Wile E. Coyote's supplier / MON 12-28-20 / UK medal accepted then returned by John Lennon in brief / Like Satan and some owls /

Monday, December 28, 2020

Constructor: Alan Massengill and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium (3 flat, I've had a drink)

 apex — themers are all vertical and their first words, i.e. the word at the uppermost part of the grid, all mean "uppermost":

Theme answers:
  • ACME CORPORATION (3D: Wile E. Coyote's supplier)
  • PEAK PERFORMANCE (5D: Athlete's goal in competition)
  • HEIGHT OF FASHION (9D: Absolute chicness)
  • TOP OF THE MORNING (11D: Quaint greeting)
Word of the Day: MBE (66D: U.K. medal accepted and then returned by John Lennon, in brief)
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of the order. [...] The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:
  1. GBE – Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire[b]
  2. KBE or DBE – Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
  3. CBE – Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
  4. OBE – Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
  5. MBE – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (wikipedia)

• • •

Like many recent puzzles, this one feels like it was made 25 years ago, but at least this one is solid, as 1995 puzzles go. ACME, PEAK, HEIGHT (metaphorically), TOP, yep, those all mean the same thing, and they all appear at the "top" or their answer, *and* they are all a grid-spanning 15 letters long. Simple, tight theme, elegantly expressed. The fill is ... well, it's from 1995. It's there. It's largely inoffensive. Don't look too hard. Just look at the theme. The theme is fine. 

This one took me in the neighborhood of ten seconds longer than usual, but I'm attributing those seconds to my Manhattan (delicious), because looking over this grid, I don't really see any places that I got significantly hung up. I had ACME but no idea what followed. I had no idea re: PEAK PERFORMANCE because it doesn't sound like what the clue suggests. "What's your goal in this competition, athlete?" "PEAK PERFORMANCE!" No, you want to win. Are you competing? Then you want to win. You want victory. PEAK PERFORMANCE, what kind of mumbo jumbo is that. You're trying to win or what are you even doing. HEIGHT OF FASHION I got off the "H," and TOP OF THE MORNING didn't take me that many crosses either (shouldn't it be "Top O' the morning"— I feel like past crosswords have insisted that that is the expression). Really thought having all the themers being 15s, and not struggling That much with any of them, would put me in a faster-than-average solving situation. But no. Had STAY before STUD (10A: Tuxedo shirt fastener) (You can tell I wear tuxedos a Lot). PDF before GIF (46A: Internet image file, familiarly). Honestly had no idea about WAX until I got all the crosses. Honeycomb stuff is honey. WAX? Sure, but come on—"stuff" should mean what the honeycomb contains, not what it's made of. Bah. The answer that took me longest, and was the last thing I filled in, was INTERACT (58A: Be sociable), perhaps because I haven't INTERACTed with anyone but my wife and cats for, oh, (looks at watch) 8 months. 

British Empire medal abbrevs. (today, MBE) are the absolute lowest form of fill (after plural suffixes), a staple of a bygone era when constructors desperately needed *any* three-letter answers they could get their hands on because they didn't have access to software to make their lives easier and thus make solvers' lives more pleasurable. Such abbrevs. really have no place in an easy puzzle any more. If you're in a real tight spot, OK, fine, but ... well, I see how you've got two themers running through that section, so maybe that counts as a "tight spot" (you've got the awful ACAB in the symmetrical section up top). Still, though, if you're a constructor, consider banishing UK medals from your wordlist, or (better) just making them fill of last resort. Goodbye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:02 AM  

Like some others here, I try to imagine solving the Mondee, Tuesdee puzzles as if I were a newbie. Doable is important, but so is a little crunch to heighten that feeling of accomplishment.

This one had both and the four grid-spanners were a perfect example of an elegant way to attain that.
Not surprising, given the byline. 😁

No nits - just a pleasure.

Idle Ponderment: Just what would one have to do to win an AROMA OSCAR? Nothing pretty comes to mind. Smell-o-vision Special Effects?

***Flash of Duh Alert***

Did I just now notice that ACME inserts ACME in all her grids? Has she always done so and I just now noticed?? Just now?? 🙄 *sigh*


Joaquin 12:06 AM  

I liked this a lot more than Rex did (yeah, I know, alert the media). In fact, I thought this was one of the better Monday puzzles in a long time. A slight test for this old-timer and, I would guess, a decent challenge for a novice. Exactly what Mondays should be.

Shackfu 12:17 AM  

I do not consider ONEG a rare blood type. I consider it the 4th most common blood type:
* AB-negative (. 6 percent)
* B-negative (1.5 percent)
* AB-positive (3.4 percent)
* A-negative (6.3 percent)
* O-negative (6.6 percent)
* B-positive (8.5 percent)
* A-positive (35.7 percent)
* O-positive (37.4 percent)

jae 12:43 AM  

Medium. Cute, liked it. The fill is a tad spotty in places but the theme is fun.

chefwen 1:16 AM  

What a fun Monday puzzle. The Queen of Mondays strikes again.

I had a dear friend who was awarded an MBE for the work she did with orphanages in Bahrain. She and her husband were stationed there when he was with the RAF. She was so proud of that honor. Unfortunately she passed away from the same, horrible disease that claimed Alex TREBEK.

Other than those sad reminders, I did enjoy the puzzle. It was a PEACH.

Anonymous 1:47 AM  

I enjoyed seeing ACAB even though it was clued as A CAB

Dogfish 3:59 AM  

Theme was enjoyable to get after solving - did exactly what you'd expect it to do, I just missed it (ACME doesn't mean 'peak' to me yet - just not in t'vocab). Fill felt mostly fine - nothing egregious enough as someone new at this, now that I've mentally repurposed some pub quiz facts to crosswords, such as like "The industrial city of Germany is always ESSEN".

