Toy company that made Etch A Sketch a success / WED 12-16-20 / 2002 musical that won eight Tonys / Iditarod pace setter / Home of Minoan civilization

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Constructor: Ed Salners and Alex Eaton-Salners

Relative difficulty: Medium (untimed)

THEME: GOVERNMENT BONDS (59A: Treasury notes ... or what the two sides of 17-, 23-, 37- and 52-Across are joined with?) — two-word phrases, each with a three-letter "government" agency embedded inside (in circles), spanning ("bonding?") both of the phrase words:

Theme answers:
  • AIRCRAFT CARRIER (17A: Place to land that's not on land) (Federal Trade Commission)
  • HAIRSPRAY (23A: 2002 musical that won eight Tonys) (Internal Revenue Service)
  • SCREEN SAVER (37A: Very picture of idleness?) (National Security Agency)
  • NEAT FREAK (52A: Felix of "The Odd Couple," for one) (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms)
Word of the Day: OHIO ART (2D: Toy company that made Etch A Sketch a success) —
The Ohio Art Company is an American toy manufacturing company founded in 1908. Based in Bryan, Ohio, the company is principally engaged in two lines of business. The first line of business is the sales, marketing, and distribution of toys. The second line of business is the company's Diversified Products segment which manufactures custom metal lithography products for food container and specialty premium markets. Examples of these are food tins, enclosures, DVD cases, and nostalgic signs. [...] In the late 1950s, a French electrician named André Cassagnes created a drawing toy that used a joystick, glass and aluminum powder. The combination, which he called the "Telecran", gave users the ability to draw a picture and also erase it. After much collaboration with many individuals, the system they developed in the late 1950s is the same one used today. The name of the product was Etch A Sketch. (wikipedia)
• • •

Sorry, short write-up today. Forgot to set the alarm. Woke up at 3 something because my legs were all cramped because the kitty cat (we got a second kitten, did I ever mention that?) was asleep right next to me and I couldn't roll over without squishing her so, yeah, cramped, and anyway I thought "well, it's 3 something, and I'm up, looks like I'm getting an early start on the puzzle," and then bang it was almost 6 and I had apparently forgotten to set my alarm for 5 and then I had to feed the cats before they mauled me to death from hunger panic and now well here we are. Giant opening sentence. Still: short write-up. I can't think of anything duller than government agencies—they're a necessary evil in crosswords, as they tend to be useful / necessary for caulking up little three-letter crannies in the grid structure, but no one likes them. Initialisms, specifically government initialisms, are tedious. Yawn. Now here's an entire puzzle based on them! Enjoy! In these answers, they're really government *agency* bonds. "Governments" are things like "republics" and "monarchies" and, uh, ochlocracies and so on. The concept was thematically uninteresting to me, and the three-letter agencies were arbitrary. Except NEAT FREAK, answers they resulted in weren't that interesting. Also, again, the editor or someone decided it would be cute to use a "?" clue on a themer when other themers aren't clued that way. Always awful. Never not an awful decision. Unless your theme requires "?" clues for *all* the themers, get your "?"s out of your system with the fill—there's so much of it! Putting a "?" on one themer and not the others just confuses matters. Boo.

OHIO ART is awful. I am sure I have seen this before and complained about it before, but it's simply not famous. Maybe it was, but it's not. Also, you had one toy hit in the '50s and we're supposed to remember your ridiculous, long, not intuitive 7-letter name? Nothing about the Etch A Sketch says OHIO and hardly anything about it says ART. If you're desperate enough to need it, at least, I don't know, have something in the clue that indicates there's a midwestern state in there or something. "... named after the state it's based in," something. Old and arcane and taking up a ton of real estate. Yuck. Send INAREA back to wherever it came from to (55A: How Russia ranks first among all countries). Truly terrible. Surprised it's legal. INHEIGHT? INWEIGHT? INPOPULATION? You see how dumb this is, right? Makes INOT look like good fill (it isn't). First thing I got in the grid was PAREN (oof) and that was clearly a bad omen. Or a trendsetter, I guess, as the rest of the puzzle was about that interesting. Most of the grid actually holds up fine, to be fair, but there was no joy to be had today. ACT NICE I almost like (25D: Show decorum). Oh, LEAD DOG, I do love dogs, that was nice (42D: Iditarod pace setter). And NEAT FREAK, as I said, is good. But I don't know what you'd want to take one of the more boring aspects of solving crosswords (i.e. negotiating 3-letter gov. agencies) and make a whole puzzle about it, let alone one with an absolutely anti-scintillating revealer like GOVERNMENT BONDS. Harrumph. Gonna go play with kitties. Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Mark 6:38 AM  

Just dull. There will be many complaints, here's one: You don't grin and bare a TOOTH. Unless you only have one.

TJS 6:39 AM  

what day is it ?

OffTheGrid 6:47 AM  

Ah yes, we do all kinds of things, including losing sleep, so as not to inconvenience our feline friends. If my cat is somehow compromising my comfort I wait for her to make a move. If my dog does the same I make a change and he happily accommodates me. It's so much fun having both.

Hungry Mother 6:49 AM  

Not a PR, but way under average time. Theme was so-so.

kitshef 7:18 AM  

What on earth is this doing on a Wednesday? That was an early Tuesday, maybe a Monday puzzle. Sure, KEFIRS is not a typical early-week word, but we had just as tough yesterday.

Among the all-time gustatory disappointments in my life are latkes. I look at the ingredients, on the basis which they should be delicious. Yet somehow, all these tasty things get combined, and out comes bland, mealy, things that are barely a step up from rice cakes. Sample size is pretty small – I’ve only had them three times - but that’s been enough to convince me I don’t need a fourth time.

Frantic Sloth 7:29 AM  

This must be the sleepy-time week of NYTXWs. Maybe it's me, but I just can't seem to find anything of interest - positive or negative - in these last 2 days on which to "muse". (I hope she returns soon!!)
I could look further and maybe do an in-depth analysis of one or two things, but...thhppp. Not gonna work that hard.

This is an awfully long comment in order to say squadoosh, but at least....

New kitty!!! ❤️ I guess she doesn't have a name??


