Podcast host Maron / THU 12-10-20 / Grassy plain of Southwest / Discussed over Slack say / Main squeeze in modern lingo

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Constructor: Jack Murtagh

Relative difficulty: Easy (untimed, but only the (initially) inexplicable themers posed a significant challenge)

THEME: Element-ary! — themer clues have to be reimagined as [Chemical symbol] + [remaining letters in the clue]; thus:

Theme answers:
  • SILICON CHIP (16A: Siding?) ("Si" = symbol for SILICON, "ding" = CHIP)
  • OXYGEN SUPPLY (27A: Oration?) ("O" = symbol for OXYGEN, "ration" = SUPPLY)
  • IRON MAN (36A: Female?) ("Fe" = symbol for IRON, "male" = MAN)
  • SILVER BULLET (43A: Aground?) ("Ag" = symbol for SILVER, "round" = BULLET (think ammo))
  • CARBON-DATED (57A: Cold?) ("C" = symbol for CARBON, "old" = DATED)
Word of the Day: URIAH Heep (25A: ___ Heep, David Copperfield rival) —
Uriah Heep is a fictional character created by Charles Dickens in his 1850 novel David Copperfield. Heep is one of the main antagonists of the novel. His character is notable for his cloying humility, unctuousness, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own "'umbleness". His name has become synonymous with sycophancy. (wikipedia)
• • •

***HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS IN SYNDICATIONLAND (if the date is Thursday, January 14, 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...

* * *

Well, there was no [Clicking sound?]. Never got an AHA out of this one. Not while I was solving, anyway. This one played like an easy, Tuesday-ish puzzle with five absolutely random, may-as-well-have-been-unclued long answers plunked down in the middle of it. I just waited for the themers to look like actual phrases and then filled them in. Didn't bother to stop (for more than a few seconds) to think about how I was supposed to get from the clue to the answer. Figured the more I solved, the more it would become clear, but it never did. It only took me about thirty seconds, probably, after I was finished to figure out the theme, which ... thank god. If I finish the puzzle and have no idea what was going on theme-wise, the clock is ticking, and the longer it ticks, the more enjoyment ebbs out. Luckily I caught this one soon enough to be impressed by the cluing cleverness. I'm never going to adore a puzzle where the *entirety* of its interestingness is in the clue writing, but as that type of puzzle goes, this seems a fine example. I am quite aware, however, that much of the reason I am able to appreciate what the puzzle is trying to do is because the puzzle was a. very easy to handle, and b. not laden with gunk fill. If a puzzle is doable and the grid is polished, the puzzle has a lot of leeway to get loopy with the theme. If you allow me to get through it without grueling effort and you don't throw garbage in my face along the way, I will follow where you lead.

Unsurprisingly, the hardest part of the puzzle for me happened around the oddest theme phrase: CARBON-DATED. I still don't know if it's an adjective or verb. I am going with adjective. Before I figured out the theme (but after I'd finished the puzzle) my first thought was "oh, CARBON-DATED, that's one letter off from "carbonated," maybe that's something ..." (it wasn't). Anyway, the DATED part was hard for me, especially the last letter. Since the clue on it meant nothing to me at that point, I was just trying to make a real phrase. CARBON ... DATES? DATER? It's clear now that DATED is the best option, but you see, that "D" runs through the hardest clue in the entire puzzle: 52D: A constant celebration? (PI DAY). Because "Pi" is a constant and you "celebrate" it (really, do you?) on Mar. 14 (i.e. 3/14 i.e. 3.14 ugh it's so dumb). Anyway, at first pass I ended up with PISAY in that slot. Checked all the crosses, realized the "S" was the problem, ta da. End of puzzle. Beyond that, my only missteps were writing in SAUDIS before SOMALI (14A: Like some residents on the Gulf of Aden) and writing in EAR CANDY before EAR CANAL (22A: Sound track?). No SAUDIS on the Gulf of Aden unless they're visiting Yemen, which ... ugh, let's not go there today (or, what the hell, go there if you like). Not too thrilled that something that looks like a themer (8-letter Across) and has a "?" clue like the other themers ended up Not being a themer. Unnecessary confusion, bad editing. Made it weird when I got to TALK SHOP and ... no "?" clue (49A: Discuss work outside of work, say). But this didn't hold me up too much, so no big deal. Best wrong guess on the themers (which, again, I had to build entirely from crosses, having no idea how the clues worked): I had the -VERBU- in the middle of 43A: Aground? and the first plausible thing my brain rolodexed to was GO OVER BUDGET. SILVER BULLET is better. 

Favorite answer today was SMELL TEST, and this puzzle passed it. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 5:50 AM  

Of course I read it as "frequent fliers" - I'm old, half-blind, and given to hallucinations. Well done getting me on that one. What an accomplishment.
JK - I did a little chuckle when it hit me, but I'm a chucklehead. Go fish.

Momentarily thought "wait - is this gonna be a rebus?" when I had OR _ for "Magic 8 Ball, e.g." But then realized WTH kind of rebus would make use of "ACLE"? Simp. ๐Ÿ™„

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. If it weren't for my stupid attempts at trying to parse "Silver Ground" instead of "Silver Round", I might have been even more entertained. What a jamoke.

Theme was solid, fill was likewise, and clever clueing - I'll take it!

Idle Ponderment: Why is there a Pi Day? How did that come about exactly? Who decided Pi was fun or important enough for its own day? I understand "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and "Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day", but Pi be a poser to me. Seems like of all the options available, there would be some more deserving of the honor. Like hypotenuse. It's fun to say and nobody knows what it is. Except the Scarecrow and all the mathy people. I say "free the hypotenuse!" Who's with me? {crickets}
Never mind.

๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง 

David Fabish 5:51 AM  

Loved this one! And I got the theme pretty quickly at IRONMAN. I think it may depend on your background. Science geeks like me will probably get it right away. And we also DO celebrate Pi Day. Every year. ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ˜Š๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ˜

Harryp 5:58 AM  

Let me be one of the first to say I didn't have much chemistry with this one and things were breaking bad until I realized that Mr. Murtagh was schooling me on the Periodic Table of Elements! Nice Job.

Conrad 6:16 AM  


Panda51 6:27 AM  

Yes Pi Day is a thing, at least to any mathematics enthusiast. And of course, you have to have a Caesar Salad the day after.

ChuckD 6:32 AM  

Tossing shade on Pi day is amusing especially from a guy who teaches comic books or whatever he does. Pi day is a thing Rex and today’s clue for it was fantastic - as was the chemistry based theme. It took me some time to figure it out and I did get the AHA.

Really liked the long downs - YOGI BERRA, SMELL TEST and PINEAPPLE. A little side eye to the SOMALI x ALI cross and BAE but for the most part the overall fill was fine. Love me a CHURRO and Joan JETT.

I liked this puzzle. Still have URIAH Heep’s Demons and Wizards on vinyl - probably purchased in ‘74. I think I’ll listen to it today.

Frantic Sloth 6:33 AM  

Unlike Rex, I got the theme while solving, which actually helped with the answers - mostly because they made no sense to me otherwise:

"What does 'Siding' have to do with SILICON?", thinks I. {Thinking...thinking...eh - next!}
"Oration" and OXYGEN? "Hmmm. O = OXYGEN...if I divide the words...A-ha! And there it is!"

Of course the whole SILVER ground thing temporarily threw me because I'm, you know, me. But, eventually the self-induced fog lifted, the forehead - she was pummeled, and I felt a soupรงon of redemption.

And despite wanting SILICONdent - the solitary virtue of which was, like its clue, making no sense - common sense (for once) won out, and off we go!

I love when that happens.

@David Fabish 551am Even non-science geeks can get this one with a lot of luck and falling bass-ackward into enlightenment. Or so it would seem. ๐Ÿ˜‰

mathgent 6:51 AM  

Wonderful themers. Another beauty that Mr. Murtagh came up with but couldn't use is "Cape" for CARBONCOPY.

I tried to find some others.




Slight ... SULFUR LAMP


Snark ... TIN BOAT

Not as good.

The theme is so great that I want to forgive the 30 Terrible Threes, the most I've ever seen.