For all of Rex's opinions, ACAB actually lightened up my puzzle experience! Admittedly I as hoping that I'd look on it's clue and see a far more modern entry, but the dream was nice to have.

Double British Empire dose today with SIR and MBE. I actually think MBE etc. are perfectly good fill - lord knows it's much better than the vast array of US Departments that I simply don't have the time to learn. And it's even better still because they can be clued by people rejecting MBEs etc., which is lovely to see. On behalf of those solving on this side of the pond, let's keep the MBEs, and begone with quite a few others far more urgently...

Loren Muse Smith 6:01 AM  

@Frantic – When I saw ACME CORPORATION, I still didn’t know the theme, but I whooped. It’s fun to have a little inside joke among us friends, imo. Nice to see ya, Andrea! TOP O’ THE MORNING TO YOU, Alan. (I agree with Rex that I wasn’t expecting the F in OF, but I’ll take it, given that all four themers are 15’s.) I counted APEX PREDATOR just for fun – it’s a 13. Bet we APEX counters are legion this morning.

I don’t agree at all with Rex on his issue with the clue for PEAK PERFORMANCE. Wonder if the clue had been “one of an athlete’s goals. . .”? I was a swimmer, and I was always trying to get a 50 free in under 28 seconds. If I had done that, win or lose, I would have reached a goal.

Hard not to notice HEIDI and SEAL reunited.

“Absolute chicness” – HEIGHT OF FASHION . . . Grace Kelly in Rear Window in the green suit and that little hat with the subtle net veil thingy. If I could get away with it, I’d wear that outfit all the time, but honestly, lacking her elegant je ne sais quoi, I’d just look like an asshole, and people would secretly feel sorry for me.

Rex – I have to disagree on the word “stuff” in the WAX clue. Works just fine for me, but I’m partial to the word “stuff.” It’s like the Swiss army knife of nouns for the lazy writer. Speaking of which. . .

FLUFF. I love reading me some FLUFF. Grisham, Coben, Baldacci. . . Maybe it’s a reaction to poring over Shakespeare’s brilliance all day, weighing his words, marveling, thinking . . . but listening to some mindless audio book on the drive home gets me primed for the even mindlesser Bravo tv balm before bed.

“Person with a microphone” – someone who thinks they’re more clever and interesting than they really are. It’s not lost on me that this person is me, and this place is my microphone.

So is the GEE in GIF hard or soft? I think I do a hard one. [See also – the GEE in fungi: hard or soft?]

A Monday right across the plate, and one that I’ve encouraged the father of my son’s fiancée to do. Yo. Don. Dude. You got this. Figure out how to get a profile here and join us!

ChuckD 6:24 AM  

Liked this one fine - didn’t feel dated for me. Agree with Rex - theme was tightly constructed and elegant - but fun. Liked TOP OF THE MORNING - who gives an f about the f. Assuming Rex has never competed athletically. I played college baseball - our coach’s stock pregame was along the lines of “play to your potential and the game will fall in line” - so he’s correct that winning is a goal but it only comes from PEAK PERFORMANCE.

Overall fill here was solid - little to no short gluey WAX. Little Monday side eye to the CERISE x SHEAF cross and not a fan of Cuomo.

Enjoyable solve and a nice start to the week.

Lewis 6:26 AM  

For some reason, seeing those high-altitude words floating to the top brought a smile to my face, as did the overall effervescence of this puzzle, something that usually happens when Andrea has a hand in the grid. Usually, ACM puzzles come rife with answers that pulse with energy, oftentimes subtle, answers like PEACH, STUD, FLUFF, AROMA, GEE, as well as big hitters like the four theme answers, BIG SHOTS, and I DO I DO. Thank you, A&A, for a shimmering start to the week!

The four theme columns gave the grid a feeling of stability I don’t feel from four horizontal spanners – that was cool. I also liked the theme-echoing AERO and the thought of Andrea, aka ACME, who lives in California, residing for a day in the Upper West Side.

Kevin C. 6:35 AM  

A much more enjoyable theme and much cleaner fill than yesterday.

Conrad 6:53 AM  

@LMS: the "G" in "GIF" is hard. Or soft. You decide. https://time.com/5791028/how-to-pronounce-gif/

Whatsername 7:08 AM  

A little something different to start the week. Outstanding! I loved having the themers go down instead of across, that each one spanned the full grid with 15 letters, and the cleverness of the top to bottom answers. Didn’t feel dated or stale to me at all. Just a really pleasant Monday.

INTERACT. What’s that? Like actual in-person conversation OR WHAT? I have forgotten what most of my friends’ faces look like. I’m getting used to putting makeup only on the upper half of my face and since I’ve also started wearing a head shield don’t even bother much with FLUFFing the DO. And that’s only if I’m actually leaving the house; otherwise I don’t even bother. As for the wardrobe, I’m not exactly the HEIGHT OF FASHION either, not that I EVER was. It’s not a real pretty picture but I figure if I see anyone I know, with any luck they probably won’t recognize me anyway.

Teedmn 7:09 AM  

Nicely hidden theme with no revealer. I was checking the across answers first, of course, but those long downs eventually hit my radar!

So is OR WHAT? the comeback to OR ELSE! ?


Nice job, Alan and ACME (cute self-reference there at 7D).

OffTheGrid 7:12 AM  

Despite the constant deluge of complaints about the newness or oldness of cluing, the idea never crosses my mind while I'm solving. There's STUFF I know, STUFF I don't know, and STUFF I can figure out. And even STUFF I Google sometimes. I don't think I would enjoy xwords much if I fretted over new vs, old.

kitshef 7:22 AM  

@LMS - soft 'g' for both GIF and FUNGI. There is an old joke. A mushroom walks into a bar. The bartender says "we don't serve your kind here". Mushroom says "c'mon, I'm a fun guy". Joke has never worked for me because of the soft g/hard g thing and because 'fungi' is plural, so he should have said "I'm a fun gus".