SouthsideJohnny 7:38 AM  

Good puzzle for a Wednesday - nice to see that they reined in some of the trivia so that it is “day of the week” appropriate. With NYT, mythology is a staple (RHEA in this case), so it’s just a case of deal with it. Ditto for the unnecessary foreign words (Amigas) and of course we need a reference to Star Wars, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, etc (OBIWAN KENOBI). At least none of it was too off the wall.

The government agencies were all relatively mainstream, which also helped (no New Deal public works agencies, lol). Kefir was new to me - is it a health thing, or does it (they?) actually taste good ? I guess if you are going to ferment grapes or barley, malt and hops, why not ferment anything that has sugar in it to feed the yeast. Probably dates back to ancient times, lol.

Not a bad week so far . . . The odds are we will get a real clunker pretty soon.

Todd 7:43 AM  

I liked this puzzle. And Ohio Art was the first clue I filled in. Rex has such issues with anything not in his natural wheel house.

Joaquin 7:47 AM  

Re: 64A - Only in Arkansas do you grin and bare a TOOTH. Everywhere else it’s ‘teeth’.

[C’mon. It’s just a joke. You can retell it with the location of your choice.]

bocamp 7:55 AM  

@Ed & Alex, thanks to you both for a most enjoyable Wed. puz! :)

Smooth sailing all the way!

Difficulty (1-9): 3

Newly learned: "Richard III".

Hazy/recalled: "Rhea"; "Hairspray"; "Haiti"; "Merck"; "yaws"; "Roseanne".

Fav clues/answers: "skosh"; "tops"; "posh"; "aircraft carrier"; "peewee"; "twirl"; "screensaver"; "Crocs"; "neat freak"; "sense"; "persists"; "kefirs"; "reach"; "lead dog"; "takes to"; "amigas"; "Obi-Wan Kenobi".

Coincidence: had "Ohio Art" in an older puzzle yesterday.

WOTD: "skosh"

LOTD: "Siouan"

SOTD: Beautiful "Ohio" - Mantovani

FOTD: "ants" on a log

Another nice coincidence: just ordered coconut milk "kefir" from my local market yesterday.

"Crocs" are my favorite footwear.

Enjoyed "LeVar Burton" in the mini-series, "Roots".

y.d. p.g. -1 again LOL

Peace Síocháin 和 Paz Wo'okeyeh Paix ειρήνη Pax Fred Saimaqatigiiniq Mir Woof Meow🕊

MarineO6 7:59 AM  

Easy for Weds.
I enjoyed the Ohio Art clue, but being older I remember growing up with the EtchASketch.
I noticed the two government agencies we most need to get rid of were not in the grid.
FIB(sic) and CIA.

TTrimble 8:00 AM  

Relatively quick solve for me, easily beating the previous two days in time.

"You see how dumb this is, right?" No, I don't. Is the problem with having a preposition? Would just AREA be better? Why is Rex writing IN AREA without a space between? Is it an attempt to make it look worse than it is? (IN OT is not better; I don't see the logic of suggesting it is.)

"... we're supposed to remember your ridiculous, long, not intuitive 7-letter name?" I don't get the special venom for this either, and it's the first time I've ever heard any 7-letter name as "long". Looks like an ordinary PPP to me. (I would have written "nonintuitive" or "unintuitive".)

There is not a thing wrong with PAREN. Absolutely standard term; people use it all the time (left paren, right paren).

Rex, I think you need more sleep.

I will agree that the theme is sort of blah. I wasn't excited by the puzzle, but it didn't deserve this level of spleen.

ChuckD 8:19 AM  

Theme was a little flat but well constructed and overall a decent solve. Would have been more elegant with two discrete words being bonded together. I thought the fill was solid - liked LEAD DOG and ACT NICE. Blasphemous to stack KENOBI adjacent to CRAVEN.

Years ago in a Dingle pub I was schooled in Irish by a few locals. They would have asked for the clue for ERSE to be clued “A Gaelic language”.

pabloinnh 8:41 AM  

I'm in that age group that might say, oh yeah, Etch-A-Sketch, who made that? And eventually see something I should have remembered, viz. OHIOART, and getting to say of course! to myself which is not a bad way to start a morning. The only other snag was the HERA/RHEA conundrum which put the brakes on for a while. Otherwise maybe a B, but not a B+. Liked the long E minitheme of a SLEEPY PEEWEE who might be a NEATFREAK.

Allowing cats on the bed is starting down the path to interrupted sleep. We started closing our bedroom door, and when our guys starting removing the paint with their attempts to notify us that they were on the wrong side of said door, we shut the door at the top of the stairs, which finally thwarted them. Now they wait until we're up and claim their rightful positions under the covers, sometimes with their little heads on our pillows. No, really. We have photos.

Not bad, ES and AE-S, but I feel like I'm already reminded of our government much more than I would like to be.

Z 8:51 AM  

Despite living in NY and being raised in California, Rex has two degrees from the University of Michigan. The OHIO ART rant was actually tame, considering. 😉

I think this was my favorite Eaton-Salners’ puzzle ever. Haven’t looked to see if Ed is dad or son or brother or cousin, but the de-stuntifying of the puzzle is appreciated. I’ll just pretend 57A is “I’ll” and not “III.”

@Frantic Sloth - Two cat pics have been showing up on Twitter for awhile, but I have not seen a name.

@sanfranman late yesterday- Too True - I was dealing with people with at least a bachelors and was pretty much resigned to 30% misreading instructions. Still, I think the issues would be bad initially and four elections in would be roughly the same as now.

Speaking of Twitter - If you don’t read WordPlay this thread from Deb Amlen may be of interest.

Anonymoose 8:54 AM  

OK. Only Trump supporters bare A tooth, that is if they ever smile.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

I'm a Libtard but I favor security.

bocamp 8:59 AM  

@Ed & Alex, thanks to you both for a most enjoyable Wed. puz! :)

Smooth sailing all the way!

Difficulty (1-9): 3

Newly learned: "Richard III".

Hazy/recalled: "Rhea"; "Hairspray"; "Haiti"; "Merck"; "yaws"; "Roseanne".

