Mideast port that was home to Sinbad the sailor / WED 12-9-20 / Remnant of an oceanic volcano / Utensil farthest left in a five-piece place setting / One taking a bow for getting couples together

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Constructor: Owen Travis and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: LIMBO (64A: Contest described by 19-, 30/41- and 51-Across) — common phrases which also describe what you do when you LIMBO:

Theme answers:
  • SET THE BAR LOW (19A: Establish a standard that's easy to reach)
  • BEND OVER / BACKWARD (30A: With 41-Across, make every effort to be accommodating)
  • UNDERACHIEVE (51A: Not meet expectations)
Word of the Day: Veronica ROTH (6D: "Divergent" author Veronica) —
Veronica Anne Roth (born August 19, 1988) is an American novelist and short story writer, known for her debut New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy, consisting of DivergentInsurgent, and Allegiant; and Four: A Divergent Collection. (wikipedia)
• • •

***HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS IN SYNDICATIONLAND (if the date is Wednesday, January 13, 2021, that's YOU!)!***. The calendar has turned on another year (thank God), and while that might mean a lot of things to a lot of people, for me it means it's time for my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. Every year I ask regular readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. Last year at this time, I wrote about what a melancholy year 2019 was; my oldest dog had died and the world was kind of a wreck. And then 2020 happened, and I learned what a real wreck looks like. In February, my other dog died (R.I.P. Gabby). And then, well, COVID. And let's be honest, even with a new president, 2021 is going to be, uh, challenging as well. But I hope that the regular ritual of solving crosswords brought some solace and stability to your lives this past year, and I hope that my blog added to your enjoyment of the solving experience in some way. This year my blog will celebrate its 15th anniversary! I feel so proud! And old! A lot of labor goes into producing this blog every day (Every. Day.) and the hours are, let's say, less than ideal (I'm either solving and writing at night, after 10pm, or in the morning, before 6am). Most days, I really do love the writing, but it is work, and once a year (right now!) I acknowledge that fact. As I've said before, I have no interest in "monetizing" the blog beyond a simple, direct contribution request once a year. No ads, no gimmicks. Just here for you, every day, rain or shine, whether you like it or, perhaps, on occasion, not :) It's just me and my laptop and some free blogging software and, you know, a lot of rage, but hopefully some insight and levity along the way. I do genuinely love this gig, and whether you're an everyday reader or a Sunday-only reader or a flat-out hatereader, I appreciate you more than you'll ever know.

How much should you give? Whatever you think the blog is worth to you on a yearly basis. Whatever that amount is is fantastic. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address (checks should be made out to "Rex Parker"):

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

And heck, why don't I throw my Venmo handle in here too, just in case that's your preferred way of moving money around; it's @MichaelDavidSharp (the last four digits of my phone are 4878, in case Venmo asks you, which they did that one time someone contributed that way—but it worked!)

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. I. Love. Snail Mail. I love seeing your gorgeous handwriting and then sending you my awful handwriting. It's all so wonderful. And my thank-you postcards this year are really special. They are portraits of my new cat Alfie (a bright spot of 2020), designed by artist Ella Egan, a.k.a. my daughter. And they look like this:

He's eating kale in that middle one, in case you're wondering. Anyway, these cards are personally meaningful to me, and also, I believe, objectively lovely. I can't wait to share them with the snail-mailers. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just indicate "NO CARD."  Again, as ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support. Now on to today's puzzle...

* * *

Mike LEE (36A: Utah senator Mike) is a dishonest, dishonorable defender of fascism, a full-throated supporter of the *out*going president. Currently, today, Mike LEE is working to undermine the US electoral system. He won't acknowledge that Biden won the November presidential election and is actively supporting court cases that push the idea of (non-existent) voter fraud. He is actively, currently, today, trying to pass a bill to punish social media for (non-existent) "anti-conservative bias." There are, what, tens of millions of LEEs in the world? Surely one of them would make a better clue than this guy, who, I repeat, is garbage. Dishonest. He acts in bad faith, against the interests of the country, against the integrity of the government, every day of his life. The only defense for having Mike LEE in this puzzle is that, like the LIMBO, I associate Mike LEE with the question "How low can you go?" I don't resent the so-called "conservatism." I resent the fraud, the dishonesty, the extreme bad-faith arguments ... which have now become synonymous with contemporary American conservatism. 

This puzzle doesn't really evoke the LIMBO that well, mostly because there is nothing evoking a bar, except SET THE BAR LOW, which ... is set very *high* in the grid, and at any rate does not visually represent a bar. You get a dad-joke pun with the final theme answer (UNDERACHIEVE, hardy har, knee slap), so if you're into that, there you go. And the themers do comprise a kind of orderly process, setting the bar, bending over backwards, going under, 1, 2, 3, and so the execution makes a kind of sense. But it just wasn't very LIMBOy for me. Also, I think of it as having a definite article in front of it when it's the "contest": *the* LIMBO. You can LIMBO, I think, so it can be a verb, but as a noun, I think you do *the* LIMBO. I've never heard anyone say "let's play LIMBO." The first thing I wrote in that slot, not really thinking about all the themers I'd written in already, was LOTTO. For me, LIMBO is a place in hell. Virgil and all the "virtuous pagans" live there, if you believe Dante, which I have been known to do, though my belief relates more to ideas of good and evil, truth and lies, than the doctrines of medieval Christianity or the literalness of hell. Here's the thing about Dante's "Inferno" that has stuck with me most: You know who Dante puts at the bottom of hell, in levels 8 and 9, beneath even the murderers? It's the fraudulent. The fraudulent and the treasonous. Which, hey, brings us back to Mike LEE again. Maybe he does belong in this puzzle after all ...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


no one 6:34 AM  

I sure enjoy your puzzle write ups when you comment on todays puzzle. You clearly have a political bias, one that is contrary to approx half of the Us voters (maybe readers). To have your entire post be in re to Lee??

Lewis 6:36 AM  

That’s one terrific theme. Phrases with double meanings – the everyday meaning and the limbo meaning – and humor, with UNDERACHIEVE. I let out a “Hah!” at that answer (Hi, @rex!), and smiled as I discovered the limbo meanings.

That’s also one well-designed and junkless offering, a given with GRIDS that Jeff has anything to do with. Puzzles don’t leave his computer without polish.

Some lovely answers – CRICK, BIT PART, TONED IT DOWN, SALAD FORK, BOILERPLATE and all the theme answers. There’s a backward SORE to reflect how I’d feel post-LIMBO. And some delicious hitches to make the solve interesting and engaging. Also, I loved the clue for SOAP, an answer that’s appeared in the NYT 255 times, but never with this clue.

Limbo goes low, but you two went high on my enjoyment scale. Thank you for your excellence, Jeff, and WTG on a most pleasurable debut, Owen!

Unknown 6:42 AM  

regarding political bias comment- give me a break. That wasnt the least bit political. another knee jerk reacter in the crowd. Its about the only educational value in a plain vanilla answer puzzle unless you care to know who was a redhead.

Lewis 6:45 AM  

BTW, I will be away for one to two weeks, caring for someone just out of the hospital. I think I’ll be able to sneak in the Favorite Clues on the Monday or Mondays that I miss. I’ll eagerly await rejoining this stellar gang!

Todd 6:53 AM  

It is a shame this was mostly a crazed screed against a sitting US Senator. While this puzzle was pretty easy for me with near my best Wednesday time I almost died on eew v glutei. I get it as a plural of gluteus but I've never seen it as a word and really wanted the way more common glutes to its place.

PGregory Springer 6:55 AM  

Thank you for the write-up on the Utah senator. I really had not paid attention before, so its timeliness as a clue also is of informative value.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

Hi, Barbara here. @Lewis, Best wishes to you while you care for a friend. Stay safe!

kitshef 7:08 AM  

Puzzle today is clearly longing to break out of quarantine and see the world. Start your TRAVEL with a hop down to ARUBA, where you can lounge by an ATOLL in the HEAT, or find a LIMBO contest.

Next stay in an INN outside of RIO – then continue south to go see RHEA while staying at a B&B. Then fly across the ocean to KOREA, and take in BASRA on your way to Europe.

Visit Tours, nip up to visit the Van Gogh museum, then cross into England to visit (ben)DOVER and the statue of EROS and watch the BBC. Finally, finish up your trip in whatever place it is the world that “boba” is a word.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

Thank you for saying it like it is.