Guilherme Gama 6:56 AM  

I did get the theme early on because I'd seen the fe-male = iron man joke online. However, once I knew to look for chemical elements, I got all the other themed answers pretty easily, which was kind of disappointing.

SW corner was the biggest challenge for me, curiously, because I didn't know Joan Jett and was looking for something much more convoluted than BAT for "it hits close to home".

Guilherme Gama 6:58 AM  

I wonder if Tau activists celebrate anything on June 28...

frankbirthdaycake 7:02 AM  

Not my favorite puzzle, but it was still fun. I got hung up for a while on “num,” thinking initially it was “cap.” On another note, it’s nice to see posts without political commentary or name calling.

NYTom 7:04 AM  

@FranticSloth I too was trying to cram "ACLE" into Silver Ground. You are not alone!

Loved this puzzle, and Pi Day was my favorite.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

Pi has a value of 3.14. March the fourteenth is often noted as 3/14. That's why it's Pi Day.

pabloinnh 7:18 AM  

How do I spell AKITA? Let me count the ways....

Knew something was going on early when I made the "ding"=CHIP connection but it took me all the way to CARBONDATED to figure out what was going on, which was OK, because waiting longer for an aha! moment increases the aha! factor significantly. Not sure of the number exactly, as I'm more of a Talk Like A Pirate Day guy than a Pi Day guy.

Also I'm very thankful that I've just been watching reruns of the excellent Ken Burns baseball documentary and had just seen that piece of information about Yogi Berra, or I'd still be floundering in the SW. Hand up for the "frequent fliers" misread. I'm with @Frantic in thinking this was deliberate and diabolical.

Thought this was just what I want in a Thursday, clever, fun good clues, made me feel smart. If the rest of the day is like this, I'll be a very happy man. Thanks a bunch, JM. Well done you.

Nate 7:19 AM  

What's with the pi day hate? Felt like... nerd-shaming??

Z 7:19 AM  

Meandering through the puzzle not really grokking any of the themers when I notice that -ILVER looks like it should be SILVER and “aground” starts with AG. I also had CHIP in place already for “siding” and, boom, the themers were basically done. Aha moment? Not so much. My first thought was actually It has been done. As for PI DAY, I’m calling “Foul!,” Given the them shouldn’t it have been Mole Day (celebrated in honor of Avogadro’s constant)?

Yeah, it works. But we’re basically playing around again with the “ooh letters can be made into different words ooh” factor. I’m pretty sure restating that letter-play based themes aren’t my thing would be beating dead octopodes. This is a step better than that in as much as words have to be reparsed to make the clues sensical, but still not my cuppa.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

I got thoroughly DOOKed today, staring at SAYAH for over a minute, thinking it can’t be a word but not knowing what to change to get rid of it.

Very nice puzzle today. In addition to the theme, we get YOGI BERRA, SMELL TEST, PINEAPPLE, and EAR CANAL. While I cringed at seeing BAE again, in this puzzle the good overwhelmed the bad.

Considered YEMENI before SOMALI. As the crow flies, it’s less than 100 miles from Yemen to Somalia. According to Google Maps, to drive, including taking ferries, it is more than 3500 miles. To drive without taking ferries, it is more than 8000 miles.

Todd 7:32 AM  

A puzzle I solved in my average Thursday time while having no idea what the long word clues meant. Needed Rex to explain. Not a fan of this one.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

A ding is not a chip. Most dings do not in fact chip the paint. But, hey, if you can't find a good word to put after Si, you can just use something from the same general area and hope no one notices. Sheesh.

Z 7:36 AM  

@Nate and others - Seriously people, get a thicker skin. PI DAY is dumb. Sophomoric even. As is Talk Like a Pirate Day and St. Patrick’s Day and especially New Year’s eve when you think about it. So what? Have fun. Make a pie. celebrate the wonders of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter being constant and get irrational. Some medievalist calls your fun “dumb?” Say, “well of course but it beats pondering the nine circles of hell.” Why the need to out-stodgy the stodgy? Keep getting upset about such off-handedness and before too long you’ll be arguing about the proper plural of octopus as if it’s important.

bocamp 7:42 AM  

Well done @Jack; right in my wheelhouse and a most enjoyable Thurs. Thank you! :)

Good start in the NW; got the "elements" idea quickly (which definitely helped the solve) and had no holdups. Well below av. time.

Still working to grok the full import of the theme answers vis-a-vis the clueing.

Write-overs: none.

New: "Ont" (ac); "Audi" (ac); "Marc".

Hazy: "Pom"; "churro"; "sagas"; "lean cut"; "pineapple"; "Sontag"; "AMC".

Side-eye: "yah".

Fav clues/answers: "blade"; "pi day"; "bat"; "pray"; "go see"; "polar"; "ski"; "toothless"; "sonny"; "coax"; "yada"; "Yogi Berra"; "smell test"; "labors"; "omega"; "aha".

WOTD: "Sontag"

LOTD: "Somali"

SOTD: "Joan Jett" - Crimson and Clover

FOTD: "churro"

My all-time favorite: "Yogi Berra"

Late '40s, early '50s, would wait on the porch for Dad to come home from work, so we could check the box score to see how "Yogi" and Yankees did the previous day.

y.d. n.p.g. -2 tabbed

Peace Nabad ฮตฮนฯฮฎฮฝฮท Frieden Paix ๅนณๅ’Œ Paz ๐Ÿ•Š

clk 7:48 AM  

I guess it takes all kinds. PIDAY was my favorite answer and it’s a pretty great holiday because who doesn’t like pie?

On the other hand, I was enraged that 22 across wasn’t a themer. I spent so much time trying to figure out how it fit. EARCANAL seemed obviously right, but where’s the element? Terrible, terrible editing.

dan 7:49 AM  

We don’t just celebrate PI DAY here at this ONT university, there’s a documentary about it. https://youtu.be/5IeOjeX9cWM

For that matter, we also celebrate the 314th day of the year, and we celebrate Pi Approximation Day (on 22/7. July 22), with cake.

Unknown 7:50 AM  

@David Fabish - of course we do! I've been waiting for this puzzle my whole life and I loved the science dad puns because I am a geek who loves pi day (not for the pie - I don't like pie) and May 4th and Star Trek. This was a PB for me as well, because hey, Iron Man.

Joaquin 7:58 AM  

@Z (7:36) - Ah-frickin-men, brother.

Anonymous 7:59 AM  

I struggled until I got the theme (which I liked) after getting enough crosses for SILVER BULLET. The rest of the puzzle was fine except for SMELL TEST. Seriously? It's SNIFF TEST!

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

I agree with @Z (7:19 post) that mole day (10/23) would have been better given the puzzle’s chemistry theme. My daughter’s high school made a big deal out of both of them - the first I had heard of either. My daughter even made a clay mole in honor of the day. The most interesting thing about them for me is that mole day is the day after my daughter’s birthday. Incidentally, mole day celebrates Avogadro’s number - 6.022 x 10 to the 23rd power. 3/14/15 was a particular favorite of Piday celebrators.

— Jim C. in Maine

TTrimble 8:05 AM  

I have to say, I thought this puzzle was awesome. Very clever cluing -- how long did it take to think those themers up? It was definitely an AHA moment for me, realizing what was going on (and I needed to understand the theme before I could complete).

Some missteps: let's see, I already had EAR CANAL and SILICON CHIP and was looking at 2D with ??I?A and remembered shIbA. You know, a Shiba Innu, made famous online some years back with Doge the meme dog. Anyway, the h looked entirely OK because it made Oh OK which definitely fits if you use the right annoyed-sounding intonation. And, Shiba sounds entirely plausible as a Japanese prefecture or whatever it was. But boy, did that get me stuck. I finally unstuck myself after quite a while.

My other misstep: I had CHURRa crossing LLANa. That seems in retrospect a very easy mistake for a Spanish-challenged solver to make. Have I ever had a CHURRO? I'm not sure. And LLANO is just not a word I have much occasion to use.

