2007 black comedy directed by Frank Oz / THU 1-7-21 / Drum typically played with one hand / Thanks for noticing me character of kid-lit / Pope whose pontificate lasted less than one month in 1605 / Italian stratovolcano / Hindu honorifics

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Constructor: Matthew Stock and Sid Sivakumar

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (typical Thursday—played Hard, then, once you got the theme, Easy)

THEME: STRIKE THAT (59A: Words of correction ... or a hint to 16-, 20-, 36- and 54-Across) — themers have the letter string "THAT" replaced by "XXXX" (so, "struck" out):

Theme answers:
  • WIXXXXWIST (i.e. with a twist) (16A: Cocktail specification)
  • DONXXXXE (i.e. "Don't hate!") (20A: "Get your negative energy outta here")
  • DEAXXXXAFUNERAL (i.e. "Death at a Funeral") (36A: 2007 black comedy directed by Frank Oz)
  • FELXXXXS (i.e. felt hats) (54A: Fedoras, e.g.)
Word of the Day: "Death at a Funeral" (36A) —
Death at a Funeral is a 2007 British black comedy film directed by Frank Oz. The screenplay by Dean Craig focuses on a family attempting to resolve a variety of problems while attending the funeral of the patriarch. [...] In 2010, Chris RockTracy Morgan, and Martin Lawrence starred in a US remake of the same name, directed by Neil LaButePeter Dinklage returned to play the role of Peter, although the character was renamed Frank. The film was released on 16 April 2010 to mixed reviews. (wikipedia)
• • •

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Ooh, I like this concept. Normally not the biggest fan of trying to show off by cramming your grid full of Scrabbly letters like X Q J Z etc., but this is a very purposeful and controlled X chaos. Also normally not the biggest fan of grid gibberish, but the strike-out gimmick makes this less gibberish, more ... occlusion? Anyway, I think it's a pretty nifty theme idea, and I think the grid as a whole largely holds up, given how much pressure those "X"s put on the grid. You wanna unleash sixteen "X"s on a grid, you better figure out how to contain them, i.e. keep them from forcing you into the land of Ugly Fill. Uncommon letters can have a cascading Bad effect, as fill opportunities narrow and sometimes severe accommodations are made. But today I only balked at a few fairly typical clunkers, like ALII and LEOXI (can't believe we escaped with only one pope or other Roman numeral-affixed leader, tbh). Obviously ALII doesn't have an "X" in it, but as I say, a Scrabbly bomb can reverberate, and ALII is "X"-adjacent. Anyway, the grid stays clean. The theme was funnish to uncover. There were some really fresh answers in there (EXOTOXIN, PROXY WAR). So despite the fact that I slipped and stumbled all over the place trying to get started, I ended up enjoying the solving experience quite a bit.

There's one thing, though... UV WAVE. Like ... really? A single wave is a "sunburn cause"??? "Oh, you're really red, must've been that ... UV WAVE ... that hit you ... that one time ... remember?" I've never seen UV waves in anything but plural form, and since the clue did not indicate a singular or plural answer, I went in a much more sensible direction at first, which is to say I went with a. a plural, and b. the word that most people use: UV RAYS. The "UV" was set early, and I "confirmed" the "A" with ANTE, and bam, that was that. It was so disappointing, later on, to find out that the real answer was this sad, lone UV WAVE. People call them "rays"! They only refer to them in the plural! So I don't know if that was a deliberate or accidental trap, but it felt cheap as heck. I was so locked in to UV RAYS that even when I hit a clue that obviously screamed ENO (27A: Brian in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), since I had the answer starting with an "S," my only thought was "dang, who are the other Brians besides ENO?" Later, when I thought 13A: Big wheels (HUMVEE) was HUMMER, I found myself in an equally absurd position, staring at 14D: Italian stratovolcano, looking at the "R" I had in the first position, and wondering "dang, what are the other Italian volcanoes besides ETNA?" So basically ENO and ETNA (old friends) were shouting and waving their arms wildly, trying to warn me that I'd gone errant, but I just stumbled further in the morass.

Worst of all in that NW section, from a deeply personal standpoint, was the fact that I couldn't make heads or tails of the dang *cocktail* clue. I enjoy cocktails ~3x/week. I had a Negroni variant (made with Cynar instead of Campari) just last night. And you know what? My wife served it WITH A TWIST (orange) ... and *yet*, between trouble thinking of "specification" as a prepositional phrase, and the UVRAYS trouble, and the ... oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the OMAR trouble! I put in HUMMER (wrong) at 13A: Big wheels and then, when asked to think of a four-letter poet starting OM-, I went straight to OMAR (as in Khayyam) (it actually started OV- and was OVID) (7D: Poet who said "Let others praise ancient times. I am glad I was born in these"). So, yeah, throw that into the mix, and I had zero hope of figuring out what was going on in NW. Total disaster. So bad, in fact, that I actually decided to go straight to the revealer (i.e. to the bottom of the grid, where I imagined the revealer would be) and build the puzzle from there. Which I promptly did: ITS + ASSAY + SRIS + EXTRA + WRITER + KEA ... and then I could see STRIKE, which had to be followed by THAT (59A: Words of correction [...]). And since I did actually have all the "X"s in place in the NW, I knew immediately how the whole striking business was going to be expressed in the grid. It would still be a while til I discovered that UVRAYS and OMAR were wrong, but I had the key now, and getting to the end was pretty easy after that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 6:42 AM  

Not really in the mood and I'm probably not alone, so mini-review today.

Liked it. Liked the theme. Liked the double "strike" meaning.
No nits.
The end.

๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง .75

amyyanni 6:45 AM  

Good morning. The thing I most enjoyed was Rex's Strike Four illustration. Baseball, sigh. Hoping we won't have to strike that this year. Puzzle was diverting.

Lewis 6:45 AM  

Dear Sid and Matthew, this was very enjoyable. I’m so very glad you thought it was WORXXXXRY!

Lewis 7:06 AM  

A couple of things stand out to me, from the constructors’ notes. First, Sid and Matthew had independently thought of this original never-done-before theme. Wow! What a moment that must have been when you two came together, having just met last year, and discovered that the other had thought of the same theme! It must have felt like Fate.