Hungry Mother 7:11 AM  

A bit over half of my usual time, so easy here. I liked the theme, but got most of the themers before the reveal. The names were under control today with no ugly intersections, but do we need proper names in a crossword puzzle?

Unknown 7:31 AM  

@noone Sir, this is a New York Times Crossword Puzzle....

Declanmcman 7:32 AM  

It says right in the grid “Lee Backwards.”

ChuckD 7:34 AM  

Rex has really SET THE BAR LOW with his turgid review today. This was a decent puzzle - fun theme and smooth wordplay fill. Liked the progression in the themers - with the revealer at the bottom. Side eye to the convenience of BOOERS and SAGGIER. Liked the long downs - ON A STREAK, BOILERPLATE and WAVED HI. GLUTEI was odd but got a kick out of it’s near cross with BEND OVER. Didn’t know ROTH.

Enjoyable solve for a beautiful Wednesday morning.

Declanmcman 7:35 AM  

No one, I’m quite confident that far, far fewer than half of the US population that actually reads support Trump.

oceanjeremy 7:36 AM  

I keep seeing this fallacy: "approx half of the US."

Half of the US voters have never supported the current outgoing president, nor have half of the US voters ever even voted for his administration in either of the elections he has appeared in. At this current outgoing president's most popular moments, about 44% of Americans approved of him — nowhere near half. Right now that stands at a little bit lower.

Half of US voters do not believe the (empirically false) conspiracy theories about voter fraud. I've seen it bandied about that 77% of Republicans believe that Biden won the election through fraud, but nowhere near half of Americans are even Republican — that's at around 30% of Americans. 77% of 30% is just over 23% — so only 23% of Americans believe the (empirically false, deliberately deceptive, dangerous and downright disgusting) conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

So Our Beloved Author is excoriating a sitting US senator for supporting something that only 23% of US voters (and probably a much, *much* smaller percentage of the readers of this blog) believe in.

And, most importantly at the end of the day, this is not a news site — it's a private, free blog written by a private citizen about a word game. Rex is under no obligation to eschew personal slant nor keep his opinions to himself.

If the political "bias" bothers you you don't have to read it.

TJS 7:43 AM  

This is a Wednesday NYT crossword ??? Good God.

SouthsideJohnny 7:47 AM  

OMG, ROFLMAO ! I had to struggle with this one a touch in places, but finished in about average time - then came here and was treated to a classic Rex rant. He really outdid himself today - dove right in and just unloaded with both barrels (NRA members, please stand up and salute !). I love the way Rex blows a gasket about a United States Senator from the rival party, yet he welcomes (and even occasionally posts videos from) the most vile, despicable, vulgar, violence-promoting, n-word spewing, misogynistic rappers on a regular basis. The hypocrisy is downright truly spectacular to witness.

It looks like it is official - Shortz’s fetish of the month is the “false plural”, which I put in quotes because I’m sure they are close enough for CrossWorld - following on the heels of the dreaded Octopi, today we have a strong candidate in GLUTEI - which I have no doubt is valid, however you could hang around in the gym for eight hours a day every day for a year and never hear them referred to as anything other than “Glutes” or perhaps “Gluteus”.

I also enjoy days like today when the foreign contingent is limited and the trivia entries are mostly early-week appropriate. Good puzzle today made even more enjoyable since it was serenaded by one of Rex’s all-star quality diatribes.

oopsydeb 7:50 AM  

Also in poor taste: BEND OVER and SOAP next to each other. How lovely to have prison rape brought to mind with my morning coffee.

@no one, Mike Lee is a disgusting person and should be understood as such by folks no matter their political party affiliation. I'd prefer my crossword puzzle to not normalize his constant pissing on the constitution by including him in the puzzle.

Joaquin 7:54 AM  

@Rex complains about Mike LEE being in the puzzle. Yet he gives a free pass at 19A to the constructors' use of former US Representative Tom BARLOW. And, of course, the most egregious of all is the inclusion of the British porn star at 30A, BEN DOVER.

Pete Smith 8:03 AM  

Another thoughtfully angry post. Delightful! Thanks.

pabloinnh 8:08 AM  

I was zipping along through this and enjoying it and certainly not aware of anything like a theme when I got down to LIMBO and checked the numbers and sure enough, there it was. Now that's what I call a revealer. Well played indeed.

Pretty easy for a Wednesday, with some newer clues for OBOE and SOAP (thanks Lewis). The long answers were fine and usually the first thing I thought of, although for some curious reason I didn't connect "grand slam" with baseball instantly, duh, because it's my favorite sport.

Could have clued LEE with Robt. E, I suppose, but I fear OFL's objections to that one may have taken up even more space. I'm no Mike LEE fan but seeing his name in a crossword puzzle does not inspire an outpouring of Rexian rage.

Nice Wednesdecito guys, and congrats to OT on your debut. JC can just put another sticker in his "published" xword album, which must be getting pretty full.

RP 8:12 AM  

Mike Lee wah wah wah wah.

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

@SouthsideJohnny Your contempt for black people is showing.

bocamp 8:28 AM  

Thank you @Owen & @Jeff for a fine Wed. offering. Enjoyed the trip! :)

Good start in the NW, and aside from a couple re-writes, no hitches. Well under av. time.

Write-overs: 46A "etoi"; 37D "Aros"; 59A "eew"; 35D "baggier".

New: "Roth"; "redhead" (ac); "Ferns" (ac); "Lee" (ac); "Deal" (ac); "Basra" (ac); "atoll" (ac).

Hazy: "Matthew"; "boba"; "salad fork"; "boilerplate"; "neo"; "oboe".

Fav clues/answers: "set the bar low"; "bend over backward"; "underachieve"; "bit part"; "redhead"; "soap"; "let it be"; "gravest"; "limbo"; "crisped"; "boilerplate"; "bemoan"; "Matthew"; "boba"; "toned it down"; "Aruba"; "Eros"; "waved hi"; "glutei"; "renown"; "avail"; "Mom".

WOTD: "limbo"

LOTD: Papiamento

SOTD: "Let it Be" - The Beatles

FOTD: "Ragu"

Peace 평화 Paz ειρήνη Paix Salam Pace Pas Shlama Pax 🕊

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

The same people who spent years telling us Trump colluded with Russia are now shocked that anyone would question the legitimacy of an election. Hilarious. Thanks

Frantic Sloth 8:32 AM  

Solid and workmanlike, with no major nits or thrills.
Just the one thing stood out for me:

TOO ESTEE, ADMAN sounds like a critique of Werner Erhard's work on Madison Ave.

I know. But, at least I'm done.

Good on you, @Lewis 645am - hurry back! You'll be missed.


jfpon 8:33 AM  

As Michael points out, it wasn't an anti-conservative rant. It was a rant -- perhaps an overly long rant -- against the fraudulence -- and danger to democracy -- of those like Lee who continue to question the election's integrity without an iota of evidence and despite manifold certifications. And against the NYT for lending implicit credibility to such fraudulence.

Sgreennyc 8:35 AM  

I don’t like Lee or his right-wing ilk either but give it a rest!

Roberto 8:37 AM  

I expected a excoriation of the Utah senator not named Romney as soon as I saw the answer to the clue. Rex did not disappoint

agarlock 8:41 AM  


Z 8:45 AM  

Wednesday DNF. Wrote in AD rep and never checked the crosses until I was counting the PPP and saw the error of my ways. The theme is nice enough, more in line with my tastes than many Chen endeavors, which tends to happen when he co-constructs with someone.

As for the PPP - 23 of 72 for 31%. The unnecessary PPP is especially annoying, cluing SOAP through Ivory, cluing FERNS through a web show, even cluing DEAL through the Green New DEAL. You could clue this puzzle at 28% PPP, but no, let’s add three more. Blrrgh.

TONE IT DOWN feels like it could be part of the theme, but not BOILER PLATE. Bug or feature? I’m leaning bug but can be convinced.

@Frantic Sloth yesterday - Prostate cancer? Oof. Well, I guess if one makes an ode to venereal disease one can’t complain too much about other interpretations.