Unlike PI DAY which I do have reason to know about, since I'm (as many of you will have deduced) in a math department. Yeah, about Pi Day. I don't want my fellow math heads to get upset, but I'm sort of on Team Rex on this one: it's a little silly, and it's a little lame. Do we celebrate? Yeah, I guess we do. We hold a Pi Day which has math games, and contests including a dreaded contest to see who has memorized the most digits of pi, and cakes molded into the shape of the letter pi. I have a Pi Day tee-shirt which I like to wear sometimes because the colors are nice.

So I guess it's nice in the sense that it breaks up the routine and one can schmooze with students and faculty in a different setting, but as a rite with significance -- meh. It has a slightly desperate taint to it because it was invented by math teachers anxious to get across: Math Is Fun! Damn it, I know it's fun, why do you think I do it? I don't need Pi Day to have learned that lesson, because math is fun for much more profound reasons. And how fun does Pi Day turn out to be for high school students? Ask one.

As for the constant itself: I get it. Ask a RANDO to name a non-integer math constant, and this is likely what you'll hear. So pi wins the contest of having a day named after it. But as many mathematicians could tell you, maybe it's 2pi = 6.28... which should be more famous, being e.g. the positive generator of the kernel of the topological group homomorphism x |--> exp(ix) from the real line to the unit circle, or as something that shows up in statistics in the standard Gaussian 1/squareroot(2pi) times exp(-x^2/2). So why not June 28, as 2Pi Day? Or, hey, better yet, have an e day (that would be February 7) because e = 2.718... carries rights to mathematical fame which arguably exceed those of pi and 2pi. Or should we have Golden Ratio Day (January 6, I guess)? Let's celebrate all of them! Whoo hoo!

Z 8:08 AM  

@dan - we celebrate Pi Approximation Day (on 22/7. July 22), with cake. Perfect. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ

Blade 8:09 AM  

You just reminded me that Uriah Heep (Heap?) opened for Jethro Tull at my first concert in 1977. It was at the Fabulous Forum. Man, that’s really starting to sound like a long time ago!

Z 8:17 AM  

@TTrimble - Good point on CHURRO crossing LLANO. Definitely a suboptimal crossing. If you’ve never had a CHURRO specifically but have been to a county fair you’ve probably had something similar. Fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar has many variations beyond CHURROs and Elephant Ears, but the only essential difference is always just the shape.

Rube 8:37 AM  

Best puzzle in forever. Fun theme perfectly executed....and YOGI. I read it as fliers too. Great fill with so much good cluing and misdirection like PIDAY and SAYAH and OMEGA. I said to myself 'oh that's good" about 6 times. Normal is about a half a time.

mmorgan 8:42 AM  

I was baffled for a long time, especially since my knowledge of elementary symbols is minuscule. But somewhere in my brain is the knowledge that FE = iron and that made a lot more sense than NOT A MAN which sat there for awhile.

I like pi day but it’s not my favorite holiday.

Hungry Mother 8:43 AM  

I was a chem major for 3 semesters before switching to math, so the theme was easy for me. My solve was about half of my average time. The clue for PIDAY was great.

Hungry Mother 8:54 AM  

The first day of my college calculus class, the prof gave out a light-hearted pre-test. One of the questions was to write as many decimal places of Pi that you know. I wrote 13! In high school, in advanced Physics, we messed around with that kind of thing. I wonder how many in this commentariat have at least one PIDAY tee or sweatshirt? Count me in. My wife taught in room 314 in her Vo-Tech school and we now live on site 314 of our RV resort (trailer park). I think the math-haters are in the wrong arena.

A Grimwade 8:56 AM  

Pi Day = 3/14 = Einstein’s birthday (also mine). Everyone likes pie.
Better clue for CARBON DATED “Caged”?

Hungry Mother 9:00 AM  

My wife and I spent 4 months in Spain in 2003. Part of our daily schedule was a late afternoon stop at a local cafe to get a cafe con leche. At 5pm, all of the waiters distributed CHURROs to all of the tables. While in Spain, I read about the habit of the young people of Valencia to get thick hot chocolate with CHURROs at about 3am on Sunday mornings. Years later, on a cruise, we found ourselves in Valencia at about 3pm and enjoyed that same treat.

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

Churro/Llano is fair. Both words are Spanish in origin but have been adopted into English usage. Would an enchilada/mesa crossing be unfair?

Frantic Sloth 9:09 AM  

@Z 736am ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

@TTrimble 805am Isn't there a "movement" afoot to replace Pi (3.14) with Tau (6.28) as the better circle-mathy thing? I only heard of this after investigating the meaning of @Guilherme Gama's 658am comment.
I don't want to start a math war or interminable discussion, but it might be too late anyway...

Z 9:12 AM  

PPP Commentary

The Pop Culture, Product Names and other Proper Nouns count comes in at a NYTX typical 22 of 78 for 28%. This is in the range of what we get almost without exception. What really stood out to me today is what I’ve started calling the UPPP, unnecessary PPP. Today there are 7 answers that are only PPP because of their clues, MEGA, PINEAPPLE, RUIN, IM’ED, ORB, LABORS, and RUG. Of these 7 clues only 2 strike me as clever (“Herculean effort” and “Persian, e.g.”). and one struck me as just awful (I don’t know about you but using LifeSavers candy to get to PINEAPPLE is defensible but you better hire Perry Mason or Johnnie Cochran).*

I should add that this is apparently one of those unwritten rules, about 25-33% of your clues/and answers need to be PPP so if you don’t have enough add some through the clues. This is pretty much true of any puzzle I’ve checked, even the independent ones (although I haven’t systematically checked those). Personally, I think this puzzle would have been better if five of the UPPP had been clued cleverly rather than through trivia.

*I couldn’t come up with a 21st century defense lawyer to hire - the lawyer news is so overwhelmed with incompetence that the whole profession seems irreparably tarred.

Otto 9:14 AM  

I figured out the theme immediately after I filled in IRONMAN and from that was easily able to fill in all the other themers. From then on it was just a matter of the fill.

So, on the whole, I'd say that the theme being a bit too easy gave the puzzle away. Still, good one.

Millennial Falcon 9:16 AM  

Loooved this puzzle.

I tried to come up with other examples that would fit the theme. The only one I could muster was


gregg 9:16 AM  

Pi is important to all us mathematicians, scientists and engineers. So there...

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Pi Day was the cleverest clue in this one. Only the ignorant would say "ugh!"

Nancy 9:28 AM  

Oh, this was so much fun! Loved it to death. And struggled quite a bit in places. If you're not up to date on your chemical symbols, as I am not, you may not know whether to parse "Siding" as S-iding (asking an S for identification?) or SI-ding.

I was better on my Latin than on my English -- remembering that AG is silver and FE is iron, but not thinking of Oxygen for O (I'm thinking orange juice, don't ask!) and not thinking of Carbon for C (an old Cadillac or Chevy, maybe?) Admittedly, early on, I didn't know that all the themers would be based on chemical symbols. I picked that up at IRONMAN -- which I'm proud to have gotten from just the AN.

Also, there are some brilliant clues. "A constant celebration" for PI DAY is absolutely inspired. And to clue the metaphorical SMELL TEST as an actual test is wonderfully misleading, very playful, and quite funny. I had trouble figuring out the answer, even when I had S?ELL???T. And then when I got it, I laughed out loud. Delightful puzzle!

RooMonster 9:29 AM  

Hey All !
Well, smack my butt and call me stoopid. It seems I'm the only one so far who was totally lost at sea at what in tarhooties the themers had to do with the clues. Never caught the elements aspect. This needed a Revealer! ๐Ÿ˜

Stupid brain aside, I did finish puz, however, getting to the end with my impatience, and the North Center being uncracked, I had to Goog for Susan, because, you know, unsophisticated. Had __MenI in for SOMALI, with YAe for YAH, and not knowing theme, had a heck of a time trying to get SILICON CHIP. Plus, had can for ONT, even though CANs border is more like 3500 miles. So that whole area was a mess. Figured out ALI after running through a random Ann or Ana, and also looking up the definition of Wheedle, plus the Goog for Susan, and was able to finish.