Second, you tested 160 grid design possibilities before settling on this one. 160! This shows such dedication and commitment to quality and polish. Wow again!

Sid, this is only your sixth NYT puzzle, but you had me at your first and haven’t let me down since, and Matthew, congratulations on your NYT debut. Your collaborative puzzle was a delight. It brought such a lovely moment at the cracking of the theme, punctuated by sparkle in the cluing, and was obviously a product of skill and love. Thank you both so much!

Anonymous 7:10 AM  

Wow! 2 stinkers in a row. I pretty much hate-solved yesterday but I'm bailing today. As Porky Pig said, "XX,XX,XX,XX,XXXX'S ALL FOLKS!"

TTrimble 7:17 AM  

"He won't like it, he hates everything. He likes it! Hey, Mikey!"

Well, so, I have to disagree in this instance. Or rather, I agree that this was somewhat tough and confusing and not exactly confidence-building until the reveal, and that things went a lot better after that. It's just that I found it so gimmicky. I even like Scrabble-y crosswords as a rule, but not to the extent of having such a litter of X's: it looks ugly to me.

Although I'll bet this was a challenge to construct, so I can admire it on that level.

EXOTOXIN was certainly exotic, and I liked the cluing for OCTAVE for its trickiness. A friend from Winnie-the-Pooh, even a mopey one, is always welcome (EEYORE).

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

Stupidest crossword of the year. I hope. The year is already bad enough.

ChuckD 7:32 AM  

I know the construction chops are here - but there was little enjoyment for me. I moved down in the west - got FELT HATS and moved east got the revealer and it was over. The overall fill is pedestrian - constrained by all the XXXX’s. When EXOTOXIN and AZILLION are your marquees - you’re thinking too much. Maybe I’m just so bummed today - I don’t know.

Rex - how about Wilson, May, Jones - I’m sure there’s a few more.

Georgia 7:36 AM  

Clever and great, much needed aha moment, thank you!

Jbabs 7:50 AM  

I assumed that the Xs represented strikes the way they’re entered on a score sheet in bowling.

Z 8:02 AM  

It is always a little weird to read your own solving experience, but that whole UV WAVE discussion was basically a verbatim recap of my initial solve except I did get as far as “The only other three letter Brian is May.”

URN TABOR IBEX ORZO Mauna KEA... I could go on. The theme put unbelievable pressure on the fill and the fill is decent considering all that pressure. Still EXTRA SRIS certainly raises the question of whether this theme is worth the compromises. I fall ever so slightly on the “yes” side.

Favorite part of the solve? The OVID quote. C’MON man, you gotta love the 2,000 year-old irony.

I’m sure you all want my take on the big news from yesterday, but Mrs. Z’s* 57th birthday was a mostly quiet affair. The highlight was that all three Z juniors remembered to call and wish their mom a happy birthday without a reminder from dear old dad. I’m so proud that the offspring can manage to do the pro forma bare minimum without needing to invoke the national guard... er ... Dad. Anyway, a quiet day but a birthday to remember.

*She isn’t actually “Mrs. Z.” I mean, really, if your choice is some weird Dutch name with an easy to mispronounce consonant string or “Smith” which would you pick?

pabloinnh 8:06 AM  

Good brain workout, mostly diverting, yay.

Just didn't feel very important.

Ted 8:06 AM  

Great theme, but like Rex I was instantly put on my back foot by UVWAVE. It's UVRAYS. That's the right way to say that. But RAYS didn't work, clearly, with ANTE and ENO (both gimmes) so... that corner remained incomplete until near the end.

IBIS and IBEX? Mmmkay. Fortunately, all crosses were solid, so even hilarious Pope guesswork fell easily enough.

Does someone want to explain how "K's help it" is ERA? I'm lost on that one.

Z 8:20 AM  

@Ted - Baseball - “K” is scorekeeping notation for a strike out, strike outs help with a pitcher’s ERA, Earned Run Average. I assume the K clue was to fit in with the theme, a little baseball nerd easter egg.

Rug Crazy 8:28 AM  

I'm with Rex on UVWAVES.
Had fun, though

Debbie Downer 8:47 AM  

Glad you asked. If Trump is not a former president by the time the sun sets today then America is over.

Unknown 8:53 AM  

Happily surprised that rex liked this, i came here expecting the usual blather of negativity.
Clever & well constructed. Even if our old friend mr. ENO showed up, likely in support of ETTA who was here just the other day . . . Despite that, i liked it.

Re: Z's comment "I’m sure you all want my take on the big news from yesterday, . . ." er, no, we're really all quite capable of thinking things out for ourselves. Even if you are the smartest person in the room. (Trust me, I'm not alone.)

jau 8:57 AM  

Got it. Not insane about it but okay. However, I can't get the online version to "take" - neither using x'es or changing them to 'that'. Even confirmed answers. So much for my winning streak numbers unless I'm missing xxxx certain something.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Look again. Z's tongue was firmly planted in his cheek.

Smith 9:12 AM  

Well, obviously...

bocamp 9:25 AM  

Thank you, @Matthew & @Sid; what an enjoyable challenge! 'Twas a head-scratcher, and a satisfying effort, especially after grokking the theme late in the game. :)

Medium+ solve. Only a couple minutes over av., but seemed like more.

Definitely not on my wavelength; way too many write-overs, but lots of fun, nevertheless.

Been "efile"ing" since it was a thing; so easy and convenient.

Have a good friend who identifies with "Eeyore". Maybe we all do, at one time or another. LOL

On A Bicycle Built For Two - Nat King Cole

"Daisy", "Daisy"
Give me your answer do
I'm half crazy
All for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two

yd 0

Peace and Tolerance ๐Ÿ•Š

Frantic Sloth 9:28 AM  

***Troll Alert***

Before anyone rises to the bait, consider this:

@Debbie Downer 847am and @Anonymous 919am could be the same person.

In fact, I might suggest that we ignore anyone trying to stir the pot today.

But, that's just me.

As you were.

Sir Hillary 9:35 AM  

Belated Happy New Year to all.

This puzzle has a nice theme and was a pleasant solving diversion after yesterday's nonsense.

