ezersky), and I also believe that most people have more mathematics in them than they often realize.

Anyhow, yes, the WAH-WAH is the sad trombone sound, which could be played wah-waaaah for extra effect. I didn't know the Thornton Wilder play either, but that's just my ignorance talking.

I didn't like HAD A KID -- just seems kind of lame. Something about RAP AT seemed a little contrived: I'd usually say "rap on", although that would violate the rule about having a word already in the clue. I still wanted "rap on".

I'm not one who memorizes units of currency and the capitals of Africa, so I needed the crosses for BAHT.

I didn't hate this puzzle, but it took me longer than I want to admit to get the theme (and then it was very smooth sailing). With some exceptions, the fill was kind of meh for me (MT ARARAT and ASHRAM are fine).

Rube 9:11 AM  

Wow. Quite the divergence of opinion. Looks like another math/science/music vs literature battle. I have little sympathy for solvers who can't succeed in all realms.

Not my favorite puzzle but not bad either. Theme came very quickly for me.

Put me in the @lewis camp again.

Giovanni 9:16 AM  

Google "Sonora Area Foundation Receives 3.5 million Bequest from Bisordi Estate. I looked up the hotel and this article tells all about it. Sorry I can't do the links from my phone and my laptop is in for repair.

Ted 9:18 AM  

I'm sorry, sometimes Rex is just too hard on these themes.

This one was fun and just enough of a head-scratcher at the start that I had to get down near the end to suss it out.

But I enjoyed the whole puzzle, working around and around in a spiral figuring out all the bits. Lots of tricky, but nothing that ended up being a total stumper.

A few too many "ISIT" "ATIT" "SOMETHINGELSEIT" answers, but not terrible.

After decades of Sunday puzzles, we can't expect a perfect diamond-sharp theme that's new and bold and executed with flawless mathematical precision every week... or even many weeks. It's just not possible. So I'm happy with a puzzle that might be a bit derivative, a bit of a repeat of something that's been done before, but that does it well.

Blue Stater 9:29 AM  

Is there a name for this genre of meta-meta-meta-mess? It ain't "crossword puzzle," that's for sure. I'm going to have to unlearn 70 years of habit and give up on junk like this -- and possibly the whole NYTXW exercise, until Shortz retires, which I hope will be soon (like yesterday).

Lewis 9:33 AM  

@matthewb -- Well put!

Amie Devero 9:35 AM  

Too painful even to finish. I filled in the top half. Could not make sense of the nonsensical letters I ended up with in the circled squares, and so couldn't figure out the theme. At which point I filled in the entire rest of the puzzle except for the theme crosses. And then thought,"screw this". I do crosswords for fun. This wasn't.

Ciclista21 9:37 AM  

Horrible puzzle. What an ugly, joyless experience this was. H(4+4)D it!

Sixthstone 9:38 AM  

Count me in the middle ground on this one. Theme is fine if a little too obvious with the puzzle title and the immediate groking in the NW with MENU, UNIT, STENOPOOL. Theme sussed ... now off to work. Only pause was the SEVEN/ZERO cross, which was very clever!

Fill was a bit old school with STENOPOOL, ILIKEIKE, Wilder's 1942 play, and F-TROOP, but all workable without too much difficulty.

I see Rex's point about the off-kilter plus signs. I wouldn't call the execution elegant, but they don't bother me much.

At least I got TENDED BAR!

RooMonster 9:38 AM  

Hey All !
The NE plus-sign-numbers-cross stuck a dagger in the puz for me. Dang. @egs, I guess I'm awake today! LOL. Had TWO/OWE, and waiting for Rex's (and others) heads to explode at the owe=0 thing. Even I thought that was terrible! Didn't get the Happy Music, so went back and actually looked over the puz, but all my answers seemed pretty solid. So, hit Check Puzzle, and saw it crossed out my TWO/OWE. After a brief head scratch, the lightbulb went off, and I said, "Ohhh, it's ONE+ONE to make TWO, you dolt!"

Took me a while to figure out just what in tarhooties was going on (no surprise there!) The SEVEN/ZERO cross didn't help, because as others have mentioned, it didn't change the Down. So further wrench-thrownness, as that was the first one I got. Think I finally sussed it at FOUR/FOUR=EIGHT. "Aha", said I. That enabled me to get the NW NINE+ONE=TEN, and then the center TWO+TWO=FOUR. But that NE...

The "extended" plus sign that Rex has a bug about bothered me not one wit. Are all of your written plus signs exactly the same length? If so, bravo to your penmanship.

How about SIXANGRYMEN/SIXOCLOCKHIGH as another themer? I'm sure AES had others "added up" that he didn't use. Even in a 21x21, there's not enough space to cram in all the themers you come up with.

My NIT today? Lots of partials, as in ISIT, ORSO, ATIT, and lots of Abbrvs./initials. But, that's my problem! Like some have said, First World problems. Did enjoy this puz. Different, head scratching, didn't burn up the ole brain too too much. (Yes, two toos!) Cleverer than I could come up with. (Well, that's a low bar...)

Five F's* (Two techincally not real, ala FOUR+FOUR, One not making an apperance, ala TWO+TWO)(If that makes sense!) So Four? Aw, heck, just happy to see them!
RooMonster
DarrinV

kitshef 9:38 AM  

I believe the worst sin in puzzle construction is the crossing of items from the same area of knowledge. A baseball player, a Simpsons character, an Agatha Christie character – all are valid because we have crosses to help. But cross two baseball players, or two Simpsons characters, or two Christie characters, and you have created an unfair situation. Case in point, LARA/NOONAN. Yes, “A” seemed like the most reasonable choice … but if it were an “A”, there are lots of ways to clue LARA or NOONAN. Why choose two newspeople?

All that said, I got through that area fine. Toughest area was SUN TRAP (WoE?), THE RULES (not familiar with this), RILES (got a different sense of steam caught in my brain) ARENA (was thinking it would be street or avenue or lane or something).

Seattle's National Hockey League team is called The Kraken - the newest and one of the best of all major sports nicknames.

Nancy 9:38 AM  

This is spectacular!