@Hungry Mother 8:54
I have two Ultimate PI DAY T-shirts from 3/14/15, and actually made a toast at 9:25 AM with a beer! Even though 1) I'm not really a math person, and 2)that was rather early to drink a beer!

Couple writeovers, Cronut-CHURRO, cap-NUM (devious, that). And also read "filer" as "flier". Good stuff.

No F's ๐Ÿ™

Cankee Yanuck 9:30 AM  

I found this one on the easier side for a Thursday, although I solved it without ever figuring out the theme. Wordplay enlightened me.

Went through it fairly quickly but got hung up on 5D where ORLEAN sat in lieu of SONTAG until the very end. Also went with GOODCUT vs LEANCUT but found and fixed that error much quicker. Didn't realize until just now when I went back to look at it, but interesting cross of MEGA/OMEGA in the southeast.

RooMonster 9:34 AM  

"Things we're thankful for"

Our Pets, who have kept us going with companionship and keeping us sane, having someone to talk with when you're stuck in your house without having any outside communication. (Hey, fish qualify!)


Unknown 9:37 AM  

"How I need a drink, alcoholic of course."

If you get it, you probably sailed through today's puz.

1. rex has kind of an anti-science bias, or at least it's clearly not in his wheelhouse, hence his lukewarm reaction to what was an amazing puz
2. when he says he didn't time the puz, it's sort of like trump saying that we are turning the corner . . . . You hear the words, but you clearly don't believe them. "Untimed" means he was embarrassed by his "slow" finish time, even though he was way faster than you or I.

MarthaCatherine 9:41 AM  

All of you guys (and I use "guys" in the universal sense--the northern version of y'all [an abomination], if you will) are hilarious!

I think I'm going to try to diagram that sentence.

I thought I had the theme at 27A, and I figured out 36A easily, but I had to come here to figure out the theme because 22A seemed like a themer but didn't make themer sense.

Hand up for reading 30D as "Frequent fliers" until the bitter end.

Odd Sock 9:46 AM  

Give me a math and chemistry puzzle over pop music and television any day.
Loved it.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

I agree. Anything harmless (like “pi day”) should be “celebrated”, especially in these times.

TTrimble 9:55 AM  

@Frantic Sloth
Yes, I saw the comment by Mr. Gama, and as you can see I agree with him that tau = 2pi would have been better, but history has a way of making wrong turns. But I had better make clear that my "fervor" about the matter is pure pretense. If there were a 2pi rally somewhere, I'd surely like to attend, but tbh it's not really a topic or "movement" I hear much about, and any arguments I might have with someone about it would be one where I'm smiling all the way through.

When I lived in Chicago, there was a restaurant somewhere near the lake where was a custom for both customers and servers to yell obnoxiously and insult each other and get into mock arguments. It was all in fun. That's sort of how I picture myself getting into debates about this. I think I did once have an "argument" about this, but it was online and so maybe they couldn't see I was just funning them.

Declaiming on soap boxes is fun. I have a whole spiel lined up about how it shouldn't be miles per gallon, but gallons per mile. (Or cups per furlong, whatever would be convenient units to work with.) So far I've only dared try this out on my family or friends.

Pi_inLexKy 10:06 AM  

Pi Day is a thing and I celebrate it constantly. Every day in fact.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Because "Pi" is a constant and you "celebrate" it (really, do you?)

only the innumerate don't.

fliers -- filers yeah, what's interesting about the brain is that it sees the l and i flipped

What's with the pi day hate? Felt like... nerd-shaming??

no, just an extension of y'day educated folks shaming. only uneducated idiots are Real Americans. may be all those Real Americans will kill themselves with Covid? the latest Covid map (county level) shows MI just exploding. may be they'll take their AR-15s and have fun. or will the Blue states taxes pay to heal them?

Karl Grouch 10:07 AM  

A ding is not a chip. Dang, chap!

A talk shop in South America is a "locutorio".

Octopi day is eight times more fun.

Alex P 10:10 AM  

Easy work. One of my better Thursdays in quite a while. Though, enjoyable puzzle nonetheless. Biggest complaint is certainly EAR CANAL, which... was poorly clued.

bocamp 10:10 AM  

Went to bed last night thinking "elements", and almost immediately twigged on the "fe" = "iron" connection; voila, themers solved.

When attempting to decipher the themers, thot "carbonated", as did @Rex; no soap.

Actually read "filers" correctly and later realized I was lucky to have not read it as "fliers". As did @Frantic & @pabloinnh , thot it was likely intentional. I'm often guilty of misreading words. Again, gotta slow down a bit and focus more.

@dan 7:49 AM

Thx for the vid; nice to see folks having fun with math. :)

@RooMonster 9:34 AM ๐Ÿ‘

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

Ben Smith comments at "Diary of a Crossword Fiend": here.

p.g. -13

Peace Nabad ฮตฮนฯฮฎฮฝฮท Frieden Paix ๅนณๅ’Œ Paz ๐Ÿ•Š

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

does this one qualify as a reverse rebus?

Joaquin 10:16 AM  

Thank you fellow commenters for making me feel smart. I am the world's most non-scientist sort of guy, yet I caught the theme right away.

OTOH, I did try to fit "Manicurist" in for the "Frequent filer" clue.

Matt 10:16 AM  

I got the theme but EARCANAL was absolutely destroying me because the question mark made it seem like a themer and I could not figure out an element that fit!

TJS 10:19 AM  

Well, it says here that it took me 59:15 to finish this damn thing. Every time I wanted to rage -quit, something wouls come to me out of the blue. Susan Sontag came from the depths. "churro". " Piday".

Finished without having any thematic idea whatsoever, and if I had had it explained to me in advance, I doubt if it would have helped. But I have to rate this one highly if the crosses of the themes led me to real words eventually.

Gotta love Yogi: "Copacabana ? Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

jae 10:21 AM  

Easy. I caught the theme about half way in and finish in a trice. Clever, liked it a bunch and Jeff gave it POW.

Yep > Yup > yea > YAH

hi c > POM

Sad to find out that GLOW on Netflix with MARC Maron and Allison Brie will not be back for the final season.

GILL I. 10:22 AM  

Oh look....I just know that somewhere down the line someone is going to ask me the number of protons in the nuclei of its atoms....right?
So I'm staring at this. My EAR CANAL almost exploded when I got to IRON MAN. Ooooh lookie here....Fe is the chemical element for IRON. So that's what we're doing here.....It's all elementary my dear. And I go on my merry way. Sorta. Anyway, the jig was up and I tried real hard to figure some of these out. My one big HUH de jour was EAR CANAL. That had a "?" in it...and the clue was Sound track? Does ear have a So chemical? I went on to my usual wondering. So deaf? The Soo CANAL? So I just left that area and went on to my other huh. 36D. IMED is something you discussed over Slack? Who's Slack? Why was he IMED? I'm leaving on a JETT plane. Oh look...another "?" at 52D...A constant celebration....Does PI have something to do with AC? I want a constructor to include Hoodie-Hoo day, or better yet, Bubble wrap appreciation day.
So I managed to finish but I had to Google that guy MARC. I did the Fandango when I was able to get YOGI BERRA off the Y. I mean who doesn't know "It's like deja vu all over again"......My other favorite is "The future ain't what it used to be." Yay for Yogisms. We need a puzzle full of them.
The only thing that made me ugh was seeing PINEAPPLE.. I loved Life Savers. They may have been the first candy I ate but I hated PINEAPPLE. I would buy them with the quarter my dad gave me. My sister always wanted to share and I told her I'd give her half of mine if she cleaned my room. She did. And because half of the lifesavers were Pineapple, she got all of them. She also hated them.
@TTrimble. The very first time I had CHURROS was on New Years Day in Madrid. It was tradition to have chocolate con churros at San Gines in the Puerta de Sol at 2am. They supposedly got rid of any hang-over you had (sorta like Mexico's menudo). They are VERY sweet and greasy (sorta like pizza - but with sugar) and they give you heartburn. Other than that....they are delicious.