I am less forgiving than Rex on the fill though. I agree that PROXYWAR and EXOTOXIN are good, but AZILLION is total BS (would we stand for "a thousand"?). Plus, we get VEE NEXTTO HUMVEE, EVA and EVE, AONE and BNEG, KEA, SRIS (who EAT DAL?) and, worst of all, ERY. CMON!

Can someone help me understand how Main = SEA?

In a classic case of poor database management, a couple years ago my white-as-Wonder-Bread family received a complimentary subscription to ESSENCE. The haircare and makeup tips weren't of much relevance, but the remaining content was interesting.

Z 9:39 AM  

@Frantic Sloth - The Mods are going to earn their money today.

@Smith - You might be biased... ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

@9:01 - You think? Also they apparently didn't bother to notice what my take was. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

RooMonster 9:45 AM  

Hey All !
Well, XXXX was different!

And Rex stole my "Dang!" He used it three times, as a matter of fact! I want some royalties! Har.

Fun puz. Took a while to figure out the four X's and what they stood for. I thought at first there'd only be three X's, you know, like three strikes, or an adult movie. Really didn't think the good ole NYT would allow an Adult movie theme, but you never know... So, surprised when the fourth X showed up. Then I thought it might be alternating four X's, three X's, etc. Got the Revealer, and it didn't dawn on me to use the THAT part of it, I just saw STRIKE, and went back to my original thought of three X's. Har, runaround solve. Finally figured out the X's were substituted for THAT at the center themer, simply because I knew the movie title, and finally saw how it worked. Wowsers. So a tricky enough ThursPuz for me.

I have no complaints about the fill, because, wow, having that many X's in a grid, all next to each other, and to come out of it with fill that doesn't grate is quite an impressive accomplishment. Even more with the long Downs in the NE and SW, with the NE ones both having an X! My FELXXXXS off to you gents! @Lewis said you went through 160 grid designs to get this! Holy X'S! I would've stopped at 5! Made it work somehow!

This is the only time when LEOXI doesn't warrant a groan! Nice to see him and our other old friend Brian ENO. We got two "fill-in-some-letters-and-wait-on-the-right-answer" answers today, Mauna __A, and Et ALI_. Had a funny (to me) writeover, with nXnW for SXSW. Good stuff.

PJS clue cracked me up. At least they quantified it with "rarely". You do see people at WalMart in their PJS sometimes. And hair curlers. And blankets...

Did have my one-letter DNF today, ruining my two day streak of Not having it. Had bESOD/TABOb in, not looking back at TABOb being something I'd never heard of. Drat. Once got the Almost There! message, changed it to the correct R, and got the Happy Music. Ah well, if that's the worst thing that happens today, I'll be fine. :-)

Two F's (where's the FFFF theme?) Har

Nancy 9:46 AM  

I kept wanting only three Xs: XXX. Somehow XXXX seemed over-the-top. In this regard, I was not helped by...

The black comedy (36A)
The annual Austin festival initial-fest (50D)
The kind of TV cable abbrev (5D)
The harmful bacterial secretion (33D). Somehow EcOTOXIN seemed more correct.

Where AUX and EXOTOXIN dwelt is where I wanted my only three Xs.

The revealer is almost terrific, and yet, alas, it misses. It really should be STRIKE = THAT. XXXX's another reason I was flummoxxxxed by this along the way.

I would have liked this a lot more if it hadn't been marred by some of the ugly fill mentioned above. This didn't quite work for me.

Debbie 9:48 AM  

@Frantic. I am not Anon 9:19. Whatever XXXX was I didn't see it. It's gone. Not trying to stir the pot. It is a serious concern. I enjoy your posts.

Hungry Mother 9:49 AM  

Played medium, easy theme, but some stickiness. It would have been truly easy if I’d remembered DEATHATAFUNERAL.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

before grokking the theme answer, it looked like XX XY, aka male/female or man/woman subs. then came having to figure out if the Xs are literal or replacement in the vertical. kind of a rebus, which I despise.

Latichever 9:57 AM  

37 Down: K’s help it

For shame

Law of the universe: “Every time you use an apostrophe to make a word plural, a puppy dies."


The Vez 10:02 AM  

K's do not necessarily lower your ERA

burtonkd 10:05 AM  

@Sir Hillary - Think of the song, "Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main...". Can't say I've heard it in any other context.

I liked this one, fun to think outside the boxxxx.

@bocamp - Thanks for the song lyrics, I think I've only ever noticed the last line. Our wedding present from my brother was a tandem. I am now wondering if it was a meta-comment.

burtonkd 10:05 AM  

@Nancy - WARNING quick comment about yesterday's events. I was thinking of your op-ed with the Elie Wiesel paraphrase this morning. I think that is overused in general, but very apt considering all those people who have enabled this having to crouch below desks. The conspiracy nonsense leading to pizza-gate should have been a wake up call.

TJS 10:07 AM  

While I'm willing to admit that nothing was going to amuse or divert me this morning, This thing didn't even try. Not much "grid gibberish"? How about starting off the puzzle : 1D, "for short" 4D,"texter message" 5D,abbr" 6D, "in ads". The there's the Please Don't Bes :resod,sawed,sris,its,ery... Yeesh.

It's 11 o'clock here. I think I'll have a beer.

MLB Rulebook 10:13 AM  

@Unknown - A strike out does indeed lower your ERA, each and every time - you just added 1/3 of an inning to the denominator. Even if a player advances on the strike out, any resulting run would be unearned, do the numerator remains the same.

JD 10:17 AM  

A tough little puzzling experience but the isolated blocks and short fill around the themers made it doable.

Fell into all the traps mentioned here and elsewhere. Toughest part was Exotoxin (which I'm going to try to forget) and Death at a Funeral cross. No recollection of that movie although after solving it sounds familiar. Compounded by Et AliI, Ton of trouble down there.

Sigh, Thx.

TTrimble 10:18 AM  

@Latichever 9:57 AM
That so? I didn't check, but did the author of that remember to dot all the is and cross all the ts?

See also here for some usage notes. The use of an apostrophe to pluralize something like MP seems to have fallen out of favor in many style guides, but the main thing seems to be to strive for clarity, which is different from sticking to a hard-and-fast prescriptivist rule.