It's so rare when such a difficult, intricate piece of construction results in a puzzle that's so much fun and so satisfying to solve. What's great about the trick is that you cannot solve the puzzle without first understanding it. And then, even once you do understand it, nothing in the puzzle becomes a slam-dunk. You still have to put on your thinking cap in each section.

I picked up the trick at the NW cross -- the NINE/ONE one -- and then was still slow in the NE trying to get NOONAN in at 22A. I had had TWO/TWO instead of ONE/ONE at first. Looked back at the NW, saw how the trick was being accomplished, and corrected.

And such great cluing for the non-themer answers. HDTV (55D); PEOPLE (75A); and GPS (99A) are my favorites. Proving that there is no such thing as boring fill, only boring clues.

I do have two small questions: Why BREAK ZERO and not BREAKS ZERO at 116A? Don't you need a plural there? And I've never heard the term PRE-MADE for non custom-tailored clothing. I think the correct terms are either "ready-to-wear"/"pret-a-porter" or "off-the-rack". But otherwise this is splendid!

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

Coming from Rex, the line “You take the good, you take the bad, etc.” was pretty funny.

RooMonster 9:41 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
TJS 9:47 AM  

Well, this was interesting. Not for me, but it seems there are others out there who loved it. I knew I was going to hate this in the first two minutes when I got all the way down to "Teeth" and ran out of space. I just filled in the answers I knew were right ignored the crosses that didn't make sense, spent zero time on figuring out the "trick", and let Rex tell me what was going on. Saved me alot of frustration.

Speaking of Rex, this was one of his all time classics, IMO. I love when he insists that no one knows what he doesn't know, esp. in his chosen field. It's his blog and he definitely lays it all out there, damn the torpedos. (Sorry if I offend the anti-weapon crowd).

Oh, and Matthew B., KMA.

Ritchie 9:49 AM  

Did anyone else first put Rudy in as the answer to 9A?

glennkenny 9:50 AM  

Once I got the concept, it was thr smoothest, easiest Sunday I experienced in a while, completing in more or less a perfect circle. And I got both the Wilder and “F Troop” instantly because...well, I’m old. Also: “F Troop” was not “satirical.” It was inane.

L. Storch 9:52 AM  

All I had to do was see "never heard of this allegedly 'Pulitzer-winning Thornton Wilder play'" to know that this would not be a review worth reading.

But speaking of F Troop, where the heck are we?

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Rex, feel free to bash puzzle constructions and inanities all you want. But please don't celebrate your own ignorance! THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is one of the greatest American plays of the twentieth century and has been done for decades upon decades by students in schools all across the country. (Or it was, at least until classic American plays started to become old-fashioned in the later twentieth century.) Your grumpiness about this overcooked puzzle isn't becoming.

Rug Crazy 10:02 AM  

I told my wife "Rex is going to hate this one"! and, I was correct for once. I don't even feel bad for knowing SKIN OF OUR TEETH.

Maddiegail 10:06 AM  

The explanation gave me as much pain as the d***ned puzzle. UGH!

Nancy 10:12 AM  

Oh, yes, I knew THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH -- a play that manages to be both thoroughly depressing and ridiculously pretentious at the same time. I know it all too well because it was the play we performed in Sophomore Year at Dalton. The other two plays that were chosen for us to perform were (for Freshman Year) Christopher Fry's "Boy With a Cart" -- so pretentious and high-falutin' as to make THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH look like "I Love Lucy". And finally, Senior Year, something that was reasonably fun to work on: "The Taming of the Shrew". (Though at my brother's school, it would have been the even more fun "Kiss Me Kate".)

So while I was (though minimally, thank heavens) involved with this show-offy procession of Important Dramatic Works at Dalton, my brother (who attended Riverdale) was regaling audiences and playing leads and semi-leads in "Guys and Dolls" and "The Mikado". Guess which productions the students enjoyed more. Guess which productions the parents in the audience enjoyed more.

At Dalton, the ethos seemed to be: teach the students important literary works. At Riverdale, it was to imbue the students with a love of theater and a joy in performing.

What has my first-hand familiarity with THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH done for me? Absolutely nothing until the appearance of today's puzzle.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Peggy NOONAN (Reagan speech writer) and Lara Logan (a non-hard left journalist) in the puzzle and no obscenity filled tantrum from Rex? If Rex won’t call out the far right tyranny of the NYT crossword puzzle who will?

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Another thing to dislike-- who wants Lara Logan in there, particularly clued as "longtime CBS correspondent"? That may be her past, but now she's on Fox Nation and is peddling election conspiracy theories.

Also, The Rules is pretty gross.

B Right There 10:20 AM  

Usually we are not fans of A E-S and were bracing ourselves. However, glommed on to the theme at the first crossing in the NW and thought, OK, we can do this. It was tricky to wrap one's mind around seeing one thing, but needing to 'read' something else, but, not enough to take away enjoyment. Thought that this was a really tricky construction feat, but for once it was also enjoyable and non-theme fill did not suffer!!! By the time we hit the Kraken (always delightful and hubby and I both said "Release the Kraken!" out loud at the same time) in the SE and then got the tricky SEVEN + ZERO, we were tickled and delighted! Would love to have more of this kind of Sunday puzzle experience.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Completely agree. Also "gunk" implies sticiness, not greasiness.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Agree!

Anonymous 10:24 AM  


Worst Sunday that I can remember. Sad, because the main reason I subscribe to the NYT is for the crossword puzzle, mainly Sunday.

Michiganman 10:25 AM  

Answer-Doing an experiment in 11th grade chemistry class soon after lunch.


Question- Where was I and what was I doing when the horrible news came from Dallas 57 years ago today.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

This is the best response in this forum I've ever read! Here, here!

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

RAGU alla bolognese is not a thing. Alla Bolognese is an alternative to saying ragu. Isn't a CAPO a don? To me those words are synonymous. Never heard of Skin of our Teeth— then again I've never managed to sit through Our Town— or K. T. Oslin, or the Rules. Rubbish puzzle, poorly edited. I really can't fathom people who actually like this.