Fav clues/answers: "skosh"; "tops"; "posh"; "aircraft carrier"; "peewee"; "twirl"; "screensaver"; "Crocs"; "neat freak"; "sense"; "persists"; "kefirs"; "reach"; "lead dog"; "takes to"; "amigas"; "Obi-Wan Kenobi".

Coincidence: had "Ohio Art" in an older puzzle yesterday.

WOTD: "skosh"

LOTD: "Siouan"

SOTD: Beautiful "Ohio" - Mantovani

FOTD: "ants" on a log

y.d. 0

Peace Síocháin 和 Paz Wo'okeyeh Paix ειρήνη Pax Fred Saimaqatigiiniq Mir 🕊

Z 9:00 AM  

@TTrimble - Is the problem with having a preposition? I think so, which I equate to his take on articles. It bothers me less than Rex, but it is definitely on the “suboptimal” side of the ledger.
I agree that OHIO ART is no worse than MERCK, but, of course, that’s damning with faint praise because I don’t like either in my puzzle all that much.

mathgent 9:01 AM  

Growing up with my younger brother, there was always an Etch A Sketch around the house but I never noticed the manufacturer. Was it written on the red frame?

DREIDEL hasn't been around here for quite a while but I saw it yesterday while doing the cryptic from Sunday's 12-page Puzzle section. Good one from Cox and Rathvon.

Like yesterday, I didn't have to dig very hard and I unearthed ten little sparkly things. Good puzzle. Eaton-Salners seldom disappoints.

Seth 9:12 AM  

Loved AIRCRAFT CARRIER (though more could've been made of the clueing I think), OBI-WAN KENOBI, TRACHEA, HERESY, and REVOLT. SCREEN SAVER was nice but feels dated nowadays. Never heard of SKOSH before, and can someone who speaks Irish please tell me if anyone has ever called it ERSE before? Because that seems not real to me.

I think I owned a set of OHIO ART crayons when I was growing up in the 90s. I remember them because I think they were awful when compared to Crayola.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Rex has a new pussy? Yeah, that sounds about right.
How on earth would the Russia clue be sensible without the preposition?

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

@kitshef - Not sure where you're getting your latkes from but they have obviously not been made correctly.

Nancy 9:34 AM  

Agreed. There is no way in the world you can smile and bare only one TOOTH. Unless, as you say, @Mark, (first comment on the blog), you only have one TOOTH. Or else you have the world's most crooked smile.

Speaking of crooked, "Mythomaniac/LIAR" and "Make stuff up/FIB" are both in the puzzle. This has a lot more resonance for me during these fantastical, scary times than the bland, weak, completely uninspired "theme". Randomly embedded letters situated in annoying tiny little circles almost always bore me to death. And when they're simply 3-letter initials??!! Yawn.

And if that's not bad enough, you throw in three more (non-theme) initialisms: AKC; III and NYY. What an perfectly un-thrilling Wednesday.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

I kinda wish I had the self-confidence it takes to never, ever doubt your own knowledge and to go on and on about a fact that you do not know and so it is just not allowed in his puzzle. And the puzzle maker is just an old stupid-head.

No, I guess I don't. Because that would make me a jerk.

So I'll just brag that OHIOART was my first entry. And I don't even live in Ohio. We still have at least two etch-a-sketches in our house.

One day, Rex is gonna stop himself before he goes on and on about a knowable fact or word and say, Hey, just because *I* don't know it doesn't make it a bad thing.


Anonymous 9:37 AM  

I liked this one! We have DREIDELS and ETCH-A-SKETCH and LEGO(s) in our house as well as a HAIRSPRAY DVD ..... but dumped the CROCS long ago.

Got Ohio Art from the crosses, totally fair.

More kitty photos please!

-- CS

Michiganman 9:56 AM  

To moderator: Is Anon 9:29 out of bounds? Thanks.

WhoisMark 10:01 AM  

Put me in the growing club for having OHIO ART as my first fill.

EdFromHackensack 10:03 AM  

OHIOART is definitely fair game. I first thought Mattel, but it came to me without much help crosswise. I am 61 years old, so I guess Rex may be a tad young. SKOSH/KERIFS cross was tough. Other than that I enjoyed the puzzle and kind of ignored the theme. I hope everyone in the Northeast stays safe. I’ve got a ton of firewood stacked and ready to burn - they predict 12-18” here in Bergen County NJ. We’re going to settle in and watch It’s a Wonderful Life - an annual tradition for us.

RooMonster 10:12 AM  

Hey All !
Liked this one. I'm in the "couldn't remember OHIOART" club, but don't think it's bad fill, as Etch-A-Sketchs were everywhere in the 80's, and still popular today. Ever see the videos of people making actual works of art on them? How they manipulate the buttons for curves I could never figure out.

Had some writeovers, herA-RHEA, igloo-TEPEE (not a complaint yet about TEPEE should be TEEPEE), lIe-FIB.

Decent fill, a few Abbrs. here and there. Nice sparse black squares in inner grid. As in, not touching the edges of the grid. Only 16. You cut your block count down also by having 15's in the third and thirteenth Acrosses.

Anyway, good job Salnersers. Or maybe SalnersSirs?
I know, sometimes I make no SENSE.

Two F's (both compliments of the theme)

gregg 10:19 AM  

Grew up in Napoleon OH just 15 miles from Bryan so Ohio Art was a big thing in my childhood. Had an Etch-a-Sketch and spent years trying to draw a passable circle. Became an engineer because of that. Easy for a Wednesday but enjoyable.

Newboy 10:31 AM  

Thank heavens that poor Rex has kitties to restore a degree of sanity (&thanks for sharing feline therapy with the commentariat) today. The grid was a bit too obvious for real enjoyment that I have come to expect from Alex’s offerings, but ED gets a tag team debut so that’s nice. There was an element of fun in TOOTH as clued, but that seemed the exception to LEGO, CROCS, ASEA, ERSE ad nauseam. Still, I liked today’s solve more than Rex. Back to read above.

pps. Today’s constructor notes at xwordinfo add a degree of interest for post solve considerations.

jae 10:32 AM  

Easy. Pretty smooth and clever. I needed the reveal to see what was going on. Liked it. Nice debut for Ed Salners.