Bill 10:24 AM  

I frequently read here but never comment. In light of yesterday’s events, I just wanted to say thank you to Rex for maintaining this little oasis of sanity. It’s a comfort to let your mind chew on something that is not the end of the republic, at least for a few minutes a day. I donated, happily, and hope others will do the same.

Carola 10:28 AM  

Easy and delightful. Seeing that we were striking [THAT] after WI[THAT}WIST and DON'[THAT]E saved my bacon on the central grid-spanner (I'd never heard of DEA[THAT]AFUNERAL) and allowed me to pop the FEL[THAT] right in. So much else to like, too: VITRIOL, DAISY, PROXY WAR, EXOTOXIN, A ZILLION, the IBISES and IBEX, and the terrific reveal. A speedy Thursday that left me with a smile.

Z 10:35 AM  

@Unknown10:02 - A strike out does indeed lower your ERA, each and every time - you just added 1/3 of an inning to the denominator. Even if a player advances on the strike out, any resulting run would be unearned, do the numerator remains the same.

Maths is hard. @MLB Rulebook beat me to the correction. I do get why you said what you said, but every out matters.

Whatsername 10:37 AM  

I stumbled through this one, getting the X thing right away but not fully grasping the THAT part until I was completely finished. Didn’t know the central movie answer so that slowed me down. Relatively easy except I did think that EXOTOXIN crossing two themers was a little bit sneaky. Didn’t like the clue for DONT HATE but loved the one for WRITER. That particular area gave me fits as I had Mauna LOA in 61D with AUTHOR crossing, then EDITOR and couldn’t recall the name for the Austin thing.

I was a little grumpy because I had trouble with it, but I think that has more to do with my general state of mind this morning. However the gloom of the day should not tarnish the glow of success for the constructors. Nice job gentlemen, and congratulations Matthew on an exxxxcellent debut!

Spyguy 10:39 AM  

I had almost, to the word, the same mental conversation about UV RAYS and Rock HOFer Brian. I was like, well, Jones and Wilson don't fit either, is there a fourth? And, then figured that RAYS couldn't be right and fixed it to fit ENO.

Carol 10:40 AM  

Thank you

Nancy 10:45 AM  

@burtonkd (10:05)-- I was thinking of it constantly as well -- from mid-afternoon yesterday onward. I even toyed with the idea of cutting and pasting it and re-sending it to Letters to the Editor. Then I thought: Nah, they'll never use it twice.

How wonderful of you to remember it and how flattered I am that you did. It's remarkable how, being oneself the target of hate and violence for a change, serves to focus the mind and grab the attention. I had many wonderful moments of Schadenfreude picturing Hawley and Cruz and Scott and Nunes and McCarthy cowering in terror under their desks...until I remembered that Schumer, Feinstein, Coons, Durbin and Pelosi would have been cowering there as well. Sigh.

I've been trying to fit the words" "It's 25th Amendment time/ It's 25th Amendment time" to the old Howdy Doody theme song, but, alas, it doesn't fit. My heart says yes, but my lyricist's ear says no.

Thanks again for remembering, @burtonkd.

jae 10:50 AM  

Easy. Finished with out grokking theme. I had to go back and reread the revealer to get my aha. Excellent NYT debut for Mathew Stock and Jeff gave it POW. Liked it a bunch!

thfenn 10:52 AM  

Did this one trying to decompress after the Pennsylvania objection required another retreat to separate chambers, then went to bed unable to figure out how to comment before the blog's actually available. Yes to the UV____ problem, but quickly gave that up not being confident enough to suspect there's another 3 letter Brian in the R&RHOF. @Nancy and @Z, also stuck with 3 Xs thinking there was a baseball theme in here somewhere and 37D was just extra sauce. But what really hung me up was in the beginning was confidently going with ONTHEROCKS before untangling WIXXXXWIST. ONTHEROCKS was perfect...

Also have to say I thought confusing an IBEX with a Steinbok was horrible. Steinboks, more often called Steenboks or Steenbucks, are small antelopes in southern Africa and the Mara/Serengeti. So I ran through dik-diks, duikers, etc, absolutely baffled as to how I could not know this one - knowing Steinboks quite well. I've googled this one enough to learn I was wrong, and yes, an ibex can also be called a steinbok, apparently, but really didn't like that.

When it all fell into place tho, today's puzzle was a nice and fun distraction from the events of yesterday, which were an unfortunate distraction themselves from the GA senate results, and sleep beckoned.

pmdm 10:58 AM  

After yesterdays puzzle, I would have expected a gimmick puzzle today (unless I botched up my internal calendar like I did. Thanks, TTrimble, for correcting my stupid error.) And I was not disappointed. Yes, I was disappointed yesterday, but that's another matter that certainly should be discussed, but not here).

Z: I believe that if a runner on third steal home but the batter strikes out on the pitch, the run would be earned. I suppose this could happen if the bases are loaded and there is less than two outs and the manager calls a hit and run play on the pitch. Am I missing something? By the way, thanks for the K explanation. The clue baffled me until I read your comment.

Adam 11:07 AM  

I agree with @Jbabs—I thought this was a bowling thing, and figured all the themers would have XXX somewhere in them. Of course, in bowling that's a turkey, and there aren't a lot of words or phrases where you can substitute TURKEY and get away with it, so I was quickly disabused of that notion. Finally figured it out with the fedora (FELT HAT) and quickly filled in all the other Xs and themers.

I also had UV RAYS, but I listened to ENO and changed the S to an E, got VITRIOL(nice word there), and knew it wasn't RAYS. But it wasn't until I got the theme that I filled in the W. Grrrr.

Overall I enjoyed it.

TTrimble 11:16 AM  

I can't hear (or even read the lyrics to) DAISY without thinking of Hal being disassembled.

Newboy 11:19 AM  

Was so busy patting myself on the back for getting the reveal STRIKE THAT I totally missed THAT THAT! THAT’s not unusual on this front.

Loved @Georgia’s early post as well as yesterday’s state of Georgia’s post 2020 decision to STRIKE THAT Mr. Choi from the leadership role. There there, time to move on!

Sixthstone 11:37 AM  

Rex's write up on UV WAVE was the best part of this. Had me cracking up "...that one time..." ha ha. Thanks, Rex.

Fun puzzle too!