@Gill I also yesterday- Brave. Admitting to not liking pizza is akin to saying you hate apple pie and MOM. Given your TRAVEL I’m surprised you’ve never run across the good stuff. Let me suggest that if you’re ever in Detroit and are feeling daring that you try Supino’s. I’m guessing any of the white sauce pizzas would be more to your liking, but the Quatro Formaggio or City Wing Thing might appeal as well. Yes, they have some of those greasy pizzas, too. This is America.

Anders 8:46 AM  

I honestly don't understand this sort of criticism of reference to Sen. Mike Lee. This kind of criticism never seems relevant to me. He's a senator, so hate him or not, it's fair game to see if you know his name. Similarly for powerful lobbying organization the NRA, and anything else one might find politcally distasteful.

The alternative -- that a puzzle should not include names of people or groups that one finds contemptible -- seems untenable. We see MAO often enough, and no one thinks of that as any kind of endorsement.

I wish Rex would knock it off with this sort of irrelevancy, and not because I disagree in any way with his assessment of Mike Lee or the NRA. This kind of criticism just seems so utterly misguided. When I do a crossword it honestly never flickers across my mind even a little to evaluate it on these grounds. Facts is facts, and crosswords include clues that quiz your knowledge of them, that's all.

Frantic Sloth 8:49 AM  

Given that the kick-off of today's comments was obvious trollery meant to commandeer the tone and drive it straight into the sewer, I'm done for today.

You're welcome and see you tomorrow, everyone!

Sixthstone 8:54 AM  

I appreciate that Rex points out it's not Lee's politics that make him loathsome, but his character. This is my problem with Trump. I know lots of conservatives and Republicans who are good people. Trump isn't one of them. He's just an amoral, egomaniac, opportunist. How anyone has EVER supported him is beyond me.

Nice puzzle!

Joaquin 8:55 AM  

When I paid my hard-earned dollars to subscribe to this blog, I was promised an unbiased view of the world with only positive reviews of the puzzles.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

221b BakerSt 9:07 AM  

Thank you, @oceanjeremy.
Sadly, our system still gives that
mathematical minority the potential to hold the rest of us hostage.
And I, along with Rex, have no qualms about disparaging the enemies of truth and justice. History will not be kind.

Bruce R 9:10 AM  

BOOERS are not rude. Unless you're in Philly and you're booing Santa.

TTrimble 9:13 AM  

I must be very sleep deprived. I put in GLUTEs without trying to make sense of sNN and failed to get happy music, and then couldn't figure out what I did wrong for the longest. Then after getting GLUTEI (which btw I think has been in the puzzle pretty recently, without much outcry here), still didn't get happy music because I had bAGGIER, not SAGGIER. Yes, that's right, I evidently thought NEW uBER was a thing. Sigh.

Doesn't bother me a whit that Rex goes on a tear about Mike LEE. If Rex is factually wrong about any of it, I'd like to hear.

I do however think he's off-base about LIMBO. Say you're on vacation at a place where they're going to have a LIMBO contest; do you think they're going to advertise it as "The LIMBO tonight!"? No, of course not. (Not to mention: if you look it up in the dictionary, you don't look up "the limbo".) Exhibit B: October 31, 2020. Clue: Dance craze during the Roaring Twenties. Answer: Charleston. On this occasion Rex said nothing; I'd wager lots of other examples could be found.

I submit that omitting "the" before naming a dance -- or omitting "the" before lots of things -- is absolutely customary in crossword puzzles. So, c'mon Rex. Surely you know this.

(Sorry if this comment bothers anyone. I don't mean to be a pain in the GLUTEI maximi.)

After all the pizza slice talk yesterday, fun to see CRISPED. We know where @Nancy stands on that score. :-)

Unknown 9:13 AM  

To the newbies to this blog -
Yeah, sometimes rex's blogs have far more to do with his political leanings and less to do with the puz itself. Today was kind of one of those days. While my political leanings are probably pretty closely aligned w/ rex's, I don't come here to listen to him go off on his rants. I'm far more interested in his thoughts about the construction of the puz. He can rant away on his twitter account. But of course this is his party, and so he can start off the conversation however he wishes.
Other tip for the newbies: If rex fails to put down his finish time (like today), or if he fudges it a little bit, you can rest assured that he found the puz to be a bit harder than he let on, and you can take some solace in that.
I loved the theme, and I disagree that it should have been THELIMBO. A few days ago there was a clever answer HUSTLE, and I don't recall it being THEHUSTLE, or that rex complained about that. But perhaps I misremember?

NikAtNight 9:15 AM  


Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Seconds off my fastest time ever on a Wednesday. Held up by putting glutes instead of glutei

RooMonster 9:21 AM  

Hey All !
@M&A should like all four corners in this one. I got a kick out of the SW's Triple-double-letter stack, OO, WW, NN. It's the simple things in life. ☺️

Pretty fun theme. Liked the steps of the LIMBO. First, you SET THE BAR LOW, then you BEND OVER BACKWARD, then try to UNDER ACHIEVE, which is a wink and a nod of a phrase. After all that, you might get a (1A) CRICK in a body part. Which would tie in LImBOs symmetric spot.

AROAR, Har. I try that Every Time in SB, and it's never a word there.

Light black square count (34), light POC count, lightF count. 😋

So a nice puz, fairly easy, but not fly-through-it-in-Rex-time easy.

Now gonna WAVE bye. 👋 ☺️

One F

Z 9:22 AM  

@TTrimble - No problem with GLUTEI here (well, no problem with entering the I but of course I think it should have GLUTEopodes), I saved my not worrying about the crosses moment for later. I agree with your “no ‘the’ needed” take. Heck, I half remember some Frankie Valli or Annette Funicello type yelling “Let’s LIMBO” in some movie I may have seen once.

Nancy 9:23 AM  

First I'm reminded of the omnipresent CRICK in my neck, which I tend to have 24/7, only it's even worse today because the BARometic pressure is so LOW and it's so raw and damp out.

Then I'm asked to contort my back into completely unnatural positions as I BEND OVER BACKWARDS and attempt to win one of the dumbest dance contests ever invented. The LIMBO is well-named since you have to be extremely limber to do it. And limber I'm not.

Is it any wonder that, orthopedically speaking, I'm a mess this morning? (Well at least, for my age, I'm not SAGGING too much. So that's something.)

A cute, well executed theme that I solved as a themeless, since 1) I didn't need the theme and 2) I never saw the revealer coming.

Nice clues for EROS, SOAP and SAGGING. Biggest "Huh?" -- the four-letter tea. The only four-letter tea I know is CHAI and I only know it because of other crossword puzzles.

My brain appreciated this. My aching body -- not so much :)

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

I liked the puzzle. Learned that atolls are formed from oceanic volcanoes. Mike Lee is one of the stars of the Judiciary so no worries there. It’s good to include prominent current public figures no matter their political leanings to keep a puzzle fresh. Feel the same way about Ilhan Omar. Cheers. Fred.

Birchbark 9:28 AM  

LIMBO is a meta, or at least double-meaning reveal. There is the party game, which surprised me in a good way.

And there is the nothing-state of LIMBO, the entropy path of those who SET THE BAR LOW and UNDERACHIEVE, speak in BOILERPLATE, and TONE IT DOWN (in the ecru sense) rather than jazz it up. These are symmetrically aligned answers supporting the reveal.

What I just said about ecru was unfair. It solves every fashion challenge I've ever faced and asks for nothing in return.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

One of the things about the current moment that I find most ironic is that conservatives, who spend lots of time mocking liberal snowflakes for taking offense too easily, themselves absolutely lose their marbles when somebody criticizes a conservative. "Keep your politics to yourself" these conservative snowflakes cry, even while happily injecting their own into every part of life and mocking anybody who objects.

Anyway, I thought this puzzle was mediocre, largely because I object to the glutei and thought there were too many crowd/stadium references. Unless there is a pro limbo league out there somewhere, in which case well done to the constructor for linking pro limbo with crowds.

KnittyContessa 9:36 AM  

I loved it. What a clever, witty puzzle! As I was solving i tried to figure out where the theme was going but couldn't see it. When I got to LIMBO I had a good laugh. Really well done.

I did get hung up on GLUTEI/INN. I had glutes which left me with snn which made no sense BUT B&B was abbreviated so I thought maybe snn was a thing? It wasn't. Easy fix.