Sami 10:31 AM  

@WhoisMark - Wow that is a butt ton of Jeapardy trivia. Here's a question for Rex: Would you rather have to sit through 'Skin' or the new 'Bill & Ted' ? I made my whole family wait for the happy music before I would sit for Bill & Ted last night, and of course before we could even fully discuss the merits of Kristin Schaal's dress from the future, I was asleep. One plus one puzzles a day is a lot for me.

"It still works," clued as "Shocking report after a 9 y/o spills milk on your keyboard. I'm sure the milk will eventually break down and disintegrate. Hopefully, before I do.

chuck w 10:33 AM  

I knew the answer to 35 down had to be "The Skin of Our Teeth," but couldn't fit it in until I put in a "four." But that's how I finally got the theme. Personally, I thought the puzzle was cute.

Newboy 10:36 AM  

One trick minus two flaws equals MEH!

Wit 10:54 AM  

@Anonymous 10:22 AM - in the world of engine mechanics at least, greasy build up on motors and other parts is called GUNK. As in "You have to clean the GUNK out of the zerks so they don't clog."

Z 10:56 AM  

I just finished the WaPo Sunday puzzle. Wow. Just wow. Challenging, inventive, layered, and the execution is flawless.* @Evan used to comment here regularly, then started his own independent crossword, then got hired to replace the late Merl Reagle (which is like being asked to replace Babe Ruth in right field or Paul McCartney on bass ). That his puzzle is consistently head and shoulders above what the NYTX puts out on Sunday speaks for itself. That he does this weekly is amazing.

@Matthew B - I suspect you liked the Sunday WaPo a lot.

*I read elsewhere that Across Lite has some sort of issue with this puzzle. I don’t know why that would be, but solving on paper helped me with the solve.

Joaquin 10:59 AM  

@Nancy (10:12) - The senior play at my school actually was "Kiss Me Kate"; to this day (60+ years later) the music from that play is still among my all-time favorite show tunes.

Teedmn 11:01 AM  

It took a while for me to get the theme today. I read the title early on and then forgot about it. But when STENO POOL didn't work at 23D, I knew something was up, but not what. Finally, looking at BAR at the end of 3D and knowing "Made the rounds" had to be TENDED BAR, I looked at the title again and, wham. (And that clue, "Made the rounds", is inspired!)

Lots of missteps today, all fixed except my misinterpretation of 122A along with a failure to finish that final FOUR in 72D. Somehow I was thinking John Donne was addressing good-Marlowe but renaming him Morlow and...yeah, I know, lame. Good MORROW is a known entity, MORlOW isn't.

I forgot the story of the flood and thought the dove was released from NOAHS ARK (fits, right?). My scenic view was a PANORAMA until the KRAKEN released me. Con BRIO. Ostensible was SEEMING before REPUTED ("seeming" worked with the cross of PANORAMA but nothing else). I wanted the journalists to be invited to a "newS" something.

And yet, I finished a few minutes under my average, with that MORlOW DNF that I surely earned.

I liked this theme a lot and I thought the cross of SEVEN and ZERO was fun, with the SEVEN leading to a non-nonsensical entry in the grid. AES, nice work!

sf27shirley 11:12 AM  

Email me at dubsfan27@gmail and I will send the recipe to you, and to anyone else who wants it.
I had no idea about the foundation! Or that any Bisordi had gotten rich. Thanks for that too!

Everybody’s Token Black Friend 11:21 AM  

Thanks to Sam Seaborn for my knowledge of Skin of Our Teeth.

sixtyni yogini 11:27 AM  

Did not see the title, and it definitely made no sense.
Not going to finish it. Just plain unpleasant. Maybe not so much if I had seen title or the pluses.
👎🏽🧩👎🏽
✌🏼💣✌🏼

egsforbreakfast 11:30 AM  

@Nancy 9:38. I agree completely with your first paragraph. Must point out, however, that you forgot the conceit of the theme in your comment on 116 A. The answer is meant to be heated as Breaks Even, SINCE 7+0 = 7.

@Ritchie 9:49. With you all the way on Rudy as “Don’s partner in the underworld”. Also, like several others, I don’t quite get how a Don and a Capo are partners. More like synonyms.

The idea for this theme gets an A+++ from me. Given the constraints in them spelling of our integers, the fact that EAS could construct this very enjoyable puzzle out of the great theme idea is amazing. One of my favorite Sunday puzzles in a long time.

RNADNAMD 11:30 AM  

I
O
Amen ONE that! 2=two
E =too
a =to
g
r
e
e

Swagomatic 11:33 AM  

I call these homework puzzles. Sometimes homework is fun, sometimes it's a nightmare. This was somewhere in the middle.

egsforbreakfast 11:36 AM  

Forgot to add this from Wikipedia regarding the Hekawis: We're the Hekawi" (the original name for the tribe in the series, 'Fugawi', was changed after the censors discovered the sentence "Where the Fugawi?"[27]).

What? 11:39 AM  

Rex didn’t know Skin of Our Teeth? And he’s a college professor? No wonder he’s at a SUNY school.
Oh the puzzle. Clever and hard but ultimately doable. A pleasant hour or so.

Malsdemare 11:58 AM  

Oh, Rex, when will you learn that as soon as you say “No one will know X,” many someones will raise their hands and say, “‘scuse me?” I knew “Skin of Our Teeth.” I know “Our Town” better as I played the stage manager in high school, back during the Punic Wars. And while I haven’t yet read the hordes, I’ll bet lots of others knew it as well. It was a pretty famous play.

I’m actually pretty pleased with myself that I eventually caught the trick; I can be pretty dense at times but this one emerged after much cogitating. I did, however, need some help with “BREAKSEVEN.” I’d try to explain, in my tortured way, just what the problem was but I’m pretty sure you don’t care.

I had ICeCap before ICICLE and HEARTHS, ALBA, and BADE were lost in the dense fog for a while. And LARA and STEFANI are not in my memory bank. But KRAKEN emerged from the deep recesses of my brain so I finished without a cheat or a check:)

joebloggs 12:15 PM  

HATED the zero.