GILL I. 11:40 AM  

@Nancy...I was just explaining to my British in-laws how difficult it might be to invoke the 25th Amendment in the next 13 days. Then I had this sudden urge to run to the store and buy some Dos XX even though I hate beer.
I got THAT, I got it was four XXXX's, I wanted to dance a Mexican HAT dance but DEA XXXXA FUNERAL is about how I feel now.
I look at 54 A and can only see FLEAS NAVIDAD. Don't ask.

Z 11:41 AM  

@pmdm - stealing home - Let's imagine it is opening day, first inning. and the stolen base is the first run and the K is the first out. The ERA would go up from 0.00 (undefined, actually, since you can't really divide by zero, but let's call it zero) to 27.00. But imagine it is the third run and second out. Then the ERA goes from 54.00 (two runs per out, so 54 runs per nine innings) to 40.54. Raising the denominator by 1 almost always has a bigger lowering effect than raising the numerator by a run. So, except maybe on Opening Day, a strikeout lowers the ERA.

For everyone not even remotely a baseball stat nerd, the formula is

(Earned Runs/Innings Pitched) x 9

the "x 9" part is because it is basically earned runs per game. Each out is 0.3333 of an inning.

KnittyContessa 11:47 AM  

@Nancy I agree. I thought it was XXX and I somehow managed to get everything to fit in and make sense except for the NW. I had a very similar experience to Rex in that corner. For the longest time I thought the cocktail was WIthoutIce. I sat and stared for the longest time. The light finally went off on DEAXXXXAFUNERAL.

Birchbark 11:49 AM  

Variation in the word breaks (one pattern repeated once), and not one is nested inside a single word:

16A: XX-X-X
20A: X-XXX
36A: XX-XX
54A: X-XXX

I don't know what it means, but I like it. Like an American flag, the variant word breaks = ripples in the breeze.

Douglas 11:50 AM  

The clue wasn’t lower it. It was help it. The more strike outs you have the less likely runs are scored. They definitely help.

pmdm 11:53 AM  

Z: My point wasn't disputing the effect on the ERA. And even though Einstein divided by zero, it still doesn't make it right (or defined). I was just wondering why a run scored after a strikeout would have to be unearned.

Masked and Anonymous 11:58 AM  

A-ZILLION X's theme. Strikes us as overkill.
Fun solvequest, tryin desperately to figure out what the "strikin" revealer was, a la @RP, so that the rest of the puz could maybe start to make sense. And to be able to sort out the IBISES and IBEXes, crucially.

staff weeject pick: ERY. Quack- weeject. Woulda preferred XXX, there.

Had UVRAYS right outta the rodeo chute, for 1-Down. Lost valuable nanoseconds.

fave sparklers: VITRIOL. PROXYWAR. And all them other Trump resurrection terms.


THX for gangin up on us, Matthew Stock and Sid Sivakumar dudes. U maybe now will be certified as X-puzzlers, tho. And congratz to Matthew on his half-debut.

Masked & AnonymoUUUs


MLB Rule Book 12:03 PM  

@PMDM - Which came first, the score or the strikeout? If the score came first, then the pitcher's era rose due to the earned run, then fell with the strikeout. If the strikeout came first, it fell with the strike out, then rose with the earned run. In either case, the pitcher's era fell with the strikeout. And no, you can't whine about it was only for a 10th of a second, for if the strike out was the third out of the inning the runner wouldn't have scored, would they? The pitcher struck the batter out, lowering the era. Whatever happened next happened next and doesn't change anything

mmorgan 12:04 PM  

Wow, that was tricky...and fun! I had the full DEATH AT A FUNERAL and STRIKEouts so it took me a long time to figure out what was going on. Until the smoke cleared, I thought the random Xs indicated a backspace — a strike out — of some kind where certain letters had to be removed. That wasn’t it! Very nice aha moment when I got it.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

After a pitcher has an ERA of greater than zero, a strikeout always lowers the ERA. Always. Even on opening day. What seems like the same play in pmdm 's scenario, a steal of home and a strike out, are actually discrete events. And, at least to date, no strikeout has ever come after a steal of home on the same delivery. That is to say the strikeout precedes the run. Precisely because it comes first it lowers the ERA. The run, coming after the out then raises the ERA. No one bothers to make the twin calculations because the strikeout's effect is so ephemeral. It is however real.

Also, the run may not raise the ERA, even in Z's opening day scenario. Here's an example of how it wouldn't. Say the leadoff batter gets on base via error-- to save time lest make it a three base error. If that man subsequently scores on say the next batter's strikeout, the run would not be earned and of course the ERA would not rise.

the chocolate doctor ืžืจืช ืฉืืงืืœืื“ 12:18 PM  

Love this: "So basically ENO and ETNA (old friends) were shouting and waving their arms wildly, trying to warn me that I'd gone errant, but I just stumbled further in the morass."

A 12:24 PM  

Happy Where-the—^($%-is-the-ffwd-button Day!

@Nancy that’s my alternative to your Howdy Doody action - just declare that today is January 20. I’d love to see your letter, is there a way to access it?

I also wanted rays. I also wanted 3 “X”s. (No apostrophes - I’m not killing any puppies!) And I wanted some variation of coaX for the tv cable. Disliked AZILLION and ERY. A TON. Maybe I would’ve liked the 161st grid better. Still reeling over THAT.

But I also loved the OVID clue (@Z 2000 year-old irony is the best!), plus DON’T HATE (DONXXXXE) kind of made my morning. Less VITRIOL, please.

@bocamp @TTrimble I too can’t hear that song without thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

@William Landay Welcome and ditto!

Thanks for the double shout out, gents; I’ll be thinking about your A to A clue whilst practicing my OCTAVEs today. Even though my next concert has been “postponed.”

jberg 12:31 PM  

My experience was a lot like @Rex's, except that a) I kept the faith with Brian ENO, so I never wrote in rAys, and b) at some point what I had for 36A was a lot of Xs followed by A FUNERAL. Now, I haven't seen either movie, but I'vea at least heard of "Four Weddings and A FUNERAL;" so of course I started trying to figure out how each X could represent one wedding, EVEN THOUGH I already had the first two THATs figured out. So I went back to channeling @rex, and looked for the revealer, and it all became clear. I liked the puzzle quite a bit after that, despite my lamentable inability to remember which of the LEOs was in office for less than a month. (Actually, it had to end in X, and I was pretty sure there weren't XX of those guys.)