....and speaking of having a Ph.d, my experience has been that I only needed to invoke it in the course of heated discussions when I was forced to reply “that’s Dr. A**hole to you”

...and OHIO ART was a gimme for me.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Nope. Rex went on and on about his pussy and how he couldn't roll over without squishing her, how it woke him up, how he was cramped. What on earth is wrong with commenting on that? It lead his critique for goodness sake.

Z 10:45 AM  

Quickie PPP

27 of 72 for 38%.

PPP goes both ways, if you know it the puzzle is easy, if you don’t you’ll struggle.
Also, 8 unnecessary PPP (for example, there’s no need to go “amateur sports level” for PEE WEE or Dr. Martin Luther for HERESY). Change half of those to non-PPP clues and the puzzle would be below the PPP line and, IMHO, more interesting.

burtonkd 10:46 AM  

I LOVE a clue like OHIOART. Everyone has seen an etch-a-sketch, and it catches you off guard to try to remember if you ever looked at the back or the box it came in and dig the company out of the deep recesses of your brain.

Consonant cluster in MERCK only outdone by that in Eddy Merckx, which I have stared at on my 1990 racing bike for I don't know how many thousands of miles. Finally upgraded to a new carbon model last year: much lighter and more comfortable, saving my aging back.

John Hoffman 10:53 AM  

I think that PPP means "non-vocabulary" like clues/answers:

Pop Culture, Product Names and other Proper Nouns.

RooMonster 10:57 AM  

"Things we're thankful for"

Sourdough Bread, the Official Mascot of 2020.



Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Easy, which means I got it and, therefore, I liked it. Especially LEAD DOG. Sled dogs are awesome. I remembered learning somewhere that Inuits' sled dogs were born on the ice - just tried to find out if it's true but couldn't find it. Nice subject to look up on a snowy December day though. - newbie

Newboy 10:57 AM  

Thanks @Z for the link to Deb’s Twitter thread. Twitter is a tool like any other, but I’ve chosen to avoid it. Knowing my lack of restraint, I instead waste my time clicking away on Puzzleworld is peopled by fine folk as she says.

Ellen S 10:58 AM  

Whoa, Rex!!! You love dogs so IDITAROD is nice???? Obviously you are not on PETA’s mailing list. The dogs are run sometimes to death, made to run on bloody paws. Yeah, they’re jocks, and they get paid millions, so they love it. No, wait...

Tell us about your new kitten. I must have missed that.

@Pabloinnh, depends on the cat. I’m down to one so maybe that makes all the difference, but when I go to bed, she lies at the foot, or sometimes on my stomach until I turn the light off. Then she squirms under the covers and spoons against me. She doesn’t move again unless I do.

The puzzle was okay. The government agencies are not my faves. Prefer SSA, CDC, USPS. Centers for Medicare and MedicAid, study like that.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

SouthsideJohnny- kefir is healthy. It's basically yogurt that you can drink. It's good, especially in fruit flavors, usually strawberry, for some reason. But then there's the sugar in the flavored versions, which detracts from the healthfulness, if you're into that. - newbie

Z 11:07 AM  

@John Hoffman - Correct - and it’s pretty well established that at 33% of the puzzle it will effect the solving experience, creating the wheelhouse/outhouse effect. Here’s my list for those of you new to the blog:

RHEA (I missed that this is unnecessary PPP earlier- could have gone with a bird clue)
PEE WEE (sports clue)
HAIRSPRAY (play clue)
CROCS (brand name clue)
NEAT FREAK (Odd Couple clue)
IN AREA (Russia clue - @9:29 - Sure, but the clue came second)
RICHARD III (Random Roman Numerals are the worst fill)

SLEEPY the dwarf
HERESY (Dr. Martin Luther clue)
LEVAR Burton
LEAD DOG (Iditarod clue)
KENOBI (cross-referenced PPP is the worst fill)
MOE Howard

SaltySolver 11:11 AM  

Rex has no problems with musty or old references when they are things he knows or enjoys, but OHIOART is too much? Just because you don't know an older reference doesn't mean it's a bad fill -- and this comes from someone who usually suffers on older references but enjoyed the Etch-A-Sketch ref.

GILL I. 11:12 AM  

Well my first thought was "Did this take two to tango?" Did I enjoy this? Did I chuckle at TEEPEE PEWEE SKOSH POSH? No? Did it make me SLEEPY and not sneezy? I think that TOOTH thing made me think of "Chomper" and Gummy Joe.
I had no problem during the solve. I suppose I had some trouble with OHIO ART because I forgot about RHEA. It just took a little mental floss and a dust off of puzzles done past to ink in the final answer. Why do I want to sneeze again...
So I've been on the USS Midway AIR CRAFT CARRIER in San Diego. I saw HAIR SPRAY on Broadway many moons ago and can belt out "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" at the top of my lungs (with my sisters)....I'm a bit of a NEAT FREAK and I've bought GOVERNMENT BONDS for my grandchildren. So there's that.
So then I get to 55A and think about how Russia ranks.....Hmmmmm. First thing that pops into my mind is authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin. I guess that's too long? Then I get to 56D and I'm thinking that black widows eat their husbands after they mate, no? Or is that a grasshopper. I can't remember.
I think I will return to wrapping my Christmas presents.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Michiganman - yup. Now you know what women have put up with. Women of a certain age usually just cringe, roll their eyes and ignore it, thinking...well, I won't bother saying.

Frantic Sloth 11:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jberg 11:19 AM  

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Rural Electrification Administration are both in the puzzle, as well, but they’re bot at word ends, so maybe that’s ok.

How are CROCS “plastic-like? Can there be fake plastic?

jberg 11:20 AM  

@Gill— That’s the preying mantis.

Frantic Sloth 11:23 AM  

@Z 851am I guess it shouldn't surprise me, because everything is always all about freakin' Twitter. I have an account, but the more it's favored over (and to the exclusion of) everything else, the more I resist. Leave me in the dust, world, but I shall not be coerced!

Thanks for the feed, though. That really sucks, but the personalized puzzle was a very clever, very sweet heart-melter.