Newboy 10:33 AM  

I’ll Read Rex & previous comments later, but just wanna say this was a perfect Thursday. Many tricky clues leading to groans and a reveal that made impossible entries crystal clear....after what seemed an eon of head scratching. Bravo Mr. Murtagh!

kitshef 10:42 AM  

@Untimed 9:37. Rex recently announced he was experimenting with not timing himself. That is why for the last, month(?) or so, he has either not posted times or has only posted approximations.

**math alert**
@TTrimble - given two positive integers that are co-prime (x and y), it is fairly easy to calculate the largest number that cannot be obtained by adding multiples of x and y (that is, expressible as ax + by, where a and b are non-negative integers). Specifically, that number is xy-x-y. As an example, given 5 and 12, there is no way to express 5 x 12-5-12 = 43 by adding multiples of 5 and 12. But every number from 44 on up is expressible as multiples of 5 and 12.

The question is - can that be generalized to three or more co-prime positive integers? I have been wondering about this (of and on) for more than 40 years and have never come up with an answer.
**end of math alert**

Carola 10:45 AM  

Memories of a SImilar puzzle made this an easy one. I thought the elements were nicely disguised and enjoyed the juxtapositions of PINEAPPLE and TOOTHLESS (exercise in frustration) and YOGI BERRA and a post-game locker room SMELL TEST.

ow a paper cut 10:47 AM  

Loved this. The more science references the better.

Z 10:47 AM  

@Rรผmonster - Well, you and OFL.

@TTrimble - Did you know that in ONT they do litres per 100 kilometers? It’s like golf, lower numbers are better.

@Karl Grouch 10:07 - Octopi - ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
Also, your comment made me wonder about the plural of PI. I’m going to urinate all over PIS and suggest PIOPODES works better. PII looks too much like the 25th letter of the Greek Alphabet, so no hypercorrective Latinization allowed.

Jeff Ford 10:53 AM  

It’s also a good excuse to eat pie. What is wrong with that?

Whatsername 10:54 AM  

Had a feeling I’d be in the minority today surrounded as I am by all you brainy chemical scientific types, and I see that my suspicions are justified. Honestly, sometimes I feel like a TOOTHLESS yokel in this crowd. I managed to complete the puzzle but had to come here to find out how the themer clues translated to the answers. And that 22A wasn’t one. Actually I did have an inkling there was a chemical SMELL in the air but it was only a pffft - which is where a revealer would have come in handy. It still would not have been easy, but it might’ve at least given me a fighting chance.

To quote OFL: “Luckily I caught this one soon enough to be impressed by the cluing cleverness.” NOT.

Despite my frustrations, all is forgiven because I got to revisit this delightful episode of Seinfeld, a field of study much more in my intellectual wheelhouse than chemistry: YADA YADA YADA

mathgent 10:54 AM  

I think that Groundhog Day gets more media attention than Pi Day.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Please help me with 62 across. Why “mrs?” Jim

TTrimble 11:02 AM  

I did the same thing with "Sound track?", thinking at first it was a mirror image of a themer and so had to be a themer itself. Oops.

The nerds shall inherit the earth.

1441 digits, that's dang good. Some of you may have heard of the savant Daniel Tammet. From the Wikipedia page: "Tammet set the European record for reciting pi from memory on 14 March 2004 - recounting to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes. He revealed in a French talk show on Radio Classique on 29 April 2016, that this event inspired Kate Bush's song "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZSHr5E7fZY>Pi</a>" from her album Aerial.

(NB: this is not how mathematicians spend their time. I swear to God!)

However, pie-eating contests without utensils: gross. I'd lose that. Every year, when the news comes on about Nathan's hot-dog eating contest and Joey Chestnut, I have to look away.

Sounds good! On the rare occasion when I need a hangover cure, it's usually something like a diner or Five Guys. The solution you describe sounds classier to this Yank.

Cc’d 11:03 AM  

And a way to try and get students interested in math.

oopsydeb 11:15 AM  

I'm disappointed that you didn't include a Joan Jett video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpNw7jYkbVc

I have no idea when Pi Day became a thing, but I'm not going to complain about a prompt to bake and gift and eat pies in the middle of the semester.

Pete 11:15 AM  

@Z 10:47 PIUS. Did you know that Pi Day was invented by Pope Pius I, a retronym formed by the time they got to Pius III. He was originally Pope Pi (and oh boy, did he love Pi day), then there was Pi II, and when they got to Pi III they realized they were going to have a multitude of Pis, so they went with PIUS, and the I, II, ..., XII to differentiate among them.

I took 21 credits (enough to qualify as a major in most disciplines) of Chem in college, hated every one of them, and am sick of Crossword Puzzles as Periodic Table quizzes. I majored in math, got my masters in math, ABD PhD in math, and can attest that Pi Day is stupid.

TTrimble 11:15 AM  

Interesting question! I have some work to do today (and so now I'm procrastinating and shouldn't be). But by three numbers being coprime, do you mean that any two are coprime, or that the gcd of all three is 1?

There's a site that you might be interested in where you could ask your question: Mathematics StackExchange. (Warning: it's heavily trafficked; no guarantee that your question would be addressed.)

I see your name often here, but I wasn't even aware that you liked mathematics!

TTrimble 11:17 AM  

Didn't know that! That's very enlightened of them.

Z 11:27 AM  

@Anonymous Jim - MRS. Fields was huge in the Mall Cookie Store niche once upon a time when Malls were the place teens hung out on Saturday nights.

Ann Howell 11:31 AM  

Was bumbling along, not getting the themers at all until I got to 36 and tried "NOT A MAN" (which I was already grumbling about) and then with the downs finally figured out the correct "IRON MAN" - then I got the "click" and the other themers were more manageable and fun. No clunkers - pretty neat, solid Thursday!

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

You tell `em!! Why in the world would people celebrate the most useful ratio in teh history of mathematics. What has understanding the mathematical verities ever done for humanity.
Thank God we you're out there championing tings like The Bechdel test and the eternal wisdom of Nancy Cartoons.

Whatsername 11:34 AM  

@Roo: I’m right there in the row behind you in the stoopid section of the class today. To say there are GAPS in my scientific knowledge would be a major understatement. Thankful for our pets - OMG yes! You could not have chosen anything I am more grateful for than my furry little companions. On any given day they make my day, but during this unsettled time of fear and loathing they have saved my sanity and soothed my soul. Confinement has not been so solitary thanks to their ever loving and loyal presence.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  


Down boy, down!!! By legend, Isaac Newton was the last person to know enough about everything, to be considered to know everything.

egsforbreakfast 11:41 AM  

I see no reason to not celebrate 2 pi day, as we already cherish 3 Dog Night.

Have you noticed that Convenience Store Chain day always falls one week after Independence Day?

Great theme idea. Well executed. I fell for Frequent filers. Probably read the clue 4 times before doing so accurately. Very, very nice puzzle Jack Murtagh.

Tom R 11:42 AM  

What a stupid theme. Makes no sense to me even after the explanation. Also, I found the SW brutal. Combine these two things and I cannot say that I enjoyed this puzzle.

BTW, before I click below to post this, why has it being required that I sign into a google account AND look at the picture question? It used to be I could just check the captcha box and that was that.

pabloinnh 11:43 AM  

@yogi lovers-

This is my now favorite Yogi quote, which I heard on the aforementioned "Baseball" series--

A teacher gave Yogi his abominable test paper back and said "You don't know anything, do you?" to which Yogi replied "Know anything? Hell I don't even suspect anything."

@GILL I-Yep, chocolate y churros at San Gines, only I was there at 4AM and had to eat the leftovers. Not recommended.

Also not true, I don't think, but I wasn't in much shape to remember.

What? 11:44 AM  

30 triplets! Wow. Goes against the Shortz rules but a great puzzle. What about those rules now?

liz 11:44 AM  

PI Day (3.14) is also the day that MIT sends out acceptances at 1:59. They like the nerd cleverness.

Masked and Anonymous 12:07 PM  

M&A's ahar moment came late in the game, as it did for many others. Lost valuable nanoseconds, lookin and lookin for the revealer, during the solvequest. Thought this ThursPuz had real good chemistry, overall.

staff weeject pick -- 30 choice bonanza! Trip stacks, NE & SW. Quad stacks! gurgle.
fave weeject was AHA, as its puzgrid position well reflects the timin of M&A's theme mcguffin AHA. Also its clue about {Carbon licking sound?} was intriguin. Honrable mention must be given to plural abbreve meat MTS.