Found this fairly challenging for a Monday, which is unusual for an ACME product. Some of that was certainly self-inflicted. I can never remember if it’s PAAR or PArR, for example. And I didn’t think of GIF as an image format, but apparently it is.

The one I’ll pin on the constructors/editors is CHRIS. Never heard of that particular CHRIS and not sure why you would choose it on a Monday. You are already intersecting it with another proper name and a foreign word.

SouthsideJohnny 7:25 AM  

I found this one just a touch more difficult than the average Monday, which is cool. I had never heard of DOGE and thought that I may have screwed up that section somehow - but perhaps I’m an outlier on that one. Agree with Rex on the abbreviations for awards from foreign governments - I can’t think of anything more useless to include in a crossword puzzle (and a Monday no less). You would think that the NYT would aspire to do better than what other publications might deem acceptable, but this regime consistently demonstrates otherwise.

Glen Laker 7:25 AM  

And remember, “Choosey memes choose Gif”

O. G. Solskjær 7:40 AM  

5D PEAK PERFORMANCE: Serious athletes in individual sports will tell you that in competition they are competing against themselves at least as much as they are competing against others. So PEAK PERFORMANCE is highly relevant and on-target as an answer to the clue. It certainly DOES sound like what the clue suggests.

And speaking of PEAK PERFORMANCE and MBE: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and the English national team - an exceptional young man both on and off the pitch. And that ain't no FLUFF!

pabloinnh 7:40 AM  

Knew something was up after ACME and PEAK and the other two were equally satisfying. A theme without a revealer is still a theme and this is what you call some quality execution. Who likes this one? IDOIDO!

Agree with OFL's seeming ignorance of PEAKPERFORMANCE. I had this experience just once in my road running days, when about ten miles into a half marathon I felt like I was floating. Almost sprinted (almost) the rest of the way and broke 1:30 for the first and only time. My "running" these days more closely resembles the "Eskimo shuffle", which is what we do on icy surfaces around here.

In Baader-Meinhoff news, I was reading some Mark Twain last night and about three pages in ran into a description of a stage robbery in which the bandits seized a "chest of SPECIE", proof that the word does in fact exist in the wild.

Agree with the usefulness of STUFF. Kids in Spanish class always wanted to know how to say that in Spanish. Best I could come up with was "cosas" (things). I'm still open to suggestions.

Great thanks to AM and ACME for all the fun. Mondazo!!

Hungry Mother 7:41 AM  

Fast time, but a challenging Monday with some very interesting fill. Nice long themers. I’ve had a couple of TIVO models, but still needed perps to get it.

mmorgan 8:14 AM  

Yay, ACME!

MBE was a gimme ‘cuz it’s the only British medal abbreviation I know ‘cuz I remember when John Lennon turned his down.

Taffy-Kun 8:17 AM  

“Material” as Spanish for “stuff”?

TTrimble 8:29 AM  

TOP OF THE MORNING to you all!

I glance at the top of Rex's column and laugh out loud. "3 flat, I've had a drink". He wants us to know that. He might well have added: "In fact, you should also take into account I was tired. And distracted. Really, were it not for that, I totally would have solved this in two minutes. I am Rex Parker, the Greatest blah blah blah".

I guess we should infer it was not a PEAK PERFORMANCE.

I figured he was not going to like this puzzle. Stalwarts like SPAS, PAAR EMCEE, EMT, CHO, ETA, TBA, IRKS, MBE, ONEG, etc. This morning however they are solid and inoffensive (except that some are the "absolute lowest", "awful"). I half-expected to see him throw a fit over I DO! I DO!, and did not expect the mini-rant over WAX (which is, after all, the stuff of honeycombs).

The puzzle seems Monday-accessible. In some ways it felt like going through the motions, but I'm sure I could have made this more entertaining for myself if I tried. The themes: not bad.

A little sad to see TREBEK.

Time for the SB -- it looks like a long haul today.

Spatenau 8:29 AM  

Agree with LMS that PEAK PERFORMANCE is certainly a thing that athlete's strive for. Winning would be nice, but you can't realistically do more than your best! Also, the whole point of a periodized training schedule is to allow you to "peak" at just the right time in the competition schedule.

JOHN X 8:31 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taffy-Kun 8:32 AM  

Otherwise “Cositas”

JOHN X 8:38 AM  

I thought this was a pretty good puzzle, especially for a Monday, which is ordinarily a puzzle I can solve while brushing my teeth.

AND it was co-constructed by Andrea Carla Michaels, who even tucked ACME into the grid. Remember when she was a regular contributor on this very blog? I don't know why she left (we are all grown-ass adults and entitled to our own opinions and preferences) but I miss her posts. There's some other contributors I miss as well.

I've never had a puzzle published in the New Yory Times, so they are better than me, at least in this regard.

I loved a bunch of these answers, which I normally don't consider to be a prerequisite for solving a crossword puzzle. You either solve the puzzle or you don't; your emotional response to the answers matters to no one.

However, I think PEACH was my favorite. When I was stationed at the submarine base in Charleston, South Carolina (if you read previous posts you'll know that I'm a decorated war hero) we were very close to Georgia; I was a young good-looking boy and I managed to do quite well with the peaches. I still think of them to this day.

- - - - - -


On Xmas Eve you made a post that said you had discovered me. I'm curious about that. E-mail at the link on my profile and tell me who you think I am. If you're right I will congratulate you; if you're wrong I'll send you my true identity.

- - - - - - -

There is an amazing thunderstorm going on in Los Angeles right now.

Joaquin 8:44 AM  

@TTrimble (8:29) - Re: "(3 flat, I've had a drink)".

Maybe Rex isn't bragging; as often as he tells us he's had a drink, maybe it's a cry for help.

bocamp 8:47 AM  

@Alan & @Andrea, thank you both for a fine Monday offering to kick off the puzzling week. :)

Medium solve.