TTrimble 11:30 AM  

I think so, which I equate to his take on articles. I take it that his take is that he doesn't like them? I would generally have thought so. But one week ago (December 9), Rex was complaining that he thought LIMBO needed a "the" before it. So it's actually not clear to me where he stands on that.

FWIW, I think either IN AREA or AREA would be acceptable. If you think of how to answer the question implicitly posed in the clue, "how does Russia rank first among all countries?", as a full sentence, you could go either way. "Among all countries, Russia ranks first in area." "Among all countries, Russia's area ranks first." (Actually, I wouldn't write either sentence quite like that, but this is just to illustrate the point.)

I've enunciated several times here my rule of thumb, which might even be a principle: if an answer can be reasonably made to fit the clue (emphasis on "can be", involving an existential quantifier), then it's okay -- putting aside of course other factors like PPP. I can't tell that Rex has developed such principles for himself, as a consistency check. His responses often seem more emotional, more the mood he's in. (Don't know that my responses to crosswords are all that rigorous and principled either, but anyway this particular rule of thumb has helped me.)

Z 11:36 AM  

@Salty Solver and others - Etch-a-Sketch is pretty iconic, but are you really saying OHIO ART is equally cross-worthy? Rex said it’s simply not famous and, even though I knew it, I find it hard to disagree. I have an audio memory of OHIO ART from TV ads of my youth, but it is firmly filed in my head as “70’s era.” I was surprised to learn that OHIO ART owned Etch-a-Sketch as late as 2016. If you had asked I would have guessed Mattel or someone else had bought it in the 80’s.
BTW - Google images show that lots of Etch-a-Sketches do say OHIO ART, sometimes in a slightly smaller font next to the words Etch-a-sketch and sometimes in a little globe logo that I don’t remember ever noticing before. There are also lots of images without the words.
BBTW - Rex is right that he complained about OHIO ART before. Back then it looks like there was one pro-OHIO ART comment and three anti-OHIO ART comments.

Rocinante 11:36 AM  

My dog and my cat have to deal with my whims. I deal with theirs. We all get along quite well. Plenty of lap time.

What do bonds have to do with this random assemblage of agency acronyms?

Wundrin' 11:37 AM  

@Z. Martin Luther was a doctor?

Leah 11:38 AM  

Clearly you aren't eating the right latkes. They should be nowhere near mealy. They should be golden brown, thin, crispy, and delicious served with apple sauce or sour cream.

Whatsername 11:42 AM  

First off, I offer Congratulations to Ed Salners on a great NYT debut and my sincere gratitude for a long distinguished Navy career. Apparently there is a family connection between the co-constructors but I have yet to find out what it is. Perhaps the comments will tell me.

Very nice Wednesday and being an old Fed now out to pasture, I really liked this theme. @Nancy knows newspapers and I know government acronyms from having been on the public payroll for many years. I tried to come up with some of my own but the only thing I could manage on short notice was:

Scary spot to be stranded on: BRINKOFDADANGER
Spicy taco topping: HOTSALSA

And I’m sure there are more. Never heard of OHIO ART but I loved my Etch-a-Sketch. I remember trying to draw pictures and form letters but it seemed that everything I did ended up looking like a poorly drawn street map.

So I wonder if new kitty cat has a name. We haven’t seen Alfie in a while either, more pictures would be nice. I don’t think I’ve ever said anything too terribly bad about Rex here but if I did, I take it all back. Anyone who sleeps next to a cat is okay in my book.

GILL I. 11:43 AM  

OK so here's my kitty story: THIS IS AN ALERT....
So I was never much of a cat person - having dogs and horses my whole life - until....Brutus. My dad and stepmom were moving to Florida and they were driving so they asked if I would take care of their Persian for a month while they settled into Miami. I lived in an apartment in San Francisco at the time and they had a no pet policy. Well...I could never say no to Dad. So, I took in "Brutus." He gave me the stink eye the minute we met. It was one of those "don't mess with me look or I'll piss all over you" moments. Well Brutus and I had this sort of understanding thing going along. It turned into admiration then uncontrollable love. He never slept on my bed but heaven forbid if I closed the bedroom door. He'd take a flying leap from the end of the hall to the door and bang until I opened it up. If he didn't like the food I gave him, he'd star at me with his blue eyes and let out a little mew. He would sit and stare out my window that had a tiny view of Alcatraz and not move for hours. BUT....the minute I came home from work, he'd curl up in my lap and give me the purr from heaven. He'd stare at me like no other boyfriend I ever had could stare. It was love.....
When I had to put him in his little kitty cage and ship him to Miami I was heartbroken. I wanted to keep him. I cried for months .
Brutus never forgot me. When I'd visit Dad, Brutus would come up to me and give me a curly hug. He never did that to anybody else so I knew he and I were special. Only with cats.

Carola 11:45 AM  

I'm in the "cute," "clever," and "liked it" camp. Also in the "old enough to know OHIO ART" camp. Nice pairing of HAITI and REVOLT, given the cluing. I also found personal meaning in HAIRSPRAY x PERSISTS, as in "thank goodness it does," as it prevents me from looking like an aging kid with a bowl cut.

@kitshef - Dinner tonight = latkes, trying a "new and improved!" recipe. Will report.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  


well, since most of those Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) fans fit right in with the indigenous peoples of "Deliverance", one tooth is about right for any over 21. :)

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Two hunks of letters joined by govt agency initials in The Circles. Swampy!
Was a fun solve, but the govt. initials didn't make my list of fave puzparts.

staff weeject pick: SEC. Two hunks of this puz's U's [i.e., nuthin], joined by a govt. agency.

sparkly Ow de Speration stuff: III. INOT. RAS/AMI. INAREA.
Didn't know at our house: KEFIRS. LEVAR. OHIOART.

Did like that HA & PRAY were linked up by the IRS.

Thanx for gangin up on us, Ed & Alex dudes. With congratz to Ed on his half-debut.

Masked & Anonymo s


Masked and Anonymous 11:51 AM  

@RP: Is there a ceilin on how many cats U will house at once? Askin for a neighbor.