Lotsa good longballs, too boot. fave, like @RP, was SMELLTEST. Also EARCANAL's clue was primo stuff.

FLUORINELUBE coulda had that 48-A clue. FLUORINEPRELUBE coulda maybe had that 3-D clue, but yeah that's quite a stretch. Anyhoo, just wanted to sneak in @Roo's fave element symbol.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Murtagh dude.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Joe Dipinto 12:08 PM  

Wasn't it Yogi Berra who said:
"If people don't want to celebrate Pi Day, no one can stop them?"

But it's alright, we can still go on

GHarris 12:09 PM  

Not being of a scientific or mathematical bent I wholly identify with the commentary of @ Whatsername. Managed to complete the puzzle without getting the theme and sorely could have used a revealer.
This being a Thursday I was on the lookout for a rebus and tried to force one when I had blank iday. Figured it was “Fr” but no.
Nevertheless, enjoyed the exercise.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Anon 11:33,

I know enough to distinguish between not knowing something and crapping on ots worth. And that's what Rex did, and what I charged him with. Try to keep up.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

@Anonymous 11:38 You mean until @Z.

Frantic Sloth 12:19 PM  

@TTrimble 955am I might feel at home in that restaurant. Don Rickles was always a favorite of mine growing up. Well, getting older anyway. Re: Tau vs Pi - I watched a couple of videos and once my head stopped spinning, I learned, wait for it...nothing. But, I might have picked up a gossamer layer of something or other. (Gee. I hope they have shots for that.) Yay, me!

@Whatsername 1054am I'll sit with you on that Seinfeld bench anytime! I've said before that most of what-passes-for-knowledge-in-my-head comes from cartoons, sitcoms and movies. We may be dull, but we are mighty. Or as Bugs Bunny might have said, "The few, the proud, the maroons."

@pabloinnh 1143am Thanks for the Yogi quote - love it! Not sure I've heard it before either. New stuff. Happy dance.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

Liked it a lot. Don't know how I managed to happily solve 95% of it - even PINEAPPLE, PI DAY, YOGI BERRA, EAR CANAL and many others - without ever getting the theme until I read Rex! Alas, CHURROS did me in. I wanted bear claws, although I don't know if they're fried. Theme was a nice change. I get tired of baseball, golf, football, Spanish, Yiddish and Greek letter clues. This had a minimum (Yogi Berra) (churro), so that was refreshing. Surprised (and kind of missed) that there were no dreidels, etc., for Hannukah, although I guess the Mini-puzzle covered that pretty thoroughly.

Pi Day reminds me of two things:

1. My husband got obsessed with pi when he was drilling math into our poor son when he was younger. After he expounded on it at length at a family gathering, an engineer friend who was there looked at him with a puzzled expression and asked "who cares about pi?"

2. A restaurant called Baker's Square that my mom and I used to go to occasionally in her later years, had Pie Day every Wednesday - a free piece of pie with any lunch. They had all the familiar favorites, plus some exotic concoctions - all were delicious - and I gave up on my diet several times to indulge. Who could resist? Good times, good times. - newbie

TTrimble 12:34 PM  

The problem you posed doesn't have such a simple solution as the case of just two coprime integers x, y, where xy - x - y is the largest natural number that is not a nonnegative integral linear combination of x, y. In other words, your question is not only a good one, but one that mathematicians have thought about but have made only limited progress on.

There is a lot of information given in the Wikipedia article on the coin problem. Incidentally, I interpreted your coprimality condition as saying gcd(x, y, z) = 1.

gringa 12:35 PM  

Why is there no explanatory clue for the theme?

Also: Am I the only one who thought the other lengthy 2 word


muddled with the themers?

They all had clever cluing that made you think they might be part of a theme, especially since the actual themers were completely incomprehensible b/c I didn't figure out the TABLE OF ELEMENTS" trick until I finished.

Another Anon 12:35 PM  

I don't know. Please define "reverse rebus".

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Yeah, I also ended CHURRO with an "a" and LLANO with an "a" after guessing wrong between "o" and "a." A little frustrating to be so close. Although I did get AHA. And I 'm proud of it! (But my mind keeps going to Charo - remember her?)

Celebrate everything! As much as possible! Pets! Pi! Charros curing hangovers (but only in Spain? I wonder)!

Pi Day? C'mon, people, you've got to love nerds. They're so cute. And earnest. Let them have their fun! - newbie

Anonymous 12:53 PM  


In the sense that the first part of the clue word is a 'symbol', aka rebus.

old timer 12:56 PM  

My youngest daughter was born on PI DAY, so it is celebrated at my house. She and her sisters are sixth-generation pie makers, and the oldest actually worked in a bakery, making pie (and bagels and scones)before going into the nursing field.

I was as confused as the rest of you, but I did figure out that Oration = O(xygen) ration, or OXYGEN SUPPLY. Got IRONMAN on crosses and figured that one out. SILVER BULLET remains a mystery.

The Joker 12:57 PM  

Hurray for pets, Roo. On Late Night Seth Myers cited a survey showing that 86% said their pets had been very important in dealing with the Covid crisis. The other 14% had cats.*

*Don't yell at me. I love cats! (But it's funny)

TTrimble 12:59 PM  

The image burned into my brain from that restaurant is that one of our servers had stuffed her blouse with two balloons, and some from our table felt entitled to reach out and squeeze them. Don't remember if they popped. Bet some of us were drunk. Wonder what happened to that restaurant.

Added later: it might have been Dick's Last Resort, but I'm not sure. Would've have been in the late 90's. It wasn't Wiener's Circle, another Chicago outlet where the servers specialize in smack talk.

old timer 1:07 PM  

Let me also reminisce about a memorable day in my life. My best friend and I camped out in the Sierra north of Madrid on a very cold night, and woke up around 6 a.m. As we started the car, I told him we could have churros and chocolate for breakfast. So in the first village we came to, I called out to an early riser, "Donde esta' la churreria?" Yep, there was one! Bought a bunch of churros and ate them with chocolate at the cafe. All villages in Spain have a cafe, which opens early, and usually doubles as the town bar at night.

Teedmn 1:14 PM  

I have so many things I could say about how I went wrong while solving this puzzle especially how I finally reached my AHA moment. But in essence, I solved, like Rex, as a themeless and then went back to decipher the theme successfully, an occurrence as uncommon as a shark attack.

5D as Susan ORLEAN and 35A Juice brand as HI-C added my daily black ink to the grid. I loved the clues for PI DAY and AHA.

I did notice, in my theme search, that each one had an elementary answer. I pulled up a picture of the Periodic Table and tried to draw a picture on it, Liz Gorski style, connecting said elements. Nothing interesting happened but it did get me thinking of IRON as Fe, which is when the AHA hit.

Jack Murtagh, I liked your puzzle, thanks!

GILL I. 1:14 PM  

Ay...@pablito. I wonder if we ever met up and didn't even know it. Maybe wandering around the Retiro park or maybe Christmas time at the Plaza Mayor. Eating cochinillo at Casa Botin? Shopping at El Corte Ingles? Strolling along the Gran Via? Staring at the Schweppes sign? I miss Spain.......

Malsdemare 1:19 PM  

I finished the puzzle in good time, congratulating myself for getting PIDAY—which I celebrate, I mean why not?—YOGI, SONTAG, SMELLTEST, TALKSHOP, and lots more. But I did NOT get the theme and so I feel stupid.

I know chemistry, for god's sake, even though it’s more memorable for the shenanigans it took to pass. I blew through chem 1 easy-peasy; went to an awesome high school. I tried the same with Chem 2 and feel flat on my face. Desperate, I went to see the prof and because I was little and damn cute, he promised me a D as long as I took no more science. Elated I took the final practically with my eyes closed, only to have the guy DIE two days later. I was sure I'd fail and lived in terror until grades were mailed several weeks later. Turns out I passed. So either he had my grade already recorded, maybe everyone's grades?, he graded his test almost instantly (unlike me), or I miracled on that final. Anyway, i know the damn periodic table and still failed to get the theme. Shit!