Beethoven String "Quartet" Op.59 No.1 Razumovsky

Peace 🕊

TJS 8:52 AM  

@LMS, "someone who thinks they are more clever and interesting than they really are". No, just no. Just keep being you, please. No second guessing allowed.

mathgent 8:55 AM  

I'm happy for all of you who liked it. I don't understand why.

After I do the puzzle, I go back over it and put red plus signs in the margins. Clever clue: red plus sign. Uncommon word: red plus sign. Learned something: red plus sign. The average Monday has three or four of them. Today's had none. Zero.

RooMonster 9:04 AM  

Hey All !
I just don't understand the negative response to that glorious F in TOP OF THE MORNING. Sad, really.

Cool puz, didn't get a theme vibe whilst solving, grokked it after the puz was done. Unusual, for any themed day. Was looking for ALAN as an answer after getting ACME! A few puzs I've made have included ROO. Why not? :-)

Thought about mememe at first for IDOIDO. Didn't write it in, though. mememe could be clued as "An egotists internet funny?" or something. Odd (but nice) to have OFF together and not be the word "off". Only writeover was soWHAT to ORWHAT. DOGE was a Huh? here. Crosses took care of that.

ONEG was a shock, thought that was pretty common, but the common one is OPOS. Thanks to @Shackfu 12:17 for providing the percentages. I'm ANEG myself. What is the difference in blood? How do people have different blood? What makes it different? Strange how the different types can't interact. Would be neat if the different types were different colors! Red, Orange, Green, Purple. At least it would be easy to identify!

You're Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, that's my guess! *Salute*
Or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Or some other long German last name!

Five F's (nice block of 4 in the middle)

RooMonster 9:06 AM  

"Things we're thankful for"

Therapeutic to some. Goats are optional.


Nancy 9:17 AM  

I bet Alan and Andrea had a lot of fun dreaming UP these theme answers (pun intended). Alas, I had less fun solving them. A mountain that's not especially challenging and that's not particularly scenic, either. I climbed it because it was there.

GILL I. 9:38 AM  

I will now WAX nostalgic and yearn for the return of the STUD muffin behind the counter at Tony's Deli. We would INTERACT over the AROMA emanating from the RIPE PEACH. His FLUFF was a KNOT that looked like a HORNED OGRE but he was the BIG SHOTS. The COMBO cherry CERISE was A ONE. Is that good OR WHAT?
Sadly....they are now closed.
@Watsername....The last time I wore makeup was last month when I went to DMV to renew my license. I knew I could't get away with leaving my mask on when they took my picture. I got my new one in the mail and I still look like a convict.
Well....give me an ACME puzzle with an Alan any day of the week. Yessireebob. It makes my TOP OF THE MORNING shine along with some good French press Peets coffee.
I liked it all. HEIGHT OF FASHION being my favorite. I'm not at my height anymore but I refuse to wear PJ's when I go to the store. I'm saddened that people don't care what they wear. No need to be frumpy just because you think you might die from COVID. I still put my eyebrows on when I go out because God didn't give me @Nancy's. I also comb my hair.
It's Monday and a start of a new week. I'm still alive and kicking, so I'm happy.........You be, too. Son las cosas de amor y cosas para vivir....Hi @pablito.....

Nancy Drew 9:52 AM  

@Nancy and her sleuthing got me curious about @John X also. I dunno. He such a madman that I don’t see how anyone can crack that case!

Lewis 9:52 AM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. A flat one is best to skip (5)
2. Series of goals (3)(5)
3. Perfect score ... or half of one (3)
4. Toy associated with France (6)
5. Booty call? (4)(4)


pmdm 9:53 AM  

Like all of Acme's puzzles, I enjoyed this one. I, for one, miss her comments here. Such a shame she was hounded out of her by people who i would call mean.

For those who believe she inserted a self reference into the puzzle, do read the constructors comments, perhaps on XWordInfo. According to the comments, she did not.

TTrimble: I don't know if you are just joking, but I had the same observation. Is Sharp joking or is he really making excuses for his times. While I appreciate the skill of those who can speed solve, I really don't care. If a joke is repeated too often, it becomes trite. And Mike in my opinion makes "excuses" too often for them to be jokes. But if there are those who really care or enjoy the humor ...

JD 10:01 AM  

Fun puzzle. I agree on the medium rating, but still accessible to newbs. If by old we're now looking at 1995, at least it takes some pressure off the Boomers (Ok Gen X). Heheh...

Am I imagining it, or did Spa become the Bra of 2020? Was it in every grid this year or am I now automatically inserting it even when it doesn't belong there, just out of habit?

@John X, Your glib mystique fascinates. I too figured out who you are. Thanks for your work on the vaccine.

Oneg, there's a joke in there somewhere (@Frantic, over to you ... two guys walk into a bar in Finland)

Back to the salt mine, sigh. I'll miss the bonus Captcha quiz, I think it was keeping me sharp.

Nancy 10:06 AM  

Oh, wow! Thanks to @Loren for calling my attention to Rex's comment about PEAK PERFORMANCE. (I hadn't read his remarks, as per usual, but I read them just now.) I would bet every nickel I have that Rex doesn't play any sports. @Loren swims/swam (didn't know that about you, @Loren; very interesting) and I played tennis. The PEAK PEERFORMANCE clue is oh-so-right and Rex is oh-so-wrong.

Let me tell you about my Finest Hour on the tennis court. The best match I ever played in my life. It wasn't a win. It was a loss. It was to Judy S, one of the better women players in the park. She was, at the least, a very strong 4.0 - 4.5. I was a 3.5 - 4.0. That's not just an edge; it's a chasm. If I hadn't gotten a game from her, no one in the park would have been surprised.

We played one set (she was waiting for her "real" game to arrive.) She beat me 6-4. I played out of my skull. Mine was definitely a PEAK PERFORMANCE.