Joaquin 11:55 AM  

@kitshef - Just where did you try latkes? Taco Bell?

@Ellen S - My reaction exactly. Rex says he loves dogs (and based on his previous posts about his dogs, I do believe him) yet he's just fine with the Iditarod. Yes, those dogs are well-cared for. But dogs can be loved and cared for without working them to death, too.

zephyr 11:56 AM  

Got some bad ones there:who ever uses or even heard of skosh for anything?
Paren is not ok. A boat that yaws is not oscillating on a vertical axis: it’s bow is pulled against nst the the force of the wave. It is in a horizontal axis.

thfenn 12:17 PM  

Sure I wanted Hasbro or Mattel, but no idea why OHIOART is a problem. Also agree that liking dogs and the IDITAROD isn't entirely consistent. Thought the theme was fine. CRAVEN, LIAR, FIB, HERESY, REACH, and PERSISTS are all reminders that the last thing our current GOVERNMENT does is strengthen BONDS amongst us, and many of those in the theme head the list.

Lost a TOOTH today but my grin still bares more than one. Hope all of your grins do as well.

cb 12:28 PM  

I have a scar in my eyebrow from an over-enthusiastic Etch-A-Sketch shaking episode as a child.
@RooMonster - Thank you for your gratitude list. The sourdough mascot has moved into my home. Life will never be the same.

Note to RooMonster 12:48 PM  

You should do today's WSJ puzzle.

TTrimble 1:16 PM  

SKOSH? A lot of people use that word. It means: a little bit. "Move over a skosh." It actually comes from the Japanese, and was brought back to the States by servicemen returning from WWII. Also, PAREN is fine. A lot of people use that word too, usually as in right paren, left paren. Hand up for having used both.

And YAW, when applied to aeronautics, means "to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis" (Merriam-Webster).

old timer 1:23 PM  

What day is it? I did the whole puzzle thinking it was Thursday and looking for rebuses or similar weirdnesses. Oho! It's Wednesday. The puzzle was easy, but called on distant memories, including OHIO ART.

I did consult Uncle Google, but not for any answers. No, it was to find out what connects Ed Salners and the prolific Alex Eaton-Salners. Here's the story: Ed Salners married Barbra Eaton. As was regrettably common in that era, they gave their children a hyphenated name, in this case Eaton-Salners. (I got that from an obit for Ruth Eaton, mother of Ed and grandmother of Alex).

So I rather think Ed Salners is AES's dad.

Teedmn 1:33 PM  

This is one of those puzzles where I finished, reread the revealer and shook my head, not quite grokking the theme. Somehow, "are joined with" did not equate with BONDS in my mind. But Jeff Chen's explanation set me on the right path.

I found this harder than average for a Wednesday with things like "), briefly" for PAREN and the REVOLT my brain did at 35A where I tried to be clever. I had the T and L in place and gave TrIaL a spin for that answer but decided YArS, while sounding pirate-ish, wasn't a good answer for 26D.

I also had trouble with 65A. Beyond regulation, hmmm, out of REACH of regulations, so perhaps awOl? amOk? I didn't put either of those in but OT, overtime, right, got it in three.

Congratulations, Ed Salners, on your debut and joining with the prolific AE-S.

Malsdemare 1:46 PM  

Ah, Etch-a-Sketch. I didn’t know the company but it was easy to guess with just a few letters. I liked NEATFREAK, CRAVEN, and SKOSH. The theme was okay but the puzzle played well, so I’m good with it.

@anonymous 10:57. I don’t know about the born on ice part but I do know that during the winter when out trapping and fishing, the dogs ate when the people ate, which accounts for the fact that Malamutes, as pretty close descendants of those hardy dogs, will eat any time, any where, no matter what or how much they’ve already been fed. Mine will eat anything inside or outside that is within reach and when you’re as big as they are, and as clever, that pretty much covers about 2/3 of the house. But that’s winter: summers they are turned loose to forage for themselves, contributing again that fabulous hunting talent. I have a photo of my dog covered in about 3” of snow, waiting like a statue for the squirrels two feet away to bury their heads in the snow.And while I’m boring you, those turnouts in the summer often led to breeding with wolves. People ask me a lot if my dogs, purebreds all, are part wolf. Easy mistake to make until you’ve actually seen the size of the head and jaws of a wolf.

@Ellen S. Yea, the Iditerod makes me cringe. Once upon a time when I started owning Mals and doing some recreational sledding, it had some appeal. Back then they weren’t trying to break records, just finish. But as I learned about SOME of the mushers’ practices (not all, some of these teams come from very small kennels with devoted, conscientious owners who breed good litters and place the dogs who don’t make the cut) and the insane times, I soured on it. I will mention, though, that the rules of treatment are as rigidly enforced as is possible when there’s so much open trail; there are vets at every checkpoint and complaints are taken seriously.Still, I no longer pay it any attention. It’s a shame, really, because dogs bred to pull LOVE it, bouncing up and down when the harness and sled come out. Like a lot of sports, money has corrupted it.

Stay safe and warm, all you easterners.

My dogs like to snuggle in bed before we go to sleep and the big guy gets in bed with me when I wake up for some petting. Thankfully, it gets too warm in bed for them to linger.

Elizabeth Sandifer 1:51 PM  

Second day in a row I've been screwed by the intersection of dumb crosswordese, as the bad OHIO ART crosses ERSE (ugh) and COS (just about guessable but I had CPS for corporations) leaving an ugly tangle I had to Google my way out of. This is a bad week for my ego.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Ohio Art is not obscure to a certain generation. One that I think Rex is a part of. Easy answer, IMO.

Dave S 2:05 PM  

I was totally on board with Rex's review until his Etch-a-sketch comment, which was by far my favorite answer in the puzzle. Nice to call up the image of the logo and remember what it said inside. In fact the whole NW was interesting in a way the rest of the puzzle couldn't quite keep up with. Theme was meh, but enough just slightly harder stuff to make it a nice Wednesday.