After reading Rex's rant I now have the Lees of Old Virginia from 1776 in my head. There are far worse ear worms I guess.

RooMonster 9:39 AM  

"Things we're thankful for"

Curbside pickup. This should definitely continue to be a thing even after the virus is gone.


57stratocaster 9:41 AM  

There was an article in the Ann Arbor News many years ago regarding local road repairs, accompanied by a picture of two city workers filling potholes in a street. the caption read something like: "City workers Ben Dover and Phil McCracken perform street repairs..."

So what you're saying, Rex, is that Mike Lee spends a lot of time up'tween Trump's glutei?

tea73 9:48 AM  

I'm always surprised we never see Poe's Annabel as a clue. I'm with Rex on this one - giving such a neutral clue to a sitting senator who is really reprehensible is just unnecessary.

That tea fooled me. I usually see it called bubble tea. And I don't care for it.

I thought this was surprisingly easy even though I got interrupted twice finishing it in a little over half my average time.

Nancy 9:54 AM  

@TTrimble (9:13) -- I also thought of my pizza preferences when I was CRISPED this morning.

Re: Mike LEE: As per usual, I didn't read Rex's rant, but I had the same visceral reaction to Mike LEE's name when I saw it in the puzzle. That guy is SO loathsome. And using him in the grid is so unnecessary. I mean it's not as though you have to get the name "Winklevoss" into the puzzle. LEE? Let's see...

There's Harper, Stan, Ang, Sara, Peggy and Anabelle for LEE as a last name.

There's Marvin, Remick and Radziwell for LEE as first name.

There's Jamie___Curtis and Tommy___Jones for LEE as a middle name.

And there's also the protected-from-the-wind clue.

And you notice I've managed to avoid both Robert E (last name)and Atwater (first name).

Not hard. No reason for Mike -- not really.

mathgent 9:56 AM  

Learned that each buttock has three gluteus muscles, the glutei. I remember Forrest Gump talking about butt-TOCKS.

Winning a LIMBO contest is to UNDERACHIEVE. Very nice.

Wonderful clue for REDHEAD.

Too bad that so many of the comments today were about Rex, our annoying playground director.

I had a pleasant time solving last night.

burtonkd 9:56 AM  

@ RP, nice callback to the sad trombone. Made me laugh.

Sorry to continue from yesterday, but was out busy for the day after an early comment. Thanks to many of you for continuing the pizza discussion. @ Joe, I think that was TimeOut and it was Pizza Palace. Those are the classic NYC style pizzas, whose prices historically mirror those of a subway fare. In other styles, someone mentioned Mama's Too on Broadway and 102 and it is fantastic! My favorite area pizza is from a tapas place in Piermont called O Lar, that has a wood-burning pizza oven. The owner has Michelin stars from previous NYC restaurants and the current place is a labor of love with his sons. They make a sopraseta that has honey, basil, mozzarella.

I'm usually annoyed by Rex rage over clues that don't suit his political bent, but am with him on the outrageousness of the current support of a completely erratic president.

Hands up for liking the dad joke ending of the theme.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Rex is certainly entitled to express his opinions no matter how misguided. I just hope the editors will ignore them. #Team Mike Lee.

Steve M 10:03 AM  

Good on you Rex it’s your blog anyway
Mediocre puzzle too

1776 10:05 AM  

@KnittyContessa's ear worm

Joe Dipinto 10:08 AM  

@NikAtNight – LOL

Inspired set of theme answers, nicely clued, imo. It all works! That's about all I got on this one.

Loving Will Lee on cowbell here. (Song starts at 0:50.)

David Spencer 10:11 AM  

I agree with Rex 100% about Mike Lee. As a Utahan, I am embarrassed, appalled, and disgusted to be associated with this individual who constantly creates new lows. His hypocrisy is beyond the pale.
There was no need whatsoever to use his name in an otherwise engaging and entertaining - for me - Wednesday puzzle.

Anonymoose 10:12 AM  

This is one of the ugliest threads of comments I've ever seen. Stopped reading at about the 8:00 mark.

CDilly52 10:13 AM  

The First Amendment is huge. It, more than anything else in our constitution truly does separate us-free thinking and speaking Americans-from every other world civilization. I revere The First, and will defend anyone’s lawful speech. To each his own-including no one 6:34am. That’s the beauty of free speech. We needn’t agree, but we must allow everyone to speak. And if we work really hard to listen, and try really hard to find some common ground, perhaps we can become less divided.

CDilly52 10:14 AM  

We shall miss you, @Lewis! Please be safe on your travels.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Have to agree with pabloinnh 8:08 am. I really liked the puzzle, glutei and mike lee notwithstanding. Which means, I figured it all out on my own! I thought the answer phrases were fun, although I didn't see the limbo theme until after I wrote in limbo. Rex is right about Lee but it doesn't bother me to see things or people I don't like in a puzzle, unless they're gross or obscene (I know, a case could be made, Rex). So I don't get incensed if Adolph Hitler or Stalin show up either. Depends on the clueing, I think. Senator from Utah known for outrageous, deceptive grandstanding would work, but might be too easy because it couldn't be Romney, right? Enjoy the puzzles, folks, and the Rex rants, too. He's entitled. Whatever keeps him blogging is ok with me. Personally, I save my rants for when I see these guys talking, or rather, yelling, on tv (don't even get me started on Jim Jordan) and I lighten up when doing puzzles. It's kind of like the timing thing, Rex - everyone's different but it's just more fun for me without doing that. - newbie

yaffa 10:27 AM  

I totally agree with previous comment. Stick to what you do best, crosswords, and leave politics alone !!!!!

Doug Garr 10:33 AM  

Lee definitely belongs in the puzzle. Another dishonest fraud. He's as low as you can go. Even your preface of accepting his conservative views won't mollify the idiocy on the right that think Democrats should be executed (yes, that meme has circulated).

Whatsername 10:33 AM  

Congratulations to Mr. Travis on a very nice debut. Tuesday and Wednesday could’ve been switched this week as I found this much easier than yesterday, but that’s no reflection on the quality of the construction and the engaging theme. I might have liked it better with the clues in a different order, say with BEND OVER at the top, THE BAR in the middle and go UNDER at the bottom. But I can see how this works too.

Oranjestad ARUBA Is a lively place, casinos, night clubs, beaches, beautiful resorts. IMO, one of the nicest of the Caribbean islands to visit. I always heard their tourism suffered considerably after the incident with that poor girl from Alabama.

GILL I. 10:41 AM  

Hey @Rex....: When does a joke become a dad joke? When it becomes apparent.....Fell free to get up from the GLUTEI patootie and laugh.
Sitting here in LIMBO
But I know it won't be long
Sitting here in LIMBO
Like a bird without a song.
OK...so I did the LIMBO once in my youth. It was on a dare (of course) and I'm pretty sure we were drinking something delicious. I was limber in my days of not caring about a CRICK. My GRAVEST error was thinking I could actually bend over BACKWARDs with my knees bent at a crazy angle and get back up and walk again. I couldn't.
I rather enjoyed today's puzzle. I agree that Mike LEE could've been another more pleasant LEE. So many to choose from. (Hi @Nancy) but caca is part of our 2020 year.
I don't understand BOILER PLATE or why it's used for a standard contract. I'm sure it comes from the same usage as MOOLA.
@Z....I've only had one pizza that I enjoyed and I'm pretty sure no one would call it a pizza. It was in a small cafe in France and it was a thin crust, artichoke and spinach thing. It really was good. Papa Murphy - or whatever his name is - would not approve..
Happy Chanukah to my Jewish friends who celebrate. Stay safe and don't go to the DMV.

CDilly52 10:47 AM  

@SouthsideJohnny 7:47 am. Game up 🎉 in support of the “false plural/fake Latin nonsense of the “I” - makes me crazy. Not as crazy as poor @Rex this morning, but crazy nonetheless.