Now admittedly, every ounce of my physical and mental focus was going into this match, while Judy was anxiously scanning the area in front of the clubhouse waiting for her "real" game to arrive. (We were on a back court, far away, and they wouldn't have seen her when they showed up.) So there's that. Still, I played out of my skull. I cannot play better than I played that day.

Hundreds of matches that I won are totally forgotten. Poof. This match that I lost is etched in my memory forever. (Not exactly in the way people with real memories remember stuff; I remember no particular shots; I don't remember the progression of the score; I only remember the final score and that I played out of my skull. And I do think I remember that we were on Court 22. Or was it 21?)

PEAK PERFORMANCE is also known as "being in the zone", Rex. And it's feels much better than simply winning because it's much so much rarer. (Well maybe not for this year's Jets.)

bigsteve46 10:24 AM  

Well, survived a feral trio: Lord-of-the-Rings, X-man and Star-Wars clues in one puzzle. TGIM (Thank God it's Monday.) Maybe this clears out this crap for the rest of the week - although I doubt it.

Ah well, looks like I'll make it to another year: hardly ever leaving the house is not much for excitement, but at the moment, contributes (I hope) to longevity, especially for us geezers.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

I didn’t realize Andrea Carla left this blog. I enjoyed her posts. How was she hounded out of here? There are others that like the sound of their own voice a bit too much that I could do without. Remember the three post limit rule? Anyhow - this is a crossword blog for crying out loud.... no need to get nasty

Joaquin 10:43 AM  

Blood types aren't that much fun. However, an ONEG - a Shabbat evening event involving eating sweets and other pleasureful events - is fun. Give me an "oneg" over an "O-negative" any day of the week (but especially on a Friday).

TTrimble 10:43 AM  

I hate to say it, but I don't think he's joking. The excuse-making takes various forms: sometimes it's the drink or two, sometimes he's tired and groggy at 4 AM, sometimes he's slowed down by taking screen shots, sometimes he says he was solving it slowly like that's a deliberate thing. Sometimes he outright suggests we shave off thirty seconds or so from his time because of this or that. Sometimes he says he wasn't timing himself, which I have some trouble believing.

I do wish, for his own sake, he would knock it off. After laughing at it, I feel a little sorry for him. I probably don't have to explain why.

If it helps, I congratulate him on his success.

Sixthstone 10:48 AM  

Very nice Monday. Played fast for me likely do the the 4 full-length themers taking up much of the grid. Get those and you are on your way! If not for a typo that I had to find, I might have cracked my Monday best time. I'll blame it on my one drink (first cup of coffee).

There was some standard short fill, but isn't there always?!? My only real nit is no adult beverage again in the puzzle. I'll just have to reclue BIG SHOTS in my head!

Nancy 10:50 AM  

@JOHN X (8:38) -- As per your request, I just emailed you with what I think is your real identity. Please let me know if I'm right. The suspense is killing me.

I based my deduction on Agatha Christie's THE ABC MURDERS. "Where best to hide a tree than in a forest? Where best to hide a murder than in a series of murders?"

And in your case: Where best to hide an identity than in a series of fake identities? That was my starting point. I hope it wasn't also my ending point :)

burtonkd 11:02 AM  

@Nancy et al from yesterday: Interestingly, the most indoor Hitchcock movie is probably Rear Window, but the location is very clearly Greenwich Village, specifically 130 Christopher Street.

@Loren: Queen's Gambit accepted - you are absolutely every bit as clever and interesting as you certainly know. The blog is certainly brighter for the holidays, work it into your regular schedule, please!

NOONE has CARPed yet about XMEN or LOTR characters...

Pablo 11:05 AM  

ESSEN/MBE and CERISE/SHEAF seemed a bit obscure for Monday. The clue for COMBO was also not great. A little choppy for a Monday imo, and definitely not doing any favors to newbies (particularly younger newbies). However, the longs were very nice entries for a Monday.

Carola 11:12 AM  

For me, a puzzle featuring the ACME CORPORATION can do no wrong: I fell in love with it right there. Also recalled that Wile E. Coyote came to grief many a time pancaked into a PEAK (somehow always missing the crucial tunnel) or flattened under an anvil falling from a HEIGHT. Extra fun with OR WHAT, I DO I DO, and the amusing clues. A great Monday with wit and panache.

pmdm 11:22 AM  

TTrimble: Sadly I tend to share your sentiments.

Anon 10:39 AM: one of the reasons why monitors exist for this blog is because there were too many repetitive posts that were nasty. Many were anonymous and aimed at Mr. Sharp. If I recall correctly, evil Doug used to post here and became involved in a rather nasty battle. At any rate, all of the previous comments are accessible on this blog. Anyone can search the comments made years ago and locate those I refer too with a little effort. What some find nasty other might find humorous. (Not me.) While I'd like to, I just don't have the time to locate some of the comments that would enlighten you more.

Phillybear 11:37 AM  

As a coach, I care much more about PEAK PERFORMANCE than winning. If a new athlete goes to a competition and competes well by using what they’ve learned, and working really hard, that is far more important than the professional who shows up and beats them sloppily. That’s my two cents.

My other two cents is a grumble and gripe that RAD should be RADICAL or it should be clued with the shortened “gnar”. Yes, even slang needs to follow some rules.

Phillybear 11:39 AM  

As a coach, I care much more about PEAK PERFORMANCE than winning. If a new athlete goes to a competition and competes well by using what they’ve learned, and working really hard, that is far more important than the professional who shows up and beats them sloppily. That’s my two cents.

My other two cents is a grumble and gripe that RAD should be RADICAL or it should be clued with the shortened “gnar”. Yes, even slang needs to follow some rules.

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Seems like a real missed opportunity on ACAB.

Also, the clueing of NANO is woefully imprecise. NANO has a specific meaning as a prefix. If it is clued as a prefix, then it should have that specific meaning (one billionth).