Steve M 12:15 PM  

So goddamn boring and pointless what is stupid slog hated every minute of it except when I couldn’t pay attention to it anymore

Georgia 12:29 PM  

Amazing construction, I am in awe.

Nancy 12:30 PM  

Thanks, @Joaquin and @Egs. I didn't see that (though I should have) and it really IS confusing. But I'm glad to know that this puzzle I loved so much emerges with no flaws at all. A good clue for BREAKS EVEN.

Shirley 12:42 PM  

When "Skin of Our Teeth" opened in NYC in November 1942, it starred the incomparable Tallulah Bankhead, who is responsible for two of my all time favorite quotes:
"There have only been two authentic geniuses in the world: William Shakespeare and Willie Mays."
and:
"My father warned me about men and alcohol, but he never warned me about women and cocaine."

Masked and Anonymous 12:44 PM  

har. Well, finished the puz by the skin of our bi-cuspids. Theme was neat but sadistic, all at once -- does that sorta add up?

M&A got early on that the long crossin theme answers were bein built from rebus-like numbers, but that's about all I got. Didn't catch on to the addin numbers angle, despite the puztitle tryin to smack me on the head with it. So I found myself tryin to accommodate the common crossin numbers by splatzin in the letters needed for spellin out those, where I could. Kinda made a funny mess.

As @RP moaned & ranted about, I mighta got the "add em" mcguffin idea sooner, if the circled stuff actually consistently looked like plus signs. Or maybe not, tho. snort

staff weeject picks: ONE & TWO & sorta TEN.

Best performance by an M&A: Got KRAKEN off just the E.

Thanx for yer weird addition to the SunPuz archives, Mr. E-S.

Masked & Anonymo13Us


dejavuosity in yer eye:
**gruntz**

Xcentric 12:46 PM  

Entertained several ideas at soneopool/stenopool.
Finally grokked the puzzle at days of our lives. Of course, then the title made sense.
Nice misdirection at seven + zero.
All in all, I can appreciate the constructor’s skill and cleverness, but this was NOT an enjoyable solve.

Colin 12:56 PM  

@Z (10:56) and others: Thanks for pointing me to the WaPo puzzle, which doesn't require a subscription! Good puzzle, really enjoyed it. I'll look for it in the future.

@What? (11:39): Lots of folks crucifying Rex for his ignorance (but far worse, his attitude), but let's skip the elitism here, shall we?

Crossword Lover 12:57 PM  

Thanks, Matthew B! My sentiments exactly! I love wordplay, and am only disappointed when the puzzles don't have an extra zing!

Frantic Sloth 1:00 PM  

Wow! What fun it is to read how diverse the opinions are here! It just shows to go ya that we cut a wide swath here in our little corner of the (agree it is "1st") world.

Several people have cited all the little examples of the fill that bothered me as well. They save me from having to list them all, and I'm glad to find I wasn't alone on many of them.

@Z 1056am Is there a download available for the WaPo puzzle? Apologies if I've (probably) asked this before. As I've stated many times, my memory is a memory.

As for Don vs CAPO I believe a CAPO is an "underboss" whereas the Don is the boss. Don't quote me though. This "knowledge" comes from many years of mobster movies, tv shows, and books.

I love how some commenters deign to stop in just long enough to declare their own superiority over Rex and the rest of us. Then again, if they didn't, how would we learn?


***Rant Warning (it's more than an Alert)***


For the record, crossword puzzles don't "anger" me. I suspect they don't truly "anger" Rex, even at his crankiest. What I (or anyone) say here about the puzzle is a matter of opinion and really shouldn't matter that much, and save for those who share actual knowledge or expertise or personal anecdotes, it is essentially worthless blather.
I'm not trying to convince people that they should hate or love or like or dislike anything and I'll be damned if I'm okay with somebody telling me how I should react or express that reaction. Furthermore, "understanding" my reaction is optional. It would be nice, but I don't personally require it. If I did, that would surely be the end of me.
Now and in the future, I shall continue to enjoy crossword puzzles - even (and sometimes especially) when they drive me nuts - because I do and have for more than several decades now. How I choose to relay my thoughts on my daily experience will continue to be how I choose to relay my thoughts and if anyone doesn't like it, I invite you to skip on over my comments. You wouldn't be alone. Of that I am certain.

/Rant

Crossword Lover 1:03 PM  

Thank you, my sentiments exactly. My favorite puzzles are ones with an extra dose of wordplay, no matter what form it takes.

Bonecrusher 1:04 PM  

Rex, when you bash perfectly acceptable, even enjoyable puzzles like this one (a Sunday rarity these days), the terrorists win. Now stop it.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

I doubt I'll be first, but how could a Pulitzer winner (says so in the clue) be vague or arcane? to a lit instructor? c'mon man!

TTrimble 1:08 PM  

@What?
Now What?, don't dump on SUNY schools. There are some very fine academics installed in them. I could name some that I reckon to be some of the most powerful intellects to be found anywhere.

(Full disclosure: I don't work at a SUNY myself.)

(Also: I'm not a robot.)

Carola 1:10 PM  

I'll cherry-pick from previous comments: I found the puzzle clever, fun, involving, engaging. After some mental fumbling, I saw how the [TEN] worked, but still had to work my way into the solving groove on the next couple, eventually getting the last two with an unassisted ta-da! I liked the center cross of the soap opera and Wilder play and loved the joke of the final ZERO. A rare Sunday treat that kept me interested the whole way and left me with a SMILE.

Crossword Lover 1:10 PM  

OMG That's hysterical!

bocamp 1:18 PM  

@Matthew B 6:46 AM wrote:

"… flushing each page as she finished it." Great line and even greater post! :)

@Unknown 7:37 AM / @sf27shirley 8:09 AM

Wonderful anecdote. :)
___

Amy Reynaldo's comments on today's AES puzzle: Diary of a Crossword Fiend
___

-1

Peace امن Pace शांति Barış ຄວາມສະຫງົບສຸກ Pax ειρήνη 平和 🕊

howard a. brenner 1:19 PM  

Like a nasty little ankle biting dog. Purposeless and sad.

Sami 1:22 PM  

@What? That's just an asenine, belittling comment. Why do people resort to being straight-up mean on here?