Sir Hillary 11:00 AM  

Wow, I really disliked this puzzle. The theme is boring, and the fill is uninspired -- just no zip at all in this one. I can't even bring myself to bring myself to comment any further -- count me among the BOOERS.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

LOL!!! I love me some Mike Lee. And so do Utahans. In 2016, he won his senate race with 68% of the vote. He'll cruise to reelection in the 2022 midterms, when republican will take back the House and expand their majority in the upper chamber.
Best part of Rex's paroxysm? Mike Lee's dad-- one of Regan's Solicitors General--was named Rex.
Kick and scream, stomp and shout, but you should get used to Mike Lee. He's smart and savvy ( he took down an incumbent to gain his Senate seat. No mean feat)
He clerked for Alito ( Third Circuit Appeals). And he's on the side of the angels in much of his legislation--think especially senate bills S4862 and
S4649, S4658 and S4805.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 11:02 AM  

I have a question about 30A-41A -- BEND OVER BACKWARD . I would have said BACKWARDs. There's a bunch of words like that where I grew up adding an S and Google Spell Check, at least, if nobody else, doesn't think the S should be there. Anyways comes to mind, I forget what else. Is this a regionalism of some sort?

Guilherme Gama 11:02 AM  

"Please respect the voice of people who would deny you your voice" is what comments like this seem to defend.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I wonder if they put certain answers in the puzzles just to get Rex going! Or, perhaps, to get back at him for his scathing critiques! Rofl. - newbie

Anonymous 11:07 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bocamp 11:08 AM  

@Lewis 6:45 AM - Bless you and your patient! 🙏

@RooMonster 9:39 AM 👍

Owen & Jeff comments at "XWord Info": here.

Amy Reynaldo comments at "Diary of a Crossword Fiend": here.


Peace 평화 Paz ειρήνη Paix Salam Pace Pas Shlama Pax 🕊

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

The Orange Sh!tgibbon's (not my coinage, but I cleave) core has always been in the 25% range. That's the score he got on his 'handling' of Covid. Only the slow witted would approve, and only they do. OFL, or any commenter here, has the right to complain, since, as OFL says, there's myriad ways to clue LEE without such pandering.


graph at first question.

Dave 11:13 AM  

The stupidest kind of comment is “stick to X and leave politics alone.” Politics affects everyone, and no one should be told “stay out of it.” Especially if what you really mean is “I don’t want to read anything that disagrees with me.”

Newboy 11:13 AM  

Politics? LET IT BE! Had my vote last month & the system worked just fine.

Was in LIMBO over bubble tea BOBA, hadn’t read this ROTH and UNDERACHIEVE(d) in recall of baseball having RBIS for grand slams, so a SAGGIER solve than I would have liked. Cept fer those neck CRICKs I had a morning like @pabloinnh described back at 8:08. So me TOO in appreciation of Owen’s debut & Jeff’ ongoing service to Crossworld.

Stay safe all & help one another as @Lewis models—more than ever we need good folks’ support.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  


when Biden orders the NSA to release the intercepts between Russians and The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) and his minions...

Whatsername 11:16 AM  

@Nancy: I frequently get that CRICK in the neck feeling too. I recommend the Salon Pas brand pain patches. They work well for me and it’s not a pill I have to swallow.

@oceanjeremy (7:36) Well said!

@Joaquin (7:54) and @57stratocaster (9:41) Ben Dover. LOL!

@Roo (9:39) Keeping curbside pickup. Amen to that!

@Anonymous (9:31) You’re so right about the hypocrisy. Had a Facebook acquaintance post a big loud comment proclaiming her undying love for Trump and then actually said “Don’t bother posting any negative comments disagreeing with me because they will just be deleted.” How typical is that? I didn’t post any comments but I did click Unfollow.

Z 11:17 AM  

@Gill I - So how do these sound?
FUNGHI - flat parsley, fresh basil, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, smoked gouda, parmigiano-reggiano
MARGHERITA - fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano
RED, WHITE & GREEN - spinach, roasted red pepper, capers, ricotta
SMOKY - smoked ham, roasted garlic, flat parsley, ricotta, smoked gouda
EL GRECO - spinach, feta, white onion, kalamata olive
And what’s listed is everything you get on an excellent thin crust. No sauce. Personally, I’m eclectic regarding pizza, from the super greasy New York style to the crisp thick crust of Detroit style to the “that’s not a pizza that’s a lasagna” Chicago style to the thin crust other Chicago style (my favorite version of that actually being from Skiles Tavern in Holland MI) to California style to wood-fired to ... basically stick some good stuff on a good pizza dough and I’ll eat it. The key thing is to ignore the “purists” who think there is one right way to make a pizza. There is probably a Supino’s type place near you, the problem is finding it amongst the noise of everyone making pepperoni pizzas. I love pepperoni pizza, but there’s lots of other ways to make a tasty pie.

Anoa Bob 11:20 AM  

Like Monday's puzzle, this one has 34 black squares but the grid somehow doesn't seem quite as open. And turn those two Ss at the ends of BOOER/AHA and CROWD/FERN into black squares and the virtual number goes up to 36.

One of Darwin's lesser known theories was about how an ATOLL is formed. He said that first a volcano rises up out of the ocean. Then a coral reef develops and grows around the cone. Then the volcano subsides (sinks back down into the ocean) over the eons, leaving behind the ring of coral which now encloses a lagoon. And that is still accepted in contemporary science as being the way an ATOLL forms.

So MATTHEW and LEE BEND OVER and ask RHEA to decide who has the SAGGIER GLUTEI. Her first thought was that they were hideous but TONED IT DOWN and simply said EWW.

kitshef 11:22 AM  

My LIMBO story. Mrsshef and I have taken exactly one cruise in our lives, in the Aegean. On the this cruise were a group of schoolgirls from Colombia -about 15 years old. They lit up the room everywhere they went - so full of excitement and enthusiasm.

The ship had a LIMBO contest one night. Several of the Colombian girls were short enough to just walk normally under the bar, even two or three rounds in. When we got to the last five, it was me and four of the Colombian girls. I would up second.

My prize for this was a bottle of ouzo - of which I drank two sips (because one can never be sure after only one sip). Awful. Fortunately, no matter how bad something is, there is always someone with a taste for it, so I was able to make one of my coworkers quite happy.

CDilly52 11:23 AM  

Thanks @jfpon. Well said, and a very apt observation of the state of “discourse” lately (OK, 4 years is not just “lately” but. . . ). I am in-house counsel for - among other things - three County election Boards. I can say with 100% certainty that the folks overseeing elections are proud to be preserving democracy, literally one vote at a time. When we occasionally have an irregularity, I have never seen public servants so intent on determining the why and how and working with the state Election Board and Legislature to insure it never happens again. Accordingly, one of the few governmental things Oklahoma truly has to crow about is its election process. The US election was run properly and no evidence of fraud has materialized. Just as the Presidential 4 years ago-this one is over and it is time to move on. If “we the People” would work as hard to encourage our elected officials to compromise to move us forward instead of continuing our divisive behavior, we could all enjoy more of the blessings of Liberty regardless of our political views.

Malsdemare 11:29 AM  

@roo, A hearty YES in gratitude for delivery people. I, too, hope it continues once this is over (if ever).

LIMBO without the "the" works fine for me. I also had to revisit the SW and fix that GLUTEs/SNN mess. But I got KOREA despite being way too old to know BTS.

@Nancy, i deeply sympathize with your various CRICKs; as they say, getting old ain't for the squeamish.

@Lewis, I applaud your generosity; too many people are struggling to heal without the benefit of a friend to help them through.

Puzzle was fine.

oceanjeremy 11:29 AM  

The First Amendment guarantees that the government will not impede on a citizen's right to free speech. This is not a government space. This is a blog belonging to a private citizen.

Rex Parker has a right to free speech here because it is his platform. He also has a right to allow or disallow comments on his blog posts. It is his space.

He chose to allow the comment from @no one this morning, as he has allowed all of these subsequent comments.

But let's not twist the Constitution here: the right to free speech in this space is extended (constitutionally) to Rex Parker and to Rex Parker alone. The rest of us are guests here.

CDilly52 11:33 AM  

What a Wednesday delight this was - for me. So much more meat then usual, and a big theme that, although obvious (especially once Ingot to BEND OVER BACKWARDS) had lots to like. I probably would have fixed the SW corner to use GLUTES (c’mon, that would have been a snap for these guys!) and would have avoided EWW. I find these variant spellings of “sounds” somewhat annoying.

Overall, though this puzzle was almost pristine in its lack of junk entries! They set the proverbial bar quite high for future Wednesday submissions. Truly enjoyed the quick solve.