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

The ACME of MonPuzs. Different … had four grid-spannin vertical themers, for a change. Like.

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {Georgia fruit} = PEACH. Clues in general were pretty neighborly … didn't notice any ?-marker clues at all.
not so eazy-e stuff, at our house: MBE. DOGE. NAOMI. Lost a few precious 59-Down seconds.

sparklers: TREBEK. BIGSHOTS. ORWHAT. FLUFF. Wile E. Coyote reference.
staff weeject pick: DUG. Crossin RAD. Mellow middle stuff, dude. Nice weeject runs, in rows 6 and 10.

Thanx for gangin up on us, ACME darlin & Alan Massengill dude. TOP notch.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Anonymous 11:54 AM  

simple mnemonic to remember that file extension: who's the best NY Giant of all time? Kathy Lee Gifford.

Kyle 11:55 AM  

Overall comment about the puzzle: I really liked it. I flew through it (for me a bit over 5), which I don't often do (speed solving often diminishes my enjoyment) but liked it nonetheless.

Didn't know about the other meaning of ACAB until reading the comments. Kinda wish I still didn't given that it's the sort of low-brow oversimplification of a complex issue that mostly serves to get people yelling at each other instead of problem solving.

When I run in races, I have no hope of winning, but I want to do my best, set PRs (personal records) and perform at my peak. In many sports (especially non head-to-head ones) PEAK PERFORMANCE is a more realistic goal to have than winning. (And why I can feel good about my 5:04 on today's puzzle even though I'm sure it's nowhere near top of the pack in this group)


A 12:08 PM  

Happy Four Calling Birds Day! What are calling birds, anyway?

Not having seen the Roadrunner in decades, I thought the company was ACME Dynamite. (Now I remember he used many other forms of terrorization.) So I was amused at my dumb self having to use the crosses to find the answer. Going down the east, skipped to the first one I was sure of, HERR. Still no idea, dumbass - chuckle, repeat. Didn’t take long, though, so it was funny instead of frustrating. Actually this may have been my fastest NYT puzzle yet. Not that I care.

Agree with @LMS that athletes have multiple goals. But I can understand Rex getting stuck with one interpretation and being put off. Happened to me with the ‘threat’ clue, which I took very seriously as a war reference (y’know, 2020) and thought I needed a battle tactic. Had OR_HA_ and couldn’t see anything but ORpHAn - you can isolate part of an army, right? But that wouldn’t work as a noun: “oh, yeah? I have an orphan and I’m not afraid to use her!”

Appreciated the PEAKPERFORMANCE stories from @pabloinnh and @Nancy. Reminded me of a tennis match, my first in a long time, in which I threw the racket to my other hand to return an otherwise unbeatable backhand shot. My first time opponent, a much better player than I, had to point out I had done it. Never did it before or after. Freaked her out and I won in spite of myself. Took a couple more matches before she put me in my place, and I never won again, despite performing better.

Ever notice how some athletes try their absolute best all the time and some do just enough to get the job done? It’s very noticeable in equine jumping. Some jump as high as they can all the time and others leave not even a hairs’ breadth. I like to watch (Peter Sellers smiling face comes to mind there) the soaring ones, but appreciate the mastery of the ones who know exactly what is needed, and do it perfectly. Come to think of it they are trying their best too. They deserve the MBE.


Another Anon 12:31 PM  

There have been comments about ACAB being something other than A CAB. I googled ACAB and found something nasty. I don't understand why some wanted the cluing to be that.

egsforbreakfast 12:37 PM  

As a shareholder in the Acme Corporation, I’ve watched the stock skyrocket and plummet, along with the fortunes of our largest customer. Product liability concerns have forced the company to drop certain lines, such as the Acme Giant Rubber Band V1 and V2 Kits, as well as the Acme Tornado Seeds. On the whole, however, the company appears to be prospering due to its relentless R & D efforts to meet the needs of of its small, but never sated, market.

A curious thing, with no significance, I assume, is that there are no black squares on the NW to SE diagonal. I noticed this because I often look for unintended words contained in diagonals.

Anyway, I thought this was a top notch Monday puzzle. Thank you, AM & Acme.

Nancy 1:00 PM  

Sorry I initially missed your PEAK PERFORMANCE story, @pabloinnh. To feel like you're "floating" after running [to me, a grueling] 10 miles sounds pretty darn PEAK. And then "sprinting" the rest of the way sounds even PEAK-ier. BTW, I looked up beating a 1:30 time for a half-marathon and it said it was the goal of "highly competitive runners". So @Hungry Mother and @Amy Yanni had better watch out:)

It's said that Rex never reads the comments and there's no reason why he should. But he'd benefit by reading today's -- specifically the comments of Loren, Pablo, Phillybear, OG Solskjaer, Mimi and me. He might learn where the joy of athletic competition really lies. And while he almost certainly doesn't compete athletically himself, it would give him a far greater appreciation of what to look for as a sports spectator.

Frantic Sloth 1:13 PM  

First things first. Some comments and further reflection proves once again how idiotic I can be. Of course A.C.M.E. doesn't put ACME in all her grids. Five seconds of thought showed me I've seen many more of her puzzles than I have ever seen ACME included. I guess I was kind of thinking of it as a tongue-in-cheek signature, but how arrogant would that be?? And I don't know her from Shirley (so sick of Adam - how very "bro"), but I'll wager she is a fine human being of great character and humility. Just a sense I get...but I'm right. 😉
So, whether she reads this or not, I would like to apologize to her (and anyone who took offense on her behalf ) for my foolishness. Thanks for listening.

The village awaits and my ride is here...

A2JD 1:25 PM  

I’ll give it 2005 over 1995 but it is certainly dated. I still enjoyed it but I’m a pretty easy mark.