Teedmn 1:26 PM  

@M&A, I was sure your staff weeject today would be 113D, or at least it would be deemed moo-cow easy!

DigitalDan 1:29 PM  

As a trumpeter, I can assure you that a WAH-WAH is if nothing else emotive, and that an OOM-PAH just isn't.

rushscott 1:31 PM  

Seattle hockey got me this one. Rest of puzzle - too much.

Wit 1:37 PM  

Wow. I've been reading Rex for years, and he's a clearly a critic of NYT crossword. I mean that in the sense of a restaurant critic, movie critic, music critic, etc. There isn't a critic with whom I always agree - and I frequently view their commentary as trite or narrow minded, but that seems to be the nature of the business. It is still interesting and frequently through provoking to see their views - an interesting counterpoint and foil for my own views. And like all critics, he is a mere mortal with all the fallibilities that entails.

It is also interesting to get some insight on how "professional" crossword solvers view puzzles up against the majority of us who are more casual. I'm sure Shortz is aware that he has to try to satisfy both audiences.

I respect that Rex solves the puzzle almost every day. Often getting up at unholy hours - and it's ok with me if he has the occasional glass of wine that affects his solving by a few seconds (something he's conscious of but others wouldn't even notice). He does this mostly without getting paid and really no upside except that maybe someday he might get a job as a crossword editor himself.

Slightly off topic - I noticed yesterday that Peter Sagal commented on a Rex tweet (he follows Rex apparently). For me that's like chocolate and peanut butter. :-)

GILL I. 1:46 PM  

@Rex gave my head a little tornado blast of whirly winds with his math explanation. I just added the numbers up and made them into words. BUT.....it took me a looooong time to figure this out.
I had one of those I really don't like him, to a well....he's kinda cute....to a final HEY, he has good teeth reaction to the puzzle. Just like I first had when I met my husband. I got the theme by the skin of my chinny chin chin. Or was that what the little piggies said? Anyway....I was all over the place until I added up some numbers and got to DAYS SO (TWO) LIVES. I let out a little WAH WAH (Like Charlie Brown) and went on my jolly way.
I think it would be very rude to say HAD A KID. Is KID short for kidding? Nine months of bloat, going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, perfect strangers coming up to you and patting your belly, 28 hours of labor and two nurses who never had a baby telling you to stop acting like a baby, and then delivering a bowling ball out of something the size of a little coin slot. Yeah....I'm kidding.
@Unknown aka shirley 7:37. LOVED your story. I live for these on the blog. Everybody else likes to say "get a life." Yours was fun!

chance2travel 1:50 PM  

I saw the title read "It All Adds Up" and was primed for math. I wasn't bothered by number-play, except that I wanted it to take the number *sound* not the number *word" so with one+one I wanted the two to sound like "to".

What I absolutely detested was the seven + zero that others mentioned. Felt like a total cop-out. And a complete WAH-WAH to end the puzzle, instead of a flourish.

CDilly52 1:52 PM  

@WhoIsMark 12:33 am. THANK YOU!! OFL rarely gets my actual dander up, but he certainly did this morning! I am a stalwart and outspoken (well known for same in my community) supporter of the First Amendment-every bit of it-and usually can take @Rex with verging degrees of salt because he is careful to share opinion, not lecture as if there will be a final! Today however, he was beyond didactic in his statement-as-if-carved-in-impervious-granite-fact that only “Our Town” is noteworthy Wilder. “There is ‘Our Town’ and there is etc.”. I call shameful BS, as you have so ably demonstrated. And in my ever so humble not-a-professor of English-but-mature-theatre-lover, “Skin. . . “ is a wry, witty, thoroughly enjoyable work very worthy of its Pulitzer.

Frantic Sloth 1:53 PM  

@Z Never mind. I figured out how to get it online. Just got impatient with the ad that had to show before the crosswords appeared. Just starting out and I already love it! Thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

What?
I don't think Mr. Sharp enjoys professorship status. Last time I checked his title was lecturer.

To say many others,
I'm surprised by how many fans of the SUNY system are on this board. White knighting Rex and SUNY while pillorying the puzzle? Marvelous. Simply marvelous.

CDilly52 1:56 PM  

@Lewis, you said everything I would say. I’ll just add my AMEN!

pabloinnh 1:58 PM  

Studied SKINOFOURTEETH in a grad course on comedy in a SUNY school. The professor was one of the best I have run into anywhere, the course was terrific, and he made the play memorable. I suggested it as a performance at the high school where I was then teaching, and it was ably directed by my Good Old Best Friend and thoroughly enjoyable. I have some huge gaps in my knowledge base, but this is not one of them.

Same nits as many others concerning AGILE, mangled definition, and SUNTRAP, WTF?

Otherwise I thought this was a lot of fun. Thanks AES.

Sawyerpoet 2:02 PM  

It’s Sunday so Rex has to gripe. I get it. But how boring it’s gotten that he carps about not knowing the name of a play that most of us learned in high school. Still, you might as well applaud him for his willingness to admit these things. I just wish he wouldn’t be so predictable.

Tom Q 2:03 PM  

In RexWorld, any and all rappers, no matter how obscure, are fair game, but even the most famous works of the American theatre are too obscure for inclusion.

Jesus Christ -- I'm much younger than The Skin of Our Teeth, and I've known the title all my life, including long before I actually read it.

As for "ask people what Thornton Wilder wrote and they'd say Our Town" -- most of them probably wouldn't know The Matchmaker, either, but the play that's the basis of one of the 20th century's most famous musicals (Hello, Dolly!) rates a Times inclusion.

I'd really like to someday hear Rex explain why knowledge of theatre is so out-of-bounds for the Times puzzle. It's come up too often to be coincidence.

CDilly52 2:08 PM  

@Giovanni 9:09 am. Thanks for the lovely story! The minestrone sounds divine. Those sorts of neighborhood Italian places seem to pop up wherever coal mining is a large source of employment. Krebs, a tiny, tiny town in SE Oklahoma is well known for its Italian eateries, “Pete’s” and “Isle of Capri” as well as the little grocery. Krebs is right in the “pretty part” of Oklahoma and well worth the detour should you ever have the opportunity.