Not sure whether I'm sad or not that the Etch-a-sketch has been sold by Ohio Art to a Canadian company. Sad to lose a tradition like that (one that apparently helped save the company when sales were revived by it's a appearance in the Toy Story movies) but there seems something honest about "sticking to their core lithography business."

kitshef 2:18 PM  

@Joaquin 11:55 - Latke 1 - British father. Okay, that one was probably doomed from the start. Latke 2 - Jewish step-mother, who on hearing about Latke 1 scoffed and said I just hadn't had good latkes. Latke 3 - a restaurant in NYC while visiting my sister when she was in college there. I have no idea what the name was but somewhere in Queens.

Steve M 2:23 PM  

Wednesday meh

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

I checked YouTube for etch-a-sketch TV commercials featuring OHIOART. Seems to run from the 1960s to about 1993. Fine for me, but maybe obscure for the under 35 video gaming crowd. Odd Couple referance is of the same vintage, but no complaints there. Rex just didnt happen to know it. Too busy reading comic books in his youth.

RooMonster 2:37 PM  

@Note to RooMonster 12:48!
Most excellent F use. Nine of 'em. Although my nit about them being used sparsely outside of a theme still holds water.

RooMonster But Nice F Puz Regardless Guy

bocamp 2:41 PM  

@GILL I. 11:43 AM 😻

@zephyr 11:56 AM - Yes, use "skosh" occasionally to replace "a bit" or "a tad".

Will be slipping on my "Crocs" today to retrieve the mail.

Enjoyed some coconut milk "kefir" this morning. 😋

p.g. -1

Peace Síocháin 和 Paz Wo'okeyeh Paix ειρήνη Pax Fred Saimaqatigiiniq Mir Woof Meow 🕊

sanfranman59 2:56 PM  

Easy NYT Wednesday (20% below my Wednesday median solve time) ... I posted a typical Tuesday solve time for me. A governmental agency alphabet soup theme because, after all, everybody loves those ... woo hoo ... zzzz. I really hate being reminded that the NSA even exists. At least this was over quickly.

The WSJ, LAT and NYT puzzles were all duds in my book today. Am I becoming a curmudgeon, like OFL? Maybe I'm just not in the mood to do crosswords today. This, sleeping and watching sports on TV feel like the only things I've done for the past six weeks with the Ohio weather taking its annual turn for the worse. I've only been out once for my other favorite pastime ... hiking. Come on, vaccine. Please work your magic asap! I'm afraid that I'm going to forget how to have a conversation and interact with other people (two things that have never come all that naturally to me anyway).

Frantic Sloth 3:44 PM  

@GILL 1143am Aaaaaw!! How sweet and sad! You're killin' me here! ❤️

pabloinnh 4:10 PM  

l may have told this story before, but if you're like me, you don't remember either.


If you've never seen an Etch-A-Sketch Master at work, it's phenomenal. I have always had the same success with one as folks here, but we had given one to our boys for Christmas years ago, and in walked our friend Lindy, who picked it up and drew, with no apparent effort, a Christmas scene which included:

A Christmas tree with ornaments and presents underneath, a fireplace with a fire and stockings hanging from the mantle, a window through which could be seen Santa departing in his sleigh, and the words "Merry Christmas" in cursive as a title. Nor did it take very long, and she never stopped.

I had never seen anyone do anything like it and of course my question was "How on earth do you do that?", and she said, "I don't know. I just do it."

That was many years ago and I've still never seen anyone else be able to do that. But it is possible. At least for Lindy.

albatross shell 4:21 PM  

Something you grin and bare? TOOTH not TEETH because something is singular and the "?" means look for the misdirection. Quit bellyaching. If you bare your teeth you also bare any particular tooth.

Loved the clues for SCREENSAVER and HEIR. Liked puzzling out INAREA. It was the solve for me that really made this puzzle enjoyable. Too much PPP? NO!. Now if you never heard of OBI WAN KENOBI, ROSEANNE, The Odd Couple, LUTHOR, or RHEA, then maybe yes. But the fun of this puzzle was there were just enough things I didn't know right off, or at all, that came back to me or just became apparent. as words filled in. Burton? NO idea. Oh, it's LamAR, no it's LEVAR. Still no idea but I know the answer is correct. A few of these and a few of old memories being stirred and there I am filling in the Natick of OHIOART x COS. Still don't know whether COS is cost or something else but I knew it would be right cause, you know, OHIO.

Why do I get the idea that if it was MICHIGAN ART a whole different group would love the clue and be regaling us with entertaining tales about there cousin's or roomate's experieces working there?

Yes, PPP can route in widely different solves. So can other things. But I noticed "enjoyable solve" was a common refrain today even by folks that were critical about other aspects of the puzzle.

2 or 3 inches here. They say maybe 24. Down to 13 degrees. Haven't had much december winter weather in a few years. Stay warm. Stay safe.

sanfranman59 5:13 PM  

@TTrimble (8:00am) ... re "I don't get the special venom for this either" ... I think there's a pretty simple explanation. It's an answer that Michael didn't know immediately upon reading the clue. When that happens with anything other than a Friday or Saturday puzzle, clearly, there's something wrong with the clue, the answer or both and it's always Will's fault. Contrast his reaction with @pabloinnh's: "I'm in that age group that might say, oh yeah, Etch-A-Sketch, who made that? And eventually see something I should have remembered, viz. OHIOART, and getting to say of course! to myself which is not a bad way to start a morning."

@mathgent (9:01am) ... re "I never noticed the manufacturer. Was it written on the red frame?" ... yup

@jberg (11:10am) ... re "How are CROCS “plastic-like? Can there be fake plastic?" ... I'm pretty sure I did a puzzle this week that clued CROCS as "rubber-like". Having never touched CROCS (or even seen them up close), I have no idea what they're "-like". I assume that they're very comfortable since they've always seemed damned ugly to my eye. But then, as anyone who knows me will no doubt agree, I don't know (or care) much about fashion. re "@Gill— That’s the preying mantis." ... Some black widow species are known to devour their mates. I believe that's how they got their name.