Richard 1:28 PM  

@pabloinnh: Might try "mugre." Yeah, it translates more as dirt or filth, but I use it as a kind of catch-all for junk(i.e., stuff) that's just lying around. Won't work in all cases, but might in some.

Frantic Sloth 1:49 PM  

Hand up for Rex's PEAKPERFORMANCE take being whack, for all the reasons already mentioned.

@LMS What @TJS 852am and burtonkd 1102am said. Bigly.

@JD 1001am Sorry to disappoint, but I haven't Finnished that joke yet.

@Kyle 1155am and Another Anon 1231pm Ditto! Some people here may "like the sound of their own voice", but at least they don't revel in nastiness.

@A 1208pm “oh, yeah? I have an orphan and I’m not afraid to use her!” 🤣🤣🤣 ICBA? Inter-Continental Ballistic Annie?

jberg 1:54 PM  

I always solve in the printed NYT, where the puzzle appears in the Arts sectino - and M-T, specifically on p. 3. Today on p. 1 of that section there was a feature on important cultural figures who died in 2020. I'd have gotten TREBEK anyway, but that certainly helped. (Coincidentally, I did another puzzle today that had another of those important figures. In that case, I cheated, as I couldn't remember how to spell that person's surname.) My guess is that neither Will Shortz nor the Arts editor knows what the other is planning.

The thing about the PEAK PERFORMANCE clue is that all athletes are seeking that, not solely those in competitive sports. (And road racing is only competitive for a handful of the runners -- everyone else is just enjoying the run and seeking a PP.) Including "competitive" in the clue would be a legitimate distraction later in the week, but on a Monday a more straightforward clue would be desirable.

The same thing is true of cluing REI as a "Big sporting goods retailer." The clue is correct in the sense that they are big, and they sell some sporting goods -- kayaks, bicycles, skis--but the phrase suggest a store that also sells baseball gloves, footballs, and the like, which they do not. Again, a good misdirect, but maybe not on a Monday.

OTOH, the theme is brilliant, with the words for top at the top of the grid, etc. I also liked the little chute of short fill going down the diagonal, and especially the convergence of GEE, RAD, and DUG just above the center line.

The weak point was the plural CACAOS.

I'm pretty sure a recent puzzle clued ONEG as a common blood type. Go figure.

One last thing. @Rex discusses why he posts his times as #6 in his FAQ. But over the years, he has also come to use his solving time as a metric for the difficulty reading he gives each puzzle. He adjusts the rating for anything that may have made his time slower, such as having one or more drinks or playing with a kitten, so he posts that information.

Carola 2:00 PM  

@egsforbreakfast, 12:37 - I loved your post. And, of course, appreciate your investing in the ACME CORPORATION. Speaking of product liability concerns, I wondered if you were aware of the lawsuit filed by Wile E. Coyote way back in 1990. Despite dramatic documentation of injuries sustained by the plaintiff due to product malfunction, the Corporation obviously survived unscathed.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

I would love to see "ACAB" re-clued to its modern usage: graffiti challenging the police. However, I am guessing that would create an uproar.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

I don't understand all this fuss about Rex's time-related statements.

He obviously cares very much how quickly he can solve a puzzle. One reason that is of benefit to the rest of us is that he can then give us an indication of how difficult it was for him. I appreciate that difficulty indicator, and the little tidbit of information it gives to me (even if it does annoy me when he says a Saturday was easy and I couldn't get anywhere with it).

Quite likely he cares excessively about how fast he is, and that is perhaps not 100% mentally healthy for him. But so what? That's who he is. If his blog entertains, read it; if it doesn't, don't.

Unknown 2:59 PM  

Clearly rex has no athletic background. Anybody who has ever trained for *anything* would have grokked PEAKPERFORMANCE from just the PEA . . . . .

Re: rex's drinking, if I had a friend who pretty regularly complained to me that they weren't giving their best efforts at work, or on a task, because of their imbibing, I'd start to worry about the role that alcohol played in their life. I'd probably say something to to them.
Since rex is just an on-line stranger, i won't.

Doc John 3:05 PM  

When I saw the byline, I knew that Miss Parker would find some reason to dislike the puzzle. Feh!
And here was a woman constructor today and yet no mention of that.
The theme was great- 4 grid-spanners that all hit the mark. So MBE was in it. Big effing deal. You'd forgive this same thing for your favorite constructors.
As for PEAK PERFORMANCE, that rings very true for me, seeing as how it was the name of the first ED clinic I worked in.

JOHN X 3:20 PM  

@Nancy 10:50 AM

I was president of the G.E. jet engine division after I got out of the Mexican prison. It was a pretty sweet gig; I had a big office and a secretary and an expense account, even though I had no idea what I was doing. I haven’t shown up in months yet I still get a fat paycheck every two weeks.

I’m currently working as a logger in Oregon.

CS 3:31 PM  

@Joaguin (10:43) -
Yes, ONEG shabbat! I somehow fill in this in with the crosses before seeing the clue (I guess because of focusing on the Downs) and thought that was the reference. It took me a few beats to realized O-NEG (not ONEG and not ONE-G).
Now where are my tea and cookies (and if I'm lucky some rugelach)?

I thought this puzzle was just fine and agree that it was a good hearty one for a beginner on a Monday

Happy last week of 2020~

-- CS

JC66 3:34 PM  


I think you might be @Lewis' alter ego.

Am I right?

sanfranman59 4:00 PM  

@Frantic Sloth (12:02am) ... re "ACME inserts ACME in all her grids?" ... I don't think it's in every one of them, but it's definitely a signature and one of those insider-knowledge things that's fun about hobbies

@Joaquin (12:06am) ... re "I liked this a lot more than Rex did" ... I think it's safe to say that today's blog entry counts as a rave review for Rex these days, particularly for an early-week puzzle. If you ask me, he should make it a habit to drink a Manhattan when he solves and reviews, though I suppose a Manhattan every night might have other less positive side effects.