CDilly52 2:16 PM  

@Matthew. Here here!

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

I wonder? Can anyone cite some rankings/ratings for state university systems that better California or New York? SUNY runs the Brookhaven National Labs, for crying out loud. I know, just coastal elites.

CDilly52 2:38 PM  

I adore crosswords. I do lots of them. I applaud the constructors and editors and am delighted at the breadth and number of them available every day. The phrase “something for everyone” comes to mind, right?

There is an art to the very best of crosswords, in my opinion. This one has artistry. As my daughter and so -in-law (theatre artists) both say, the purpose of art is to elicit a reaction from the perceived. My daughter says “art should rearrange your,” and I really like that concept.

This one hit the “artistry” bullseye for me. I got the theme (finally) at the SKIN IF OUR TEETH/DAYS OF OUR LIVES cross after seeing the previous mess where NINE/ONE and ONE/ONE cross. I had one error each there so the number references were not correct. Might have gotten there earlier but had errors/typos (ugh, the small Sunday grid on my phone!)

I’m a veteran NYTXW solver and fan. A Sunday such as this that both functions as a Sunday while also having a Nee and clever theme with some really fresh fill as well as almost ZERO dreck is my cup of TW or cups (nay, pots today) of coffee.

This constructor’s byline always hits my angst button. His cerebral approach to themes and often clues themselves never fails to challenge me and expand my XW vocabulary. Today’s new word, SUNTRAP was a dandy! Always like to see fellow lawyers with an artistic bent. I believe that those of us with well developed right and left brains make better creative thinkers.

And an English professor unfamiliar with SKIN IF OUR TEETH should be given detention until he reads the play.

TTrimble 2:44 PM  

@Gill I
I like skin maybe a hair more than hair of my chinny chin chin!

"Skin of my/our teeth" is such an odd expression, isn't it? And not a pleasant one; it makes me think of plaque which leads to tartar.

CDilly52 2:45 PM  
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Rich Glauber 2:46 PM  

I thought it was a really special puzzle... took a little while to get the theme, which is usually the key to just wrapping it up and being done. But even with the theme understood, it was still challenging to apply it and see through the seeming absurdity of the longer answers. Felt like a different part of my brain was being exercised, and that is a wonderful attribute of a challenging puzzle... had a bit of 3 dimensional chess feeling to it. Yeah it took longer than a normal Sunday, but I thoroughly enjoyed the solve.

TTrimble 2:48 PM  

Whoops, there's our old friend Mr. Anonymous, taking pot shots that miss by a mile. So sad. WAH-WAH.

CDilly52 2:52 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
CDilly52 2:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 2:55 PM  

@Wit 1:37 pm Sharp has publicly aired his opinion on multiple occasions that Shortz should be fired. All of reviews should be viewed through that lens.

Hungry Mother 2:57 PM  

Never figured out the theme, put in what I thought might be right, it wasn’t and I don’t care to find out why. Not my kind of puzzle, I guess. SB looking better and better; also the LAT.

CuppaJoe 3:11 PM  

Oh, thank you, Rex, exactly my take on the theme/math, and I also got stuck trying to fit in the-way-too-often-performed “Our Town”.

@Ritchie. Wish I had come up with Rudy as Don’s partner. Too funny and topical. Took me a long time to get capo.

thefogman 3:19 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy 3:24 PM  

@CDilly52 (2:38) -- I agree that people with "well-developed left and right brains make better creative thinkers." Now, what exercises can you give me to better develop the right side of my brain? It's not completely absent, mind you, but well-developed it's not. Otherwise, I'd be able to read and understand a tech manual and put in batteries the correct way.

Also, @CDilly52 (2:08)-- It's so interesting you mention Krebs, Oklahoma today. I know nothing about this teensy tiny OK town, but I do know (as of the last two days) the name Krebs. If America manages to somehow remain a democracy for the next 50-70 days, a brave guy named Chris Krebs will be one of the main reasons. 100 years from now -- assuming there's still a United States and there's still a Planet Earth from where history can be written -- the name Chris Krebs will be in the history books, alongside those of Nathan Hale, Paul Revere and Patrick Henry.

thefogman 3:31 PM  

Nice one by Alex Eaton-Salners who has a beautiful and distinguished-sounding three word name. Others include Andrea Carla Michaels, Brendan Emmett Quigley and Kameron Austin Collins. Am I alone in this or do you perhaps also have a favourite crossword constructor name(s)?

jberg 3:31 PM  

I was frustrated when STENO POOL wouldn't fit, then remembered to look at the title, and I was off an running. There were still challenging spots; for one, there were several cases where the result of the addition broke across two words, which I found hard to work out in my head. Also, I thought the uneven crosses were a feature, not a bug -- I always like a theme that varies as much as possible, and the idea that the circles were actually portraying a plus sign never occurred to me.

@shirley (and @Z) -- if you post anonymously, your name is given as "anonymous." In this case, you are cited as "unkwown" -- and it's a blue name! If you click on it, you get taken to a page where it says the user has not made his or her profile public. Could you possibly have another profile that you never completed?. Or, of course, Google could have just made an error.

I knew there was something titled "The Skin of our Teeth," which was all I needed -- but I didn't know that it was by Thornton Wilder, or even that it was a play. For some reason, my mind wanted to link it to Cornelia Otis Skinner, but apparently not (I checked).

But in Rex's defense, the notion that someone who has a PhD in literature, and teaches same, would be familiar with all areas of literature is ludicrous. It's not my field, but I know lots of people in the field -- mostly they specialize in a particular century, a political country (at least if it's England or the US), and perhaps a particular literary form (fiction, poetry, drama). It would be difficult to do well in a broader area. (For comparison I taught political science until I retired -- but if you asked me to name the current President of Burkina Faso, who has been in the news lately, I couldn't do it.)

@teedmn -- Noah released the dove from the ark, whereupon it flew to ARARAT, alit, picked up an olive branch, and flew back -- so the clue works.