GILL I. 11:38 AM  

OOOOOH...@Z...You got me on the FUNGHI...I might just do the funky funghi dance on that one....LOL.
@Lewis...Happy trails. @Frantic....You just come back...you hear?

TTrimble 11:48 AM  

@Anonymous 10:27 AM
I pretty much agree with all that you said. If Mike LEE pops up in a XW, I tend not to pause to consider what I dislike about him; I just move on to the next clue. To me it's not the least bit offensive to include him; it's not an endorsement. Just like having a news item in the NYT about the guy is not in itself offensive.

Nor is Rex offensive for recalling what he can't stand about the guy. Although if Rex is saying that Mike LEE's name should not be fair game for the XW, then I'd certainly disagree with him. (Is it that people who feel this way are allowing themselves to be distracted mid-puzzle? Focus! Concentrate!)

I wish there a lot more tolerance for people deviating from the XW per se to talk about stuff that comes up and express themselves freely. Whether pizza or plurals or politics or Poincare or Palisades High School. Let conversations take their natural course.

Xcentric 11:49 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle, groaned at the theme (as one does with a certain type of joke) and smiled all the way through Rex’s rant.
“ there are a million Lees” - true that, but think about the theme answers and they fit Mike Lee to a “t”.
Once it fell in place, recognized Boba as bubble tea - nothing more than tapioca in a way over sweetened chai at best, some weird fake flavor at worst.. Tried it once and just don’t see the attraction. Just a fad food.
Now Belgian waffles were a great food fad. Had my first at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, NY. Delicious! Crisp waffle, whipped cream and strawberries- yum. Belgian waffles were such a hit they went mainstream - witness them on the menu at iHop and the many brands of Belgian waffle mix on the shelves.
Saw my first frisbee at that fair and was mesmerized by their flight and the guys showing the trick frisbee throws. Couldn’t convince my parents to buy one there - they said it was too expensive - sigh. Finally got one a few years later and still play frisbee with the grandkids. Did anyone else ever end up with “frisbee finger”?
Thanks Owen and Jeff for a fun Wednesday.

EdFromHackensack 11:50 AM  

What is wrong with you people? Agree or disagree with his politics, but Mike LEE is fair game. I didn’t hear any of you complain when DEVIL was in the puzzle the other day. Sheeeesh, its a crossword puzzle.

egsforbreakfast 11:51 AM  

@Nancy 9:54. Interestingly, LEE has appeared 727 times in the Shortz era and this is the first time it’s been clued in reference to the Senator from Utah. I suspect that the constructors wanted to not use one from your list because they’ve all been used many times.

I agree with Rex more than 100% on Mike Lee’s character and the danger he and his ilk represent to our democracy. However, I don’t find myself feeling like a crossword is ever celebrating anyone or anything just by having him or it appear as a stand alone answer. Did anyone think that 57D “Police dept. alert” was celebrating the racial insensitivity that many police departments exhibit?

I feel terrified at the thought of being really upset every time a crossword mentioned someone or something that I didn’t like.

Sorry for the downer of a comment. I liked this very easy puzzle. No clues left me in LIMBO for long. Thanks Owen Travis and Jeff Chen.

Carol Curren 12:09 PM  

I come for the puzzle critique. I stay for the political commentary. In the words of Einstein, "If I were to remain silent, I would be guilty of complicity." Thank you Rex for speaking out.

Z 12:11 PM  

@oceanjeremy - Correct, the first amendment protects everyone from the government censoring our speech. And, you’re right, the Constitution does not guarantee anyone freedom from censorship by Rex or the Mods here. I just wanted to add that Rex was basically forced into moderating the comments because of what are politely called “trolls” (the scientific term being Venti Assholi). I assume we’re getting the cleaned-up version of responses and still it’s not a pretty picture.

Carol Curren 12:13 PM  

I come for the puzzle critique. I stay for the political commentary. In the words of Einstein, "If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity." Thank you Rex for speaking out.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

even with moderation, the only significant difference is that seeing one's brilliant prose is delayed from a bit to a lot. the number of removed comments is quite small. most days, author removed exceed moderator removed. I've occasionally, very few, had a comment removed for no obvious reason. since I'm a mouse, I hadn't the opportunity to question being spiked. but this is just a blog, so, so what?

burtonkd 12:31 PM  

@Xcentric - I did have a nice callus on the side of my finger at one point, didn't know it had a name. I am also very fond of Aerobie rings - they easily fly the length of a football field. If you are off in your throw, you can make your partner run 40 yards to catch or more likely go pick it up.

@Nancy - I know it is time to get up from the blog comments when I feel a crick in my neck.

JC66 12:36 PM  

@Anon 12:28

How could you possibly know the number of comments the moderators put the kibosh on before publication and are never posted?

Anonymous 12:41 PM  


how do you know that moderation does so?

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

It's Rex and his ilk casually using terms like fascist and treasonous that are the threat

well, correct me if I'm wrong, but The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) was way, way first in labelling those who disagree with him as 'fascist and treasonous'. just look it up.

moreover, seeking to have others overturn the results of an election is exactly what the 'fascist and treasonous' do. Hitler was installed after an election *neither he nor his party* won.

JC66 12:48 PM  

@Anon 12:41

If you were on the blog a few years ago, you'd see the difference.

No flogging for pills, "learning" institutes, escorts, etc, etc.

Commenters seemed to have learned not to include spoilers, although, at times they sneak through.

TTrimble 12:50 PM  

@8:31 AM
It all hangs on evidence. If evidence is produced that shows widespread fraud occurred in the election, that would be one thing. That hasn't happened.

The Mueller report did not *establish* that collaboration or collusion took place between the Trump campaign and the Russians, although that Russian interference took place is undisputed, and certainly Trump et al. knew they stood to benefit from it (and even seemed to welcome it). It was also clearly noted in the report that the evidence was not necessarily complete (due, e.g., to false or declined testimony: obstruction of justice). The report also found that various public and private actions by the President were capable of exerting undue influence on law enforcement investigations. Mueller went on to testify that Trump could be charged with various crimes after he left office. In short, the report was very, very far away from being an exoneration, and it leaves wide open the possibility that there's a there there, which Congress could pursue, but the special investigation was according to Mueller's understanding not the right instrument for indicting a sitting president.

In addition, people on Trump's campaign team were convicted of crimes. The case concerning Roger Stone seems particularly noteworthy in this regard; he had met with a Russian offering to sell information on Clinton, and was convicted on multiple charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress. So, Anonymous, it doesn't seem exactly a symmetric situation, now, does it?

Bill 12:53 PM  

Gotta love Will Shortz for setting up this blogger so he has no chance at any editor's job when the time comes. You are what you write and that is a HATER. Dumb.

Ellen 12:56 PM  

Nice to see "Let It Be." on the 40th anniversary of the day when much of the world learned that John Lennon had been shot and killed in NYC. I was still in college and remember telling my sorority sisters that we had to watch the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite to see if he led with Lennon's murder. All were sure that he wouldn't, though I was confident that he would.

As it turned out, Cronkite devoted the first 25 minutes of the broadcast to Lennon and then recapped the rest of the world's news in the final 5 minutes. My instincts proved I had chosen the right major: journalism

jae 12:57 PM  

Medium. This was fun. Pretty smooth, a couple of fine long downs, and an off beat theme. Nice debut for Owen.

Masked and Anonymous 1:05 PM  

I was kinda torn, on the placement of the LIMBO revealer. Bein splatzed way down there at the finale, it certainly keeps U wonderin what the crick is goin on with the themers. Sure makes the themers less funny, at the time you're fillin em in, at least, tho.
Still … liked it, anyhoo & anyLEE. [yo, @RP, Sunshine]

staff weeject pick: CNN. That CNN clue was nice and mysterious. {"This is ___"}. day-um.
And really really enjoyed the corner-copia of weeject stacks: NW,NE,SW,SE. wee-haw! [yo, @Roo]

Primo CRISP(ed) longball fillins, throughout the puzgrid. Often happens, when you've got yerself a 72-worder under yer pencil. Ow de Speration often also ensues, as a nice bonus.
fave sparklers: TONEDITDOWN. BOILERPLATE. ONASTREAK. SALADFORK [Etiquette clue … tough-ish, for the raised-by-wolves M&A]. BITPART.