@Shackfu (12:17am) ... re prevalence of ABO blood types ... Thanks for this. I started with 'b-NEG' (my blood type) and was wondering about it when I corrected the answer to O-NEG, but forgot to look it up afterward. That's not a great clue, but even if it's the fourth most common type, 6.6% is still relatively rare.

@Loren Muse Smith (6:01am) (and others) ... re PEAK PERFORMANCE ... amen ... Athletes very commonly train for PEAK PERFORMANCE at the top events in their sports (Olympics, world championships, major golf and tennis tournaments, bike races, etc. etc. etc.). I guess I can understand Rex's quibble with the word "goal" and your suggestion for rewording the clue is probably an improvement, but that's mostly just a nit. I also agree with you re "stuff" in the clue for WAX. This is an example of where I think Rex goes way out of his way to come up with something to criticize.

@kitshef (7:22am) ... re pronunciation of fungi ... huh ... I've always pronounced that word with a hard G. FWIW, M-W.com says that either pronunciation is valid.

@A (12:08pm) ... re “oh, yeah? I have an orphan and I’m not afraid to use her!” ... LMAO! Thank you!

@jberg (1:54) ... re "The weak point was the plural CACAOS" ... I'm surprised that you were the first to mention this. For me, this was easily the most cringe-worthy moment of the solve. re "I'm pretty sure a recent puzzle clued ONEG as a common blood type" ... per XWordInfo, it's never been clued that way in the NYT, but is often clued as some variation on "Universal donor blood type"

Another Anon 4:06 PM  

The phrase you refer to is not true. It is inflammatory and interferes with the efforts of good people to solve serious problems. You would throw gasoline on a fire. Also, you are trolling.

A 4:11 PM  

Oh, of course, it's colly/ie birds! (y for him, ie for me, said Pinkie) How could I forget such a charming name for blackbirds?

jaymar 5:01 PM  

Comfortable Monday puzzle. Liked it all except for fluff that was phooey

egsforbreakfast 5:32 PM  

@Carola 2:00 pm. You bring back, with the link to Wile E. Coyote’s infamous 1990 lawsuit against Acme, the painful memory of my having shorted the stock when the suit was only a rumor. I took a beating almost as bad as those described in the suit, and the company continued to enjoy it’s virtual monopoly within its niche.

Thanks for the memories.

Anoa Bob 6:36 PM  

Like jberg @1:54, when I saw 70A ONEG clued "Rare blood type, for short", I thought "Wasn't ONEG clued as being a common blood type in a recent puzzle?" Turns out "recent" was yesterday at 52 Down and the clue was "Universal donor's blood type, in brief".

I think the "Universal" part is what threw me. You'd think that if something is universal it would definitely be common, right? But in this case (I looked) it means that someone with blood type O NEG can donate blood safely to all other blood types, so it is designated as a "Universal red cell donor type", even though it is found in only 6.6% of the population, as Shackfu @12:17 a.m. points out.

That recent appearance of the O NEG type clue would call for a ONE G type clue for today's puzzle were it not for 23D AT ONE already in the grid. I'd bet this is a case of "One dupe in two is better than two dupes in one".

Nancy 9:00 PM  

Well, it seems my detective work on @JOHN X's real identity missed the mark entirely. OTOH, as I told John off-blog just now somewhat indignantly: Hercule Poirot would have almost certainly come to the same erroneous conclusion. The profile is deliberately misleading -- with one HUGE Agatha Christie-style red herring -- and therefore I'm not willing to surrender my credibility as an Internet sleuth.

Birchbark 9:22 PM  

PEAK PERFORMANCE commenters -- Mine was a B+ in American Lit I as a college sophomore -- a "weeder" course for potential English majors and the hardest I ever took -- not the grade, but getting it right. It taught me how to read, and better than any of the "A's."

Best Saturday archive clue: 1/1/2001: "Source of a couch potato's potatoes."

Shackfu 1:42 AM  

The most indoor Hitchcock movie was Rope!

thefogman 10:12 AM  

It’s not bad - like a plain cheese pizza. It’s lacking a certain something.

Diana, LIW 10:25 AM  

Hey @Foggy - don't knock cheese pizza - worse things could happen! (Remember most of 2020)

If the cheese stands alone - I'll nibble!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for exclamation marks

spacecraft 12:18 PM  

Always nice to hear from AONE CERISE MBE. I have a different take on ACAB: it is in fact A CAB company in Las Vegas. Before the birth of ride shares, that's how we got around here. I reject the "other" meaning, and believe that those who write that "stuff" publicly should do community service, preferably by scrubbing it off. S[ome]CAB, that's another story.

There's a problem with the clue for ORWHAT. The "threat" has, presumably, already been made, so we know what the ORWHAT is...don't we?

ONEG is my type, and in medical circles it's considered relatively uncommon.

There are numerous DODs today, but I'm making a special dispensation. I present the Dude of the Day, Alex TREBEK. If he'd been a Brit, I'm quite sure he'd have at least an MBE. I miss you, sir; Jeopardy! will never be the same.

Good Monday puzzle, and I do wish ACME would consider rejoining us. Birdie.

Burma Shave 12:45 PM  


and she’ll INTERACT with you EACH
to find A HORNED up STUD for passion


leftcoaster 3:21 PM  

Neat and clean Monday MORNING from the TOP down.

But left wondering why John Lennon returned the MBE medal.

rondo 3:45 PM  

zenithtelevision woulda been one letter too long, but I used to own one. Nobody has forgotten ACME and her propensity to put ACME in a grid.

Despite the supermodels, easy to acknowledge Alex TREBEK as @spacey points out. Ken Jennings is OK, we'll see what other guest hosts do. Maybe Mayam Bialik will surprise us. Big shoes to fill. Still love the game though.

All the TOPs are at the TOP. good puz.

BS2 9:24 PM  

for those not conversant in German, ESSEN means to eat,

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