We didn't last to the end, but both my wife and I were surprised how reassuring it felt to hear VP Pence repeat the exact words over and over again for each state.

@Rex, your check is in the mail!

Sharonak 12:38 PM  

I enjoyed this. I started it at night (which I never do) got the theme/trick by myself, only googled for one trivia answer (usually, even earlier in the week I need to research more) and solved it in much less time than usual.
Thought "that was fun" and look it's only 3am east coast time. I can actually go on the blog while others are there.
Still Wednesday's blog.
Went to bed ,was awakened for some reason and up around 3:20 or what I thought was 3:20 AST (7:20 EST) still no Thursday blog.
?What's happening? They were posting by 2 am yesterday!?
Oh well,


Anonymous 12:40 PM  

@Z, even in the scenario of first day/first inning/first run, the strikeout would reduce the ERA. If the strikeout didn’t occur, the ERA would be 9/0 or infinitely large. The strikeout would reduce it to 27.

sharon ak 12:41 PM  

@Sir Hillary
"On the bounding main"

apologies if others have explained a zillion times already

JC66 12:44 PM  

@Z, et ALII

How do I lower my tax rate?

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

You can't because you don't have a tax rate. People aren't taxed. Income is taxed. You, Bill Gates, Rex, Dr. Dre and the clerk at your local bodega are all subject to identical rates. That some individuals have income that is taxed at higher rates doesn't negate the fact that all income within a bracket is taxed at the same rate. That is what marginal tax rates are for.

puzzlehoarder 12:58 PM  

I had a hard time figuring out how the themes worked. Initially I had WIXXXTWIST supported by AUT. I had no idea what AUT was supposed to be an abbreviation for but the XXX/poison/mixed drink connection was so strong that it caused me to let AUT sit there for most of the solve.

I've never learned the actual order of the Greek alphabet so PIS sat there at 21D for just as long as AUT sat at 5D. This made no sense for 20A but it maintained the XXX and the P seemed to go along with the whole "poison" idea.

I had no chance of dropping EXOTOXIN off of EEYORE. EFILE escaped me until I came down the east side. That whole SE corner, going all the way around to SOX at 44D was X free and easy as falling off a log. However the only movie title I could remember was "Three Weddings and A FUNERAL." Why does the reveal have you striking THAT when 16A only has THA striken?

The middle west was no help. DOW and ORZO were easy enough but supporting that Z in the down slot seemed impossible. In backfilling the SE I ran into the triple X trap again when I wrote FELTXXXS for 54A

Only when I finally got the baseball aspect of the 37D clue and came up with AZILLION and EXOTOXIN did everything become clear. For a longtime I was stuck with the ALIA/ALII dilemma.

Pardon the tedious write up. I just need some distraction today. One of the last things I discovered in today's solve was what DONXXXXE stood for. Seems poignant.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

How do I lower my tax rate?

only one way: get rich, preferably not on W2 wages.

Barbara S. 1:09 PM  

I’m including only beautiful things in my post today.

Keats: Ode on a Grecian URN
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Hmm, is it that simple?

Here’s another passage of poetry I’ve always liked. It ties together OVID, who wrote it, and WAVE (but of the SEA rather than the UV kind).

“As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies, and follows,
Always, for ever and new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.”

I give you an Egyptian ibex from a 13th or 14th century manuscript. And here's an even older Egyptian ibis, representing Thoth, god of the moon, knowledge and language.

"DAISY, DAISY, give me your answer do" will forever conjure a perfect image of my sister. When she was about 14 and I was about 6, I saw her perform this song as a duet (with a boy!) in a school talent show. It was the first time I'd ever seen a stage performance of any kind and I was absolutely enthralled by the whole event. I remember the spotlight falling on my sister's face and thinking how beautiful she was. Right here, right now, in 2021, my sister has some challenging times ahead of her. I'm so happy to hold this memory and be able to share it with her.

The English folk singer, June TABOR, has what I think is a stunningly beautiful voice. Here she is singing Lili Marlene and A Place Called England. I once saw TABOR in concert in a very small venue, something like a church basement. There was a table of help-yourself-refreshments against one wall and people tended to wander back and forth while artists were performing – quietly, mind you, but they felt quite free to perambulate. When June TABOR got up, she politely but firmly asked people not to mill around while she was singing. The audience was clearly startled by this request but such was her presence and authority on stage, and so beguiling was her voice that no one budged.

@Tale Told By An Idiot (from yesterday afternoon)
I was so happy to see you here! I'd feared you’d left the blog. Please delight us with your stories any time the spirit moves you.

Anoa Bob 1:12 PM  

The path to a sunburn begins with a single UV WAVE. Why the VITRIOL for that? It's just a singular of convenience, just like SRIS is a plural of convenience (POC). And there's hardly a peep about XXXX or about one of the themers needing a POC to get its job done.

Did 9D PROXY WAR remind any of yous about recent NEWS? And I'm not talking about the looming Kardashian/Kayne split up.

The EXOTOXIN from the bacteria that causes pertussis, aka "whooping cough", is what does the real harm. The bacteria itself is usually eradicated by the immune system in a week or so. It's the EXOTOXIN that is left behind that results in the "100 day cough". I know because I had pertussis a few years back. I call it the "the cough from hell"! I learned what "paroxysmal" means and believe me, that's not an experience you want to go through. (I wonder if REININ is an EXOTOXIN.)

I think the random Pope with the maximum grid-fill potential would be Anastasius III (911-913).

So Popes LEO XI and AL II walk into a bar....

Chickie 1:12 PM  


Teedmn 1:16 PM  

My solve echoes Rex's and even more so, @Carola's. With Rex, I only had in common the UVrAys but Brian ENO's WAVE got my attention and I was able to STRIKE THAT early on. TABOR gave me OVID so my big wheels were HUMVEE and ETNA was unable to blow up my progress.

Exactly as @Carola's experience was my grokking of the theme (the XXXX = THAT part, not the revealer) by the time the second themer showed up and then using said theme to get the unknown-to-me 36A.