@Southside Johnny -- WAH-WAH is not a word made up by the Times; it's a standard musical term. In brass instruments, you make the sound by waving a mute; but you can buy a device called a WAHWAH pedal for a guitar.

John Culhane 3:42 PM  

Rex’s predictable snark has attained new heights of absurdity and, in this case, here isn’t even on target. Central pluses would be impossible for any number that has an even number of letters. So were those all to be eliminated? Give me a break. Plus (sorry...), WHO CARES? No mention of the cleverness of the concept idle the ingenuity it must have taken to get all those things to work. It’s like he starts by thinking: What is the worst thing I can say about the puzzle? (Here, it is just absurd.) and that’s it. He should consider a sabbatical so that cheerier folks can have a crack at it, as Sunday guests. Maybe even reading some of their accounts he would see how to be more charitable. Honestly, it’s gotten tedious and exhausting. Oh, and Rex? I’ve known about “The Skin of Our Teeth” since I was 13 years old. And I am not even a humanities professor...

Joe Dipinto 3:47 PM  

So far about 20% of the commentariat has been quite familiar with "The Skin Of Our Teeth". That's a respectable number, to which you can add me. @Rex, here's someone for you to emulate.

This seemed like a puzzle that would be constructed for a tournament. It plays out too fussily for a Sunday entertainment, and doesn't reward you with anything but nonsense letter sequences in the theme answers.

(Btw, today's Acrostic had a near-natick, at least for me! I don't think that's ever happened before.)

DeeJay 3:48 PM  

Agreed. I think this blog represents the web. It attracts and holds the attention of ppl with a particular point of view, then feeds their appetite for negative remarks about Will Shortz. An echo chamber.

Lewis 3:53 PM  

I second the recommendation given above for Evan Birnholz's Washington Post puzzle today (which is free online). It is amazing, outstanding -- in the running for Puzzle of the Year.

And go to the review of it in Diary of a Crossword Fiend to make sure you didn't miss any of the finer points, each one ratcheting up how good this puzzle is.

Martine 4:03 PM  

Hated it.

TTrimble 4:16 PM  

@Nancy
Sorry to nitpick. But I think you mean you want to develop the left hemisphere more, not the right.

Ken Freeland 4:37 PM  

Hear hear!

Kathleen 4:43 PM  

Yes! That one bothered me ~

Unknown 4:47 PM  

Loved it and Skin of Our Teeth is well known 🙂

Unknown 4:52 PM  

I hate these twee themed puzzles.

gringa 5:07 PM  

Okay, guys... the one BIG problem was that the new number ie: t-e-n, didn't occupy the same number of boxes as the original number: n-i-n-e. What do you do with the extra space? Same with 4 and 8....what a mess!

Nancy 5:28 PM  

No, @@Trimble -- the left hemisphere is where I'm strongest: words, language, writing, logical argument, linear thinking, that sort of thing. I'd make a very good journalist and a very good lawyer in addition to being a writer. It's my right hemisphere that needs work: science and technology; gadgets of all kinds; spatial relations; visualizing a map in my mind's eye, those sorts of things. I'd make a lousy astrophysicist, computer technician, doctor, electrical engineer or surveyor.

Stu 5:35 PM  

@WIT 1::37 p.m.. to expound upon your food critic analogy: imagine a food critic who repeatedly calls for a a chef to be fired. He then reviews that chef’s restaurant. Would anyone give any credence to the review ? Rex has zero credibility. Just skip the review and go straight to the comments.

Smith 5:39 PM  

@Michiganman
I was in K with Mrs. Sliver and they sent us home, and my mother was ironing, crying, and listening to a green plastic radio.

Unknown 5:43 PM  

AMEN!

RooMonster 5:50 PM  

Just did the Washington Post puz by Evan. Wow. And no dreck. Smooth fill in an insane grid is remarkable. I think I'm missing one aspect if puz, as there was s note when I first started, but if course now I can't remember what it said!

RooMonster Puzzled In More Ways Than One Guy

bocamp 5:52 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 3:47 PM

I forwarded your vid link to a friend who experiences mild pica-like obsession to eat ice when her hemoglobin is low (iron deficiency anemia). Once she receives iron infusions, she's okay. She replied that she's just grateful that she doesn't have the urge to eat dirt. It's a much sadder condition for many, tho. 😔
___

@TTrimble

0 - Finally got the monkey off my back after two -1's in a row; still have the tabs open, tho. 🤞

Peace امن Pace शांति Barış ຄວາມສະຫງົບສຸກ Pax ειρήνη 平和 🕊

Helixal 6:04 PM  

This was a trans emotional experience. I hated this puzzle til the aha moment - then I loved it.

Nomcebo Manzini 6:04 PM  

There once was a theatre critic in NY who was legendarily "hard to please." In plainer English, if he ever wrote a positive review, I never saw it.

Of course, when there are 10-20 "thumbs down" for every "thumbs up," many of us stop reading - just as we would not find unfailingly "LOVED IT" to be both unhelpful and even suspicious.

I totally *get* that xwords are supposed to be fun. Most of the recent Sunday puzzles have been precisely that for my family and me. I was almost sure that this time Rex would "be forced to admit" (right there is the conundrum - nobody can force him, and if he doesn't have kidney stones, he does a very good imitation of someone who does) that it was clever - and fun.

But inside baseball can be a curse. Doesn't know "Skin of our Teeth" but knows and expects nothing from a particular puzzle composer. Seriously - if you approach every day's column with "I'm expecting dreck, so I just have to think of ways to put down whatever Will has edited that don't sound exactly like my screed yesterday," ... well, if there's must-see TV, Rex has now become a "must-avoid blogger."

Rudy R. 6:17 PM  

Very clever gimmick, it was really fun figuring it out, and I liked how it worked. Rex,
it's depressing how cranky you are every week. I think maybe you should stop doing this column if you've started hating all the puzzles. Take your vacation! You need one.

TTrimble 6:23 PM  

@Nancy
Okay, interesting. You're of course right about the left hemisphere (according to this conception of brain function) being tied to language and logic. I misunderstood you when you said you had trouble following a tech manual, because I think of that as requiring close adherence to systematic linear thinking and facility with following formal rules. [Here a question is: tech manual in what? If it's an IT manual, then I'd think of this as heavy on the left hemisphere.] Facility with the formal abstract structures inherent to mathematics and music is also "left hemisphere", at least according to my lay understanding of the hemispheres.