@Rocinate (11:36am) ... re "What do bonds have to do with this random assemblage of agency acronyms?" ... the initialisms "bond" the words in each two-word theme answer

@zephyr (11:56am) ... re "who ever uses or even heard of skosh for anything?" ... hand up here ... In fact, I think I used it earlier today when I was helping my mother wrap a particularly large and unwieldy box for Christmas and told her that the box needed to move just a SKOSH in her direction so the paper would fit. It's a perfectly fine word ... and fun to say. In case you don't know, the vowel is a long O (at least that's how I pronounce it).

@old timer (1:23pm) ... re "As was regrettably common in that era, they gave their children a hyphenated name" ... I understood the idea and even sympathized with it, but when I first realized that people were doing this, I feared the implications for the future. If Alex has children with someone named Smith-Jones, will their names be Eaton-Salners-Smith-Jones? And will the grandchildren be Eaton-Salners-Smith-Jones-Anderson-Johnson-Hamilton-Davis? etc. etc. etc.?

@Malsdemare (1:46pm) ... re "Like a lot of sports, money has corrupted it." ... suggested edit: "Like everything, money has corrupted it."

Anoa Bob 5:38 PM  

Nice moniker you got there @zephyr 11:56. Zephyr has been the name of my sailboat of the last 20+ years. Although the NYT puzzle often shows its landlubberliness when it comes to things nautical, the clue for 26D YAWS "Oscillates about a vertical axis" is correct. Here's an image showing the six motions of a ship at sea.

These six motions all happen simultaneously and the resulting complexity of motion is the reason it takes sailors a day or two to get their "sea legs" back after leaving port. It's amazing it happens at all, but you begin to directly feel the motion of the ship underneath you and to adjust to it automatically without even thinking about it.

And if you want to see something very comical, watch sailors walking down a dock or pier for the first time after they come in from an extended stay at sea. They will stumble and stagger around like a bunch of, well, drunken sailors, even though they are stone-cold sober. They have to unlearn their sea legs. Been there and done that many times.

Unknown 5:44 PM  

@ kitshef Clearly, you've never tasted good latkes. Don't be so dismissive. When made well, they are like crack cocaine, in a good way. You can't stop at just three or four . . . .

sixtyni yogini 6:26 PM  

For real? Govt agencies? Why?
Yawn 🥱
Agree. Add me to the list of yawners.

TheOmnivorousReader 6:40 PM  

True that. I like his commentary I except when he assumes s.t. is irrelevant or dumb because he doesn't know it. So about 50/50 recently.

RooMonster 6:49 PM  

How this works, as the link is quit long. Etch-A-Sketch Artist

RooMonster I Could Draw A Box Guy

Anonymous 8:53 PM  

@Anoa Bob:
It's amazing it happens at all, but you begin to directly feel the motion of the ship underneath you and to adjust to it automatically without even thinking about it.

you can learn something similar here on terra firma in a tai-chi class.

addisondewitt 9:12 PM  

Isn’t there a mini-Hanukkah theme here re the Dreidels and Latkes clues?

Z 9:49 PM  

@Latke Lovers - De gustibus and all that.

@Frantic Sloth - Twitter is like any other social media, easily polluted. However, I hold to a simple rule - I block stupid and it is a zero tolerance policy. As a result my timeline is full of news, crosswords, ultimate, some comedians, and art. I see almost no vitriol there, and sometimes only discover viral vitriol when someone I do follow retweets stupid in order to respond.

Anonymous 9:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
zephyr 8:07 AM  

Thanks this is @zephyr. Very interesting. Good to know that

SaltySolver 10:25 AM  

@Z - I guess I'm saying that 'fame' for inclusion on the NYTXW is subjective and Rex embraces similarly unknown things when it's in his wheelhouse and castigates puzzle authors when it isn't.

Look at December 4th -- things he doesn't know that are old and obscure are A-OK because they're 'inferable' due to his knowledge. If you don't know NATALIECOLE, MARCO Andretti becomes a slog. If you weren't alive at the height of Steely Dan, knowing FAGEN is rough. Similarly with Croce's IGOTANAME. But all of that's fine because 1) he's friendly with the constructor, and 2) he's a fan of those answers.

I come here for the gripes and insights into the puzzles, but hating on OHIOART because it isn't famous enough seems more like it's just a gripe against a reference he doesn't get (which is fine, just phrase it that way instead to be consistent).

otts 1:35 PM  

Thurs. puzz was fun for me, probably due to my Swiss music heritage (Mom was a jodeler born
in Flawill ,Canton St. Galen, Switzerland, and so growing up in a Rockland county Swiss/American night club called Swiss Trudy's Alpine Vilage, one of my jobs was to back her on accordion as far back as the 1939 Worlds Fair at the in Flushing Flushing Meadows. So the song which begins "Vo Luzern" which is likely known (if not sung much anymore by most Swiss is all about meeting ( a sort of Coming Thru the Rye) ending with diapers on the line. Also Dennis Overbye mentions the Rigi in his book about Einstein's Women. Though he might have mentioned this to me in one of our social gatherings. Or both, dunno.
Yes, it was not a great puzz, but amusing and there was enough Beethoven stuff to keep me happy. You could stretch and not that Ludwig (who tried to get by with being Von rather than van was a fairly wildebeest at times and but got deflated when cqlled out on it.
And probably was upset when he could no longer hear the timpani boom ring. Time to go before I hear Fate knocking.

Roy Dimaggio 9:28 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Burma Shave 11:35 AM  


She can’t ACTNICE nor OPT for POSH,
a CRAVEN CRACKER on most lists,
not RESERVEd, a LIAR, by gosh,



thefogman 2:35 PM  

But then again, I hear boring is beautiful now...

rondo 5:44 PM  

Henry Fonda, e.g., famoUSDAd. Just imagine if you put some time in. Endless possibilities. POSH Spice aka Mrs. David Beckham, yeah baby. Not much remarkable here.

Diana, LIW 6:00 PM  

2-letter dnf. Never in 1000 years would I have thought of (remembered???) OHIOART, even though I loved Etch a Sketch, and played with one when I could get my hands on someone else's. So.

The rest - fine. Just fine.

Diana, LIW

leftcoaster 8:49 PM  

Theme was straightforward and fairly obvious, but had to dig my way out of the NW IN OT.

Spent most time enjoying Inauguration Day.

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