I rarely have a malapop but I incorrectly splatzed in IBis at 23D, quickly rethought my avian to mammal, and then laughed when I saw the IBISES wading at 42A.

I agree with @Lewis on his enjoyment of Sid's to-date oeuvres and also convey my congratulations to Matthew on his NYTimes debut. Nice puzzle, thanks!

Smith 1:23 PM  

@Sir Hillary
As in " over the bounding MAIN"

bocamp 1:30 PM  

@TTrimble 11:16 AM

Good catch! Forgot all about HAL's swan song. ๐Ÿ˜”

npg - 10

Peace and Tolerance ๐Ÿ•Š

Smith 1:43 PM  

You all have said it all...
but, @Nancy, I'd love to read your op ed. Can you link to it?

@Z Smith is actually a NOC* for reasons similar to Mrs. Z's.

*Name Of Convenience

Z 1:44 PM  

@JC66 - It’s all about the base.

@pmdm and everyone else - Oh. Should probably answer your actual question. Strike 3, passed ball (catcher’s fault) = unearned run. Strike 3, wild pitch (pitcher’s fault) = earned run (assuming they got to third without an error along the way). So, it depends.

@Anoa Bob - Maximum Grid Fill Pope™️ - Please God No.

@Anon 12:40 - I’ll leave it to @TTrimble or @mathgent to expound on whether (1/0)*9 is bigger than 27.0, But, formula aside, I think pitchers start the season with an ERA of 0.00 Or perhaps this is what the math folk mean when they go on about the difference between zero and null.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

English is not my native language, however I believe that when you are a main (or something like that), it means that you are at sea. Not necessarily lost, though...

Jay 2:00 PM  

That is painfully obscure for a non-sports person, but at least the cross wasn't bad.

camilof 2:06 PM  

Just in to say thank you for reminding me that Black Box was missing from my music collection!

camilof 2:08 PM  

Just in to say thank you for reminding me that Black Box was missing from my music collection!

L 2:14 PM  

A negroni with cynar! How was it? We might have to try that one tonight.

sf27shirley 2:19 PM  

Well, if the batter takes first base on strike three due to a passed ball, and later scores, it's an unearned run but if he took first on a wild pitch, it is an earned run.

Newf 2:38 PM  

I solved it slightly less slowly than my average Thursday time without ever “getting” the xxxx theme. But my state’s voters came through for me yesterday, the power just came back on and I’m going for a run so life is good.

old timer 2:39 PM  

When I finally got STRIKE "THAT", I was able to go back and correct all the missing bits and errors, so finished the puzzle perfectly. I thought it was impressive and, more important, fun.

We seldom saw movies even before the plague, so did not see DEATH AT A FUNERAL. I assumed it was a remake of an Agatha Christie book. WRONG!! But it did bring to mind, "Funerals are Fatal", the US title of a story she did write, which I reread at the start of the plague -- I reread pretty much the entire oeuvre, with some delight.

Glad OFL did not use today's space to was wroth about yesterday. Or at least not wax wroth at length. Nor did he wax Roth (thx, Groucho).

mathgent 2:39 PM  

Good gimmick. Took me a while to figure out.

Even in Ovid's day, people were yearning for the good old days. Love it.

Angusjames 3:20 PM  

Someone help me: I don’t understand the “I’d help it” (Era, 37 Down)

CDilly52 3:32 PM  

Such a clever Thursday from our able team today! I saw what was up fairly quickly having gotten well and truly stuck trying to get a foothold on the acrosses. So once I started focusing on the downs, I was gobsmacked at the number of legit words containing an X that Mssrs. Stock and Sivakumar were able to include, and even more impressed that they could clue so many of the “x-words” in clever ways to make this puzzle Thursday level challenging but almost 100% “Dreck Free.” They have gone beyond mere able craftsmanship to pure art in my opinion. I enjoyed every moment of the solve which was a bit slow as I kept one eye and ear on the news as one of the most unusual presidential terms comes to a shocking close.

Pdxrains 3:33 PM  

Weird, I've been a drum set player most of my life and never heard of a TABOR

CDilly52 3:38 PM  

Lovely @Barbara S. Thank you. And I always hope it is as easy as Keats suggests.

CDilly52 3:46 PM  

@thfenn 10:52 I, too fell fir the UV rAys problem, but it was so short lived thanks to Mr. ENO, that it failed to confound me for more than a minute. In the other hand, so confident was I about “on the rocks” - even after I had figured out the STRIKE THAT reveal, which made all of the XXXs oh so cleverly wrought that I was stumped for quite a while. Sometimes my stubborn streak costs me dearly in solve time. Case in point today.

Nigel Pottle 3:51 PM  

What’s freaky is that yesterday I was for some unknown reason singing DAISY, Daisy, give me your answer do. And nobody has mentioned what I went through after getting STRIKE. I followed it first by OUTS, then THRU before fixing it to THAT because of the down clues. Yep, my first problem was UVrays, got FELTHATS and was then confused by all the Xs - thinking, why do those letters need to be Xed out?

I’m always amused when I see the word GROK either in the puzzle or in the write up. I wonder how many know it was a word made up by Robert Heinlein in his book Stranger in a Strange Land to describe something that you understood totally - not exactly spiritual, but heading in that direction. If you grok something you know it’s ESSENCE. It was a Word in Martian!

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

according to the wiki, a TABOR is just another name for a snare drum, used in marching units. played with both hands with drumsticks, of course. never heard of it, either. so I put in TABla, an Indian drum played one hand (sans stick) at a time.

Nancy 4:05 PM  

For those who asked for a link to my original NYT letter to the editor, here it is.. It's the 3rd letter down.

Perhaps the Republican ears it might fall on today wouldn't be quite so deaf. At least I'd certainly hope so.

Nancy 4:21 PM  

Oops. Wrong letter of mine to the NYT that I just linked to above-- it's not the one that @burtonkd alluded to. I'm quite proud of that letter too, but THIS is the one that has special relevance for today's appalling headlines and to which he was referring. It's also the 3rd letter down in the link. Sorry for the mix-up.

Z 4:22 PM  

@Angusjames - Your question was answered above by @MLB Rulebook and then again by me.