Ever so slightly desperado-soundin: NEWUSER. AROAR. WAVEDHI. SAGGIER. Nuthin absolutely flagrant/foul, tho. Sorta actually luv them A-words, like A-ROAR. Is somebody caught with their knees locked up, under the contest's bar frozen A-LIMBO? A-LIMBO A-KIMBO, even? A-har

Thanx for gangin up on us, debuter Owen Travis [Congratz] & mighty Chenmeister.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

p.s U R one real good dude, @Lewis. Best wishes & see U soon.

Mostly @r.alph's fault:

jberg 1:20 PM  

I thought the theme was going to be directions, like over, under, low, and backward--so I was happy to see the revealer. The only other problem was UNDERperform, fixed with a few crosses.

100 comments so far, I'll read them later--curious to know if we got a rant about the Green New Deal. Personally, I'm with Rex, but hey.

old timer 1:36 PM  

Too many comments to read, but I will catch up later today. Good, clever puzzle. Like so many puzzles, easiest solved bottom up. The clues at the top were too vague to guess right off the bat.

A whole screed was hardly needed, but yeah, there were better LEEs out there. Will should have replaced the clue with "Lighthorse Harry ___, Robert E's dad, and a great figure in the Revolutionary War. Trivia: lived at Leesylvania, Va. One of his sons was named after Sydney Smith, the wittiest and most colorful clergyman of his era. Smith Lee, as he was known, was persuaded by his brother to lead the Confederate Navy, but one suspects he would have been happier becoming an Admiral in the U.S. Navy, as he surely would have done but for the War.

If I had voted for Trump, it would have been despite his character, simply because his actual policies seemed better than Biden's. Trump will go down in history as the President least worthy of respect, but it seemed to me he governed like most Republicans do, and thank God he ran as someone opposed to war, and opposed in particular to George Bush's war. I shuddered at the prospect of another Bush in office, and shuddered even more at the prospect of Ted Cruz winning the nomination. We may all still be alive because Trump beat them in the primaries.

But then, Mike Lee would have been a better President than Cruz or Bush. My point is, a lot of Trump voters did not admire Trump at all, they just preferred him to the alternative.

thfenn 2:30 PM  

Lol, clearly nobody else went straight with SoupspOon over SALADFORK. I'm just not as up on my place settings as I should be. Enjoyed the puzzle, agree with rex, and generally think that politics and religion are much more worth talking about than puzzle construction. @nancy, don't forget LEE Majors.

The Gooch 2:36 PM  

I believe 26 Across should be, O, Oscar. Not Oboe

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

TTrimble 11:48 am You are so right about tolerance - what the world needs now is tolerance, sweet tolerance, to paraphrase the song a bit. And "Let It Be" should be the song of the day. - newbie

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

Maybe you should have prefaced the beginning of your write-up with a common crossword answer -- IMO.

kitshef 3:00 PM  

@The Gooch 2:36. You are confusing the NATO phonetic alphabet with the joint army/navy phonetic alphabet. Oscar in the former; Oboe in the later.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

"Glutei" is BS. I'm a licensed medical professional and I assure you that NOBODY ever refers to "glutei" except in an anatomy lecture.

sixtyni yogini 3:45 PM  

Good one (blog entry) Rex! (The circularity 😎 of limbo, Dante, 🔥and Lee.)👍🏽
And I liked the puzzle a lot, 🧩👍🏽🧩
Can’t tell if the puzzles are getting better and/or I am becoming a better solver = greater enjoyment.
Anyway, enjoy, all! 🤗🤸🏽‍♀️🤗

sanfranman59 3:46 PM  

Regarding the flap of the day, I just can't get worked up about names that appear in my crossword puzzles. In fact, I prefer as much inclusivity as possible. If just one solver is compelled to look up a name they don't know and educate themselves about who that person is and what they stand for, it's a benefit to the world. That said, though I may disagree with Rex apparent belief that certain names should be banned from the crossword (@TTrimble (11:48am)), I certainly don't defend his right to rant about those that trigger him. After all, this is his blog. Just look at the discussion it's generated in this humble venue. IMO, such discourse is vital to a healthy and functioning democracy and, perhaps even more importantly, stifling such discourse is a tool of fascism.

@oceanjeremy (7:36am) re "I keep seeing this fallacy: "approx half of the US."" ... amen

@SouthsideJohnny (7:47am) ... With the proviso that I too first entered GLUTEs, it strikes me that the gym may not be the best place to make an informed judgment about language-appropriate anatomical plurals. Not that you asked for my opinion, but I'd suggest an anatomy textbook instead.

@Sixthstone (8:54am) re "I appreciate that Rex points out it's not Lee's politics that make him loathsome, but his character." ... amen

@Ttrimble (9:13am) re "I put in GLUTEs without trying to make sense of sNN" ... I made the same mistake. It was my last entry in the grid and I just barely caught it before submitting my solution. Whew! But GLUTEI according the XWord Info database, it hasn't appeared in the NYT since early 2013.

@Anon (11:01 am) ... I admit that I don't know much about Utah politics, but considering that 76% of the active voters in that state who choose a party affiliation are Republican, it seems that your boy underperformed in 2016. Since he'll have the advantage of incumbency in the next election, it seems likely that he'll be re-elected, but you never know. Mr. Lee may have hitched his wagon to to the wrong star in our soon-to-be-former president, who won only 58% of the vote in Utah this year. That's lower than anyone not named Trump since Bob Dole in '96, when Ross Perot was in the mix and took 10% of the vote. Trump won only 46% of the Utah vote in 2016 because native Utah son David McMullin was on the ballot and took 22% of the vote. Since McMullin, a former Republican, has been a vocal critic of Trump and endorsed Biden in this election. Might he throw his name in the hat for Lee's seat in 2022? I know I'll be crossing my fingers.

@Dave (11:13am) re "The stupidest kind of comment is “stick to X and leave politics alone.”" ... amen

@CDilly52 (11:23am) re "If “we the People” would work as hard to encourage our elected officials to compromise to move us forward instead of continuing our divisive behavior, we could all enjoy more of the blessings of Liberty regardless of our political views." ... amen and thanks for your work with county elections boards

@Ellen (12:56pm) ... I too was in college on that fateful day. I sure miss John Lennon ... and Walter Cronkite.

Geez, it took a long time to get through the comments today. I don't know what possessed me to be so verbose in my thoughts about today's discussion, but there it is. And I'm actually going to post what I've written this time around, even if it's all been said already (my usual reason for not posting) and no one will probably read it anyway given the late hour.

albatross shell 3:59 PM  
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albatross shell 4:04 PM  

@ The Gooch 236pm
Google tells me you'd be wrong.

albatross shell 4:15 PM  
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Moderate Democrat 4:18 PM  

I feel bad for Owen Travis. The guy gets a puzzle published in the New York Times for the first time. I think it is a terrific puzzle. I can imagine him coming to this site to see what Rex thought about it and read other people’s opinions of it. Instead he gets to read a rant about a Senator followed by a slew of comments that have little or nothing to do with the puzzle. I’m sure next time he’ll probably exclude from the puzzle any person or organization that the totalitarian left disapproves of. Maybe that’s Rex’s goal. If so, that sux.

albatross shell 4:27 PM  

CRISPED was obviously going to extend the pizza ado. I was afraid the BEERY conversation might be extended when I thought excited fans in stadiopodes were going to be roary.

Lotta love for the theme. Being down or low or what. Got down to the last across
and got to the M and bam! LIMBO. A short 5 letter reveal and all the long acrosses fell in to place. They were all there but unexplained. They work perfectly as common phrases and in perfect order for the limbo. And as clued as limbo contest no 'the' necessary. Read the clue @Rex and others.

I also like @Bichbark's theory of a second thee with the long downs. I noticed the possibility but had not followed through like I did with yesterday's long downs.

Two double PoCs but even fewer PoCs than the double- PoC-free puzzle we had Monday, even if you count the doubles twice and throw in the I in GLUTEI.