Of course, as with many such things, there's a mix. Being able to visualize spatial relations, and being able to intuit dynamical relationships, is of course important in much of science (and in much of math as well).

Anyway, at least I understand better what you meant. Thanks for taking time out to explain.

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

Don’s partner in the underworld should have been “Mike” (Pence)

Irishmaineiac 6:49 PM  

Still trying to understand it myself. Bah!

Irishmaineiac 6:50 PM  

Perfect!

donomom 6:50 PM  

Sigh I've been paying $$$ for NYT Sunday home delivery for years mostly for the puzzle & the book review. This puzzle was a drag.

Irishmaineiac 6:51 PM  

A scolding well-deserved.

Z 6:54 PM  

@Stu - Unless, of course, the chef is awful. I just read a piece on James Beard. It wasn’t the main point but it was pretty obvious that, for all he did for restaurants and dining, that the writer didn’t think Beard’s recipes would go over today.

Here’s a simple fact. We don’t see the best constructors around being published on Sunday by the NYTX anymore. That has nothing to do with Rex. Pay close enough attention on Twitter and in what people write elsewhere and it’s clear what those constructors think the problem is. My comparison for this is Willie Mays as a NY Met. Meanwhile, that Birnholz puzzle is 1954 Willie Mays (sorry baseball haters - just google “Mays the catch” - it even has its very own Wikipedia article and is probably more famous than most Wilder plays).

kitshef 7:01 PM  

I'm going to put a slight health warning on the raves about the Washington Post puzzle today. Yes, the theme is fantastic. The construction is mind-boggling. For sure I recommend the puzzle, and it may well be the best puzzle of the year. But be prepared for a barrage of obscure proper names in both clues and answers. And the final meta is more "huh" than "WOW".

@Nancy 10:12 - And yet, you came away with a love of theatre. So maybe the folks at Dalton knew what they were doing.

GILL I. 7:01 PM  

@Stu 5:38....Have you ever watched "Ratatouille?" On several occasions I've likened @Rex to the food critic, "Anton Ego." Anton refuses to swallow food he doesn't like.... until......he eats Remy the rat's ratatouille. The look on his face when he tastes his first morsel will remind you of @Rex when he describes a good puzzle.
Go watch the film...it will put a smile on your face.

Giz 7:05 PM  

Wahwah - tritone with a trumpet wahwah mute, stem in. I prefer Jo-ral.

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

Do you take us all for idiots?? . . . It probably takes 7 or 8 minutes just to write in all the answers - if it was straight-forward. . . But, of course, it is not. . . So you finished this entire puzzle in 9 minutes???. . . I did it in 4 minutes (not my best Sunday time), LOL. . . Tell us your true time. . . We couldn't possibly think any less of you

Wit 7:28 PM  

Thanks @Z, i just came to say the same.

@Stue - There are plenty of critics who consistently pan the same chefs, directors, studios, editors, authors, and publishers. I think Rex can be harsh, but that's true of many critics. Rex doesn't pan every puzzle, and his criticism of the frequently uneven editing is well deserved. It would be good to see an editor who could help good constructors shine even more.

I'm not a Shortz hater, but the editor of what holds itself as the premier crossword in the premier newspaper in the world should be prepared for criticism. It is a rather expensive crossword and Rex's work is pro bono.

Stu 7:30 PM  

@Z - Wrong. Any reviewer in any profession should recuse himself or herself from reviewing the work of someone whom they’ve repeatedly said should be fired. If that’s not obvious to you I pity you.

Nancy 7:35 PM  

@TTrimble -- Re: understanding a tech manual: the problem is that they're written by tech people and not by writers. If I understood technology well enough to be able to write a manual about it, everyone would be able to understand my manual, even me. The problem with tech people is that they have no idea how non-tech people think and how to explain their complicated processes to us. And I, alas, don't know enough tech to write about it. It's a bit O'Henry-ish in its irony.

This reminds me of what happened when rights to my book, "Upward Nobility", were bought by the Japanese. I had a copy of the Japanese version, but had no idea what it said. So I took the Japanese edition into a couple of Japanese restaurants and showed the staff the Table of Contents. The chapter headings had quite a bit of wordplay and I had no idea how -- or even if -- it could be translated into Japanese. Headings like "It's the Company's Chessboard, Old Mate" and "Scared Up Any New Ideas Lately?"

Not one of the Japanese could interpret it for me. Why? Well, there were those who understood the Japanese but didn't know enough English to translate it for me. They were the ones who giggled at the chapter headings. The others spoke excellent English, but whose Japanese wasn't all that great. They were the ones who stared at me blankly. And thus I never found out how well and how amusingly (or not) the book had been translated.

Stu 7:37 PM  

@Gill- LOL will check it out.

chinch 7:49 PM  

Great quotes. Thanks.

chinch 7:54 PM  

An apt way to take Rex.

BobL 7:58 PM  

I'm just gonna comment cuz everyone else did

Ti OverNamed 8:02 PM  

Hated it. Wasn't worth the time.

Mo Pariser 8:09 PM  

Getting Matthew 6:46 tattooed on my face tomorrow

Giovanni 8:37 PM  

Question about the Washington Post puzzle that a few people said today's Sunday puzzle is excellent - I went to Washington Post Crosswords, and the puzzle for today is the LA Times puzzle by Joe Grzybowski . Is this the one that is great? Or is there an actual WaPo puzzle that I can't find? Thanks!

Z 8:55 PM  

@Giovanni - No. When you get to the puzzle page you should see four options, Daily, Sunday by Evan, Classic by Merl Reagle, and the Mueller Monthly Music Meta. Click on the Sunday by Evan, wait through the ad, then print it out or solve in the WaPo App.

JC66 9:06 PM  

@Giovanni

Or click on this.

Giovanni 9:11 PM  

Thanks Z!!

Giovanni 9:11 PM  

Thanks JC!

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