Swagomatic 5:00 PM  

Wwo, weird times, I didn't read Rex until 2:45 PM. I wonder what caused the interruption in my routine (not really, I know). Nice puzzle, I'm glad there is something pleasant to occupy an hour or so.

Charles Emerson Winchester III 6:10 PM  

Admirable, apposite and articulate letters both. Would that the deaf ears of Congressional Republicans had listened . . .

Ch E Winchester III

nrota 6:26 PM  

@sharon ak. Thank you, I had no clue

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

And by me at 12:10. And better than you and the anon rule book.
But who’s counting, right๐Ÿ˜‰

Z 8:26 PM  

@12:10/7:52 - ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ- I didn’t go over the whole day, I just remembered copy and pasting @Rulebook.

Z 8:37 PM  

@anon 12:10/7:52 - It just occurred to me that in the wild pitch scenario, if the batter makes it safely to first a strike out is recorded but an out is not. Since an out isn’t recorded the denominator doesn’t increase and the ERA goes up.

Anonymous 8:44 PM  

Want super nerdy super inside baseball for baseball stats?
When the Marlins started in MLB there were so few eligible scorers in Miami that the Dolphins PR man, Harvey Greene, was the official scorer for many, many games. Miami never had a MLB team before the Marlins and because MLB has rules requiring scorers to have seen a a significant number of game in person ( there is a fixed number which I do not recall) Harvey was one of the few peoples town to meet that requirement because he was the long time Yankees PR man before his stint with the Phins.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  

No. A wild pitch can not be the scoring decion on a strike out. A passed ball? Yes. Wild pitch? No.

Z 8:59 PM  

OMFG How did I not know this page existed? I just saw Rex Tweet about it. IFC.

Nancy 9:01 PM  

@Barbara S -- Love the OVID poem! Didn't know it.

Also, thanks for introducing me to June TABOR. It's hard to believe that someone who loves folk music as much as I do has never even heard of her. I loved the song about England. As far as "Lili Marlene" goes, June's got gumption -- because how can anyone ever complete with the singer for whom the song does seem to have been created?

For anyone who listens to both versions and compares them, I wonder if you'll agree with me: that June's rendition is too slow but that her accompaniment is far more beautiful.

Z 9:18 PM  

@8:46 - Ever see a knuckleballer pitch? They can certainly induce a swing and miss on a wild pitch. I’ve seen it happen. I also was at the game where poor Geno Petralli was charged with 6 passed balls when Charlie Hough probably should have gotten a Wild Pitch on at least half of them. The way guys strike out these days I imagine the number of K’s on wild pitches are probably at an all-time high. So I’m still stuck at “almost always...99.999999% of the time” but not “always.”

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

No. You haven’t seen it. A swing by a batter by definition means the pitch want wild. Wild pitch is a scoring decision, not a an eye test.
MLB scoring rules dictated the swing means the pitch wasn’t wild, regardless of how far from the plate the pitch is.
You really don’t want to die on this hill z. You’re out of your death.

Mastiffmom 9:40 PM  

Thank you! Same question here

CS 10:30 PM  

Late in the day but I just had to say this is the first time I can remember agreeing with so much of Rex's blog today. I liked the puzzle, I got stuck in the NW, needed the revealer but then it was kind of fun. A good diversion from the news, much needed.


dm3000 11:54 PM  

Song was around before Nat was born.

Eric Fredericksen 12:51 AM  

I was so peeved about the Elmo clue at 55D: everybody knows that Bert and Ernie live in the basement, Gordon and Susan above them, Luis and Maria up top. But I googled it and apparently Elmo gentrified Gordon and Susan out of the neighborhood in a recent HBO season. Teachers can't live on the Upper West Side (debatably Lower East Side, but the subway station suggests the former) in this day and age, even with rent control.
But! Still inaccurate are the two adjoining clues 36D and 37D: the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not an index, and Ks don't directly help ERAs, which have as much to do with team defense as pitching.
If you can't be a pedant about the NYTXword, what can you be a pedant about!

Z 5:05 AM  

Sigh - You do know you can look things up before making yourself look foolish, don’t you?

kitshef 10:53 PM  

Quite late to this party. Puzzle was a whole lot of not much fun. That top section with THX AUX, BMW and RESOD was pretty terrible, and the theme is so thin that any fill issues at all mean it basically was not worth it.

spacecraft 10:34 AM  

The theme put an impossible strain on the fill. OFC forgives this (largely) for theme's sake; I do too, I guess, but only "mediumly." There's quite a bit of detritus in there. You have the RP (random Pope, not u-no-who), XER, and good old SXSW, which I thankfully learned only from (forgive me) xwords. Among AZILLION others. This falls under the category of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." EVA and EVE battle it out for DOD, pick 'em. Par.

thefogman 11:14 AM  

Pretty good. I wonder if this one holds the record for a NYTXW with the most Xes?

Burma Shave 11:56 AM  


in ESSENCE XIS matters for the ACT.


Diana, LIW 1:19 PM  

X marks the spot. Got it. What can I say? Xactly.

Diana, LIW

rainforest 1:59 PM  

I thought this was one of the better puzzles of late, and I enjoyed solving it. Challenging but do-able. I realized there were a lot of X's afoot (even so, I initially wrote in pis instead of Xis) and I ran into the WAVE/rAys thingie, but got out of that that THX to Brian ENO, and thus struggled for awhile.

The key for me was "seeing" WITH A TWIST, something I don't prefer with a martini (gimme olives, and the slightest hint of vermouth), and THAT opened up the puzzle for me and let me get the revealer.

The construction was good, the fill just fine, and the overall ESSENCE-great. Good Thursday.

leftcoaster 3:11 PM  

Clever, challenging, and fun with four sets of XXXXs to play with -- but fumbled one of them.

Got stuck in the EEYORE/EXOTOXIN cross, encountered some sort of biOTOXIN, and was stressed by an impending DEATH.

Did I say fun? STRIKE THAT. Oh me, Oh my.

rondo 4:25 PM  

This puz is rated XXXX (not because of yeah baby EVA Mendes), but while meandering through it I had it at only XXX, until the revealer, which made all well with the filling in.

Instead of XIS the corners have TAUS.

Better than a rebus.

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