Did you have a BOILERPLATE MOM?

shif yrehtilS*

*Non-PPP clue for LEE.

bocamp 4:29 PM  

@sanfranman59 3:46 PM

I read it. Always enjoy your comments! 👍


Peace 평화 Paz ειρήνη Paix Salam Pace Pas Shlama Pax 🕊

frankbirthdaycake 4:39 PM  

You forgot about “blinis,” which, according to the NYT crossword editor, is plural for the singular blini (which is actually plural for blin). Mr. Shortz should take preventative steps, irregardless of the consequences, to preventate any further additions of dubious entries.

sanfranman59 4:48 PM  

Argh ... Maybe I should proof-read for a fifth or sixth time before posting my thoughts. The middle of the first paragraph of my dissertation should read "That said, though I may disagree with Rex's apparent belief that certain names should be banned from the crossword (@TTrimble (11:48am)), I certainly _do_ [not "don't"] defend his right to rant about those that trigger him.

Joe Dipinto 4:48 PM  

Just waving HI to @sanfranman.

First snow of the season in NYC today.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

I guess JC66 is right. My response to @TTrimble, "The Mueller report did not *establish* that collaboration or collusion took place between the Trump campaign and the Russians," has disappeared into the ether. let propaganda wave.

albatross shell 5:09 PM  

@Anonymous 301pm
If it's used in anatomy lectures, then it is not BS. It is a correct answer even on a Wednesday.

TCM Fan 5:33 PM  

Beery would’ve been better clued for Wallace IMO.

TTrimble 5:35 PM  

Huh! I stand corrected then. I thought I had seen it here recently. I trust the medical professional who says nobody but nobody says it except in an academic setting (or I suppose to affect a mock-erudite tone, like I did earlier).

A brow-furrowing, strangely disarming SB today, n'est-ce pas? I'm at -4 currently. I mean, it's a fun bunch of words, but some aren't straightforward.

Nancy 5:44 PM  

Since the pizza conversation is still going on, I thought I'd add this memory from back in the day. (I tried to find the interview online, but it's from much too long ago.)

Sophia Loren, fairly young at the time and looking gorgeous, was being interviewed on some TV talk show. Someone mentioned pizza as being a "fast food". Sophia's answer: "In America, you think of pizza as a fast food. In Italy, we call it dinner."

Jeff B. 6:05 PM  

Just providing an up vote for today's rant by Rex. Mike Lee and nearly all of his R colleagues are an embarrassment to our country for their spinelessness. See the recent Doonesbury for a visual representation.

Misty 6:28 PM  

I enjoy your blog mostly, but you really are a snarky curmudgeon, let alone a total left-winger.

Unknown 6:39 PM  

Is oboe really the verbal for the letter "o". Everything I read is the word was "oscar".

GILL I. 6:47 PM  

@sanfran man 3:46....Terrific post. Please come back more often. Re Utah and its politics. I'll admit I don't know anything about Mike LEE. I'm also sorry it took away kudos from Owen Travis. One word/name triggers volcanic explosion once in a while. With me, it's cluing Che as a hero. Surprise? What I do know about Utah is that it's a beautiful State. The people are very kind. Salt Lake City is a place to visit; beautiful parks, friendly waving people.....dog friendly and you can actually drink a glass of wine on Sunday.... if you know where.
California's Covid-19cases are hitting record highs. We are on a lock-down by order of the governator which no one is following. We have a (ex-president) who continues to laugh at anything resembling "We the People." He has his rights and he will pardon himself and his family. Europe and the rest of the world has had a good laugh at our expense......It should pass soon....January 20th can't come soon enough. Will everything be better after that date? I wouldn't hold my breath.
@Moderate Democrat 4:18. It seems to happen from time to time. I don't ever want to publish a puzzle that happens to have George Clooney in it. Someone might say he's s a communist in disguise and then I will get sick.
Do as @Roo says and thank all the people that keep us somewhat sane.

chinch 6:56 PM  

Well put, @oceanjeremy 7.36 AM.

Paul Rippey 6:57 PM  

“Crazed”? Well, we can disagree. But you can’t blame someone for criticizing a “sitting US Senator”. Why, even the president sometimes is critical of people he disagrees with.

chinch 6:58 PM  

You’ll be missed @Lewis 6.45 AM.

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

Liked the Mike Lee answer. More Republicans please.

Kath320 7:42 PM  

Catholic school taught me that Limbo is where unbaptized babies went - not a really bad place, just not heaven...

bocamp 7:44 PM  

@Unknown 6:39 PM - The clue reads: "O, in the W.W.II Army/Navy alphabet". @kitshef 3:00 PM explained it earlier in the day. Click link below to see when "O" changed from "oboe" to "oscar".

WWII CCB (ICAO) and NATO alphabets

@TTrimble 5:35 PM - c'est!


Peace 평화 Paz ειρήνη Paix Salam Pace Pas Shlama Pax 🕊

sanfranman59 7:48 PM  

@Joe Dipinto ... Thanks and right back at ya. We've already had a couple of snows here in my new/old home base in NE Ohio. I had very good reasons for my move from the Bay Area in April, but I sure have had second (third, fourth, fifth etc.) thoughts about it ... and we're still 12 days out from the official start of winter. My retirement plan was to not spend much time around here in winter, but COVID has other ideas, at least for this year.

@GILL I ... thanks for the kind words. I took a memorable road trip from San Francisco to SLC a few years ago and fell in love with the place (and a few other places along the way too ... e.g., Big Basin and Mono Lake). I also had the great fortune of visiting southern Utah in the aughts. Everyone on the planet should see Glen Canyon, Lake Powell, Bryce and Zion at some point in their lives.

patsy 9:38 PM  

Well said, Rex Parker

Anonymous 9:51 PM  

Anonymous said it best.

Bruce Fieggen 10:26 PM  

That’s the kind of patronizing comment that encourages Trumpsters to point you out as a liberal elitist.

Peter 10:44 PM  

Totally with you on the ‘NewUber’/Baggier thing. I think they should both be acceptable.

Anonymous 11:18 PM  

@5:09pm: Then look forward to lots of terminology that only medical professionals would be likely know!

How about hypoxia, ischemia, or encephalopathy - those words are far more frequently used by medical personnel in conversation than the word "glutei" ever is. Or maybe someone can clue acromioclavicular or sternocleidomastoid; those words ALSO come up more often in medical conversation than the word prissy, affected word "glutei."

I think Will Shortz needs to decide if he's editing a crossword puzzle or an IQ or higher education test.

Rich H 9:31 AM  

It seems that post WW2 it was modified from Oboe to Oscar - from Wikipedia.

spacecraft 11:55 AM  

Ang, Bruce, Corso, Merriwether, Remick, Stan, R.E., Michele, Aura....so many...

Enough. The point has been made--has it ever! The puzzle as a whole was fairly easy, and not TOO jarring even though SETTHEBARLOW is high in the GRID. At least the revealer is on the bottom row.

Speaking of bottom--OK, let's not. Just another contrived plural because SNN wouldn't make sense. I wanted UNDERperform at first; that's CNBC talking. DOD is one of the LEEs: take your pick. Mine is Remick, star of "Anatomy of a Murder" and a remarkable film called "Hard Contract," with James Coburn and Burgess Meredith, in which the following chilling exchange takes place:

Coburn: "You're saying that killing is right?"
Meredith: "It's not that it's right; it's just that, in these days, in these times, it's not THAT wrong."

Wow. These days indeed.


Diana, LIW 1:40 PM  

Thanks goodness for puzzles - anything to keep the LIMBO of you-know-what away for a moment.

And see? I told you @Rex was doing his annual pitch.

That's all.

Diana, LIW for Crosswords

thefogman 1:53 PM  
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thefogman 1:56 PM  

OK puzzle I guess. But only because the NYTXW has SETTHEBARLOW lately.

Burma Shave 3:31 PM  


where she SETTHEBAR of SOAP?
I'LLBE DOWN for a peek,


rondo 3:41 PM  


Please say a prayer for the family of Valentin Kruglov. He was a fine engineer and a better human being. Not many folks would say that about their father-in-law.

leftcoaster 3:49 PM  

Theme is both clever and straightforward, as Travis and Chen might have it.

UNDERACHIEVE works two ways, both literally and when LIMBOing UNDER the bar successfully.

A couple of pairings that stood out: CNN and BBC, ATOLL and ATOI

Outliers, maybe: BOBA and GLUTEI (instead of GLUTES).

Enjoyed it.

leftcoaster 3:55 PM  

@spacecraft -- Couldn’t help a sad chuckle at the Coburn-Meredith exchange, followed by your comment.

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