And @Roo, yes, yes, yes, my fur buddies are what get me through these days. Gonna take my girl for a hike this lovely afternoon, after I get my knees shot up.

Oh, and I obeyed my promise and never took another science class. Turns out that was a mistake. Working on my PhD I discovered I have a very good math-science brain, though it tends more to statistics and technology.

kitshef 1:57 PM  

@TTrimble 11:15. I meant that any two are coprime, because I assume that would be the easier case to answer. But I'd be interested in either variant.

I call this puzzle the 'chicken mcnugget' problem. I don't know whether it is still true, but McDonalds used to sell McNuggets in 6-, 9-, and 20- piece sizes (your gcd = 1 variant). The question started out as a curiousity as to the smallest number of McNuggets it was impossible to order. Once I got that, I then started to try more general cases. Two coprimes was fairly easy, and anything else has proven insoluble (to my brain) and unGoogleable.

Oh! and now I see your 12:34 post. I will check out the "coin" problem and the website you mentioned.

JC66 2:05 PM  

@old timer

AG is the symbol for SILVER.

A round is a BULLET (how many rounds does this gun hold?).

ergo: Aground = SILVER BULLET

kitshef 2:07 PM  

@TTrimble - and now that I have read the Wikipedia article, I see I was not the only one inspired by McNuggets

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

I'm sorry but isn't there some kind of rule that if the theme clues all end with a question mark, there should not be a non-theme clue which ends in a question mark, as in 22A Sound track? How is the solver possibly supposed to know that this is not a themed clue? Not fair!!

Mr. Cheese 2:14 PM  

I know a guy who counted to Infinity, twice.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

I don't know how many people follow Rex on twitter. He retweeted Mike Lee smugly solving yesterday's xword. I was a bit dubious of the rant yesterday, but now I get it.

Frantic Sloth 2:21 PM  

@The Joker 1257pm I love cats, too. Perhaps, more importantly, I know them as well. So that little joke is funny!

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

where the servers specialize in smack talk.

I dunno man. Durgin Park, was at least, reknowned the world over for servers with tude. That's in Faneuil Hall. Well was, it turns out. The wiki has the obit.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

@Anonymous 2:15 I know right? I mean who could ever accuse rex of being smug, self important or self righteous.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

JC 66,

Nope. A round is a shell or a cartridge packaging a bullet ( or slug).

It's too perfect that this bit of ignorance appears in a NY Times related blog. The paper of record routinely gets almost everything about guns and ammunition wrong.

ghthree 2:51 PM  

For Kitchef 10:42 and Trimble 11:15:
If you look up "Chinese Remainder Theorem" you should get more than enough hits to
bring you up to date on the state of the art.

Douglas 3:14 PM  

For the same reason that May 4 is Star Wars day! Just another excuse for us nerds to celebrate.

Karl 3:22 PM  

I found this one very tough as I messed up a few of the critical crosses and it took me until my third pass through the clues to figure out the revealer. And I read the clue as "Frequent flier" on all 3 passes so even though I ended up with CPA, I was not confident.

TTrimble 3:22 PM  

@Mr. Cheese
The kid who learned about math on the street.

@Frantic Sloth
Ah! Let me guess: you watched the Vi Hart video (linked at this Scientific American article, talking about tau). All her videos are like that: frenetic (Frantic?) pace. But in this case she hits all the right points.

And you're right -- there is a movement underfoot! Who knew?

Between that and mention of ONT's chosen unit for measuring fuel efficiency (Z's 10:47), I'm clearly in the vanguard.

Z 3:23 PM  

@Tom R - If you are signed into your google account you don’t have to do the captcha even though it is there. It is the single best reason to go blue.

@Anon2:45 - Synecdoche. It’s not actually a town in New York.

@12:16 - I don’t actually know everything. Just more than you. ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž

@kitshef and @TTrimble - If you’re going to go esoteric math conundrums you could at least explain uncommon terms like “co-prime.”

TTrimble 3:33 PM  

I am thoroughly familiar with CRT. I just wanted to make sure kitshef and I were in agreement on the terms, before looking into his/her question any further.

pabloinnh 3:35 PM  

@GILL I-My Spanish family didn't live anywhere near downtown and I was pretty broke so I don't know if we would have run into each other outside of Filosofia y Letras.

My university did spring for a nice dinner for our whole group at Botin, and we indeed had cochinillo, which was delicious. After dinner one of the many tunas from around town showed up to serenade us and they wanted to know if any of us was a singer. Everybody pointed at me and said Pablo! so I joined in. I had only been in Madrid a couple of months and knew maybe one or two tuna favorites, but no worries, as the song I joined them in was "Strangers in the Night", in English. Good times.

GILL I. 3:50 PM  

@pablito....I spent a year at Filosofia y Letras!!!!!. Were you there during the student riots....?????
Sorry, folks....some memories never fade. Feel free to join in if you have CHURROS memories......

Greg 3:58 PM  

I started out with SILVERDOLLAR for Ag"round".

I always have pie on Pi day.

Unknown 4:01 PM  

@ Tom R 11:42
"What a stupid theme. Makes no sense to me even after the explanation."

Hmmmm I don't mean to be snarky, but if the theme makes no sense to you, even after explanation, I don't think it's because the *theme* is necessarily stupid. . . . It could simply be beyond your comprehension. We've all been there. No worries.

And if you're really stuck and want to get unstuck, just ask Z to explain it to you. He's pretty much the smartest person on this blog.

Frantic Sloth 4:08 PM  

@TTrimble 322pm Ha! Never even got to that one! Watched this guy, but had to stop when he started sounding like the teacher from Peanuts.

The progression:
1. Eager to learn something new
2. Sit up and listen intently
3. Ooop! Missed that...rewind
4. Okay...I guess that's clear
5. Wait - what?
6. Blah blah blah
7. Eyes take on that glaze only familiar to headlit deer and Forrest Gump.
8. Come here and comment.

@pabloinnh 335pm I know tuna must have something Spanish to do with music or singing, but all I can think of is "Luca Brasi sings with the fishes."

Kathy 4:11 PM  

Another hand up for FLIER, for not grokking the theme, and for thinking EAR CANAL was part of it. Despite this trifecta, I still finished and it even seemed easy for a Thursday.

@Mathgent. Loved your bonus themers! I tried to think of just one, and that made me realize it’s not nearly as easy as it looks. I now have more appreciation for the puzzle, that’s for sure.

@TTrimble. Gallons per mile makes more sense when fuel efficiency is the issue. However, from a strictly practical perspective (providing you know your fuel tank’s capacity) if your fuel indicator shows a quarter of a tank left and you need to figure out if you can make it to your destination without finding a gas station, knowing your approximate MPG will be more useful because it only requires a quick visual and mental calc. Doing the GPM math while driving would probably make my head explode.

kitshef 4:30 PM  

@ghthree - Looked at a few Chinese Remainder Theorem sites - enough to know it was way over my head and can't see how it relates to the McNugget problem. [aside -- man, I wish more people would go blue so we could do this off blog.]

TTrimble 5:09 PM  

CRT doesn't really relate to your problem, in any way useful that I can see. I think @ghthree was referring only to the notion of coprimality: one famous formulation of CRT involves an assumption of moduli being pairwise coprime. But it doesn't speak to the nonnegativity condition on the integer coefficients that you are really interested in.

But yeah, I'll see if I can reach you through your blue, and we can take this offline. I understand why this might not be comfortable discussing here.

pabloinnh 5:21 PM  

@GILL I--Yep, I was there for the riots. Fall of 67-Spring of 68. Classes got moved all over.

@Frantic-Your inference is spot on. A "tuna" is a student group of singers. Varies in size. They dress in academic robes, ribbons for decorations, stringed instruments--guitars, mandolins, etc. Different schools have their own. If you look on youtube for "Tuna de la.." I'm sure you'll find lots of examples. I'd look for a song called "Clavelitos", but that's just because I like it.

BarbieBarbie 5:31 PM  

@Z, take it from a chemist: pi is an important constant in chemistry. But yeah, Pi Day is sort of silly. As are most of those other Days.

sanfranman59 6:14 PM  

Puzzle thoughts ... This was kinda like today's WSJ puzzle solve for me since I had no idea why the heck I was entering what I was for the themers until after I submitted my solution. I don't fault the puzzle for that though. It was just an uncomfortable feeling hitting the submit button when I didn't know why the theme answers were correct.

Shouldn't the clue for LLANO {46D: Grassy plain of the Southwest} be "Grassy plain of South America"? Do we call it that in the US? I thought we called it a grassy plain. EKED {47D: Stretched (out)}? Merriam-Webster lists this as an archaic meaning.

This sure has been an easy week for me so far with the NYT Crossword. In fact four out of the last five weeks have been awfully easy. Am I still getting better at this after all these years or have the puzzles actually been easier? Maybe a little of both?

@Anon (7:33am): For the record, the Merriam-Webster definition of ding: "instance of minor surface damage (such as a dent)". But "minor surface damage" could just as easily be a chip.

Z 6:44 PM  

@BarbieBarbie - ?
Oh... Because of my Mole Day comment. It took me several nanoseconds to figure out what I said that generated your comment. Fair enough, but I would not normally associate PI with chemistry anywhere near as much as I would associate it with math while I still remember all the mole calculations we did in HS Chem (I don’t remember how to do it, just that we did it. a lot.).

@Unknown 4:01 - I hope you remembered to genuflect as you typed my name.

@sanfranman59 - re:LLANO - I had the same thought as you but both American Heritage and Merriam-Webster list it. Merriam-Webster says: an open grassy plain in Spanish America or the southwestern U.S. Alrighty then. Until I looked it up I would have characterized it as “Spanglish” but it seems to be in the language now.

Susan E 6:49 PM  

A friend taught AP Calculus for years and every March 14 brought in a pie for his class.

Sami 7:25 PM  

I'm with @Frantic, on the filers vs. fliers, debit.

This was hard. I didn't have a clue about the theme. I had to cheat on Maron. Double debit.

Unknown 8:02 PM  

@ Z 6:44 If "guffaw" is a synonym for "genuflect," why then yes sir, I did indeed.

Anonymous 8:10 PM  

I believe there's only one LLANO worth mentioning in the US, the Llano Estacado in northwestern TX and eastern NM. It's been called that for quite a while.

Charles Young 8:15 PM  

Pi does not EQUAL 3.14. Just sayin’.

RPCV Cameroon 8:51 PM  

I met Julian Lennon at a benefit for the Lupus Foundation of America. Lucy (as in Lucy in the sky with diamonds ) was a childhood friend of John Lennon who died of lupus (as did my late sister in law). The song is about a picture of her in the sky with diamonds not about LSD

Nancy 9:52 PM  

@Z (7:19) says this has been "done" before and links to the puzzle in question. And I'm thinking: I adored today's; how come I don't remotely remember any other puzzle like it? So I go to the link and, no, it's like today's! It's one of those arbitrarily placed tiny little circles puzzles. A real word or phrase turns out to have embedded within it, say, FE and IRON in the same line. You can solve the puzzle without even once noticing. It's one of those puzzles that's all about the feat of construction and that leaves nothing special or unusual for the solver to do or to think about. I hate embedded letter puzzles -- especially when the annoying tiny little circles are randomly placed. So to talk about this terrific puzzle -- which requires the solver to figure out the gimmick -- and the other puzzle in the same breath is to me blasphemous. All they have in common is that they're about chemical symbols.

Paul 10:34 PM  

I was confused for so long because EAR CANAL was clued as if it was a themer. Why use the question mark in the clue if it isn't a themer? Ditto for 56A. Frustrating inconsistency.

Proud Mamma 10:48 PM  

I got it as soon as I saw the answer female.

albatross shell 11:11 PM  

Did not get here til way late due to chainsawing more dying Hemlocks in the back yard.

Entertaining puzzle, entertaining commentary.
Like @Amy Powell, did not get the theme until IRONMAN, which was my last fill because I had put cap instead of NUM. I knew the c was going to be N but forgot about NUM for the longest time. Then a terrific aha as the theme fell in place. Got CPAS but didn't get it til I returned to the clue a few times.

Sorry but I can’t resist.
@Pete 1115am.
I really enjoyed your post on the history of Popeopodes and Piupodes.

Monty Boy 12:23 AM  

Is Jack Murtagh related to Danny??

Pirate Fan

Jill 2:27 AM  

No, because Avogadro's number isn't irrational. In order for endless celebration to work as a clue, the word has to reference an irrational number.

Jill 2:29 AM  

I mean, I am not offended or anything, but why you gotta go around yucking others' yum? It's so so so easy to be nice in this instance.

Anonymous 8:09 PM  

@Nancy, did @Z make that remark in his 23rd or 28th comment here?

CLB 2:39 AM  

I guess I'm the only one who thinks that YAH is quite possibly the worst answer ever put in a NYT puzzle.

tajmohammadshaikh1000@gmail.com 7:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roy Dimaggio 9:32 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
spacecraft 10:50 AM  

There he goes again with the "easy" (???) rating. Makes me so mad...

Obviously, I struggled mightily with this, building up MTS. of triumph points. In the end, I did get to cash them in, though. Start with: no AHA! moment?? I had a huge one. I think it finally dawned on me with Aground, when I had a SILV- beginning. After that, the ? clues that had me so baffled became clear--all except that last one, C[old]. Post-solve, I figured that one out too.

Nor was the fill all that easy. This was a battery of Saturday-level clues on a Thursday. The experience was equivalent to a double dose of Prevagen. Limber up the old gray cells! DOD is Joan JETT. Eagle.

Diana, LIW 11:34 AM  

Perhaps on the "easy" end of the Thursday scale, but it wasn't until I sat down with this the second time that it started to reveal itself. And like @Spacey, I give myself triumph points... OTOH - I love those "Saturday-level clues" so much more than PPP that I can NEVER suss out because I simply don't know a piece of trivia. Give me wordplay any day.

@Rondo - I looked back at yesterday, and said a prayer for you and your Mrs. You were blessed.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Don 1:50 PM  

I knew a math teacher who waited 2 years to marry her husband on March 14. 2015. It obviously meant something to her...

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Not worth the fuss.

thefogman 2:40 PM  

This is one that must have seemed like a great idea to both the constructor and the editor. The gimmick was NOT OK, OK? I’m surprised it passed the SMELLTEST.

thefogman 2:43 PM  

PS - What’s the deal with Roy Dimaggio?

Diana, LIW 3:29 PM  

@Foggy - I had the same question about RD. So far it just seems like he (she?) is creating a border between the Syndies and FutureLand.

Lady Di

Burma Shave 3:34 PM  


“It’s RARE that we in CYST he pull it.”
or does IRONMAN just PEA?”


leftcoaster 5:25 PM  

OK,OK, I got it, but not especially impressed with some of themers’ chemistry clues and answers.

Elsewhere, the M in the iMED/MARCO cross was the last letter to GOSEE.

Lots of good stuff here, but not lots of fun.

Anonymous 5:32 PM  

@TTrimble 12:59pm
Ed Debevic's was the name of the restaurant.

rondo 6:21 PM  

@D,LIW has periodically told us to memorize the table. Now work on your various gods.

Doesn't get much better than "Easy Livin'" by URIAH Heep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c7ceMUZZl8

Or yeah BAE BAE Joan JETT.

Not a bad puz, but way too many threes

strayling 6:45 PM  

So that's why that Uriah Heep album was called "Very 'Eavy, Very 'Umble". I know it's in my basement somewhere ... time for a spelunk!

wcutler 12:37 AM  

RooMonster 9:29 AM said: "Well, smack my butt and call me stoopid. It seems I'm the only one so far who was totally lost at sea"
No, I was more lost. I knew which answers were theme answers, but never got that they included element symbols or how the answers related to the clues, and I didn't get any of the bottom left three columns. Today, I REALLY appreciated this blog!

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