Poison-treating plant / SUN 1-3-20 / Poet Limón / Stuffed and friend cornmeal pocket in Mexican cuisine / Realm for comic book fans say / Secondary social media accounts in brief / Noodles sometimes served with tsuyu sauce

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Constructor: Paolo Pasco

Relative difficulty: Medium (just north of 10 min.)

THEME: "Busting Moves" — theme answers all feature letter strings that spell out dances, with each dance being interrupted (or "busted," I guess) by a single square; those squares (which are gray in the app and probably in the paper) read, in order: "MAY I CUT IN?"

Theme answers:
  • SUPREME LEADER (23A: Title for Iran's Ali Khamenei)
  • SHIRTWAIST (25A: Tailored blouse style)
  • BOY PROBLEMS (43A: Subject of some teen gossip sessions)
  • MOUNTAIN GOAT (47A: Sure-footed alpine climber)
  • CRUMB CAKE (68A: Bakery item that's often messy)
  • PORT-AU-PRINCE (88A: Caribbean capital)
  • SHORT-ANSWER (91A: Kind of test question)
  • SAILS ALONG (114A: Proceeds breezily)
  • VOLLEYBALL NET (117A: What a spike goes over)
Word of the Day: GIGI Saul Guerrero (110A: Horror director ___ Saul Guerrero) —

Gigi Saul Guerrero (born February 27, 1990) is a Mexican-Canadian filmmaker and actress. She gained recognition for creating and directing the 2017 horror web series La Quinceañera. In 2019, she directed episodes of The Purge and the anthology horror series Into the Dark

Guerrero has been praised as one of the top emerging directors in the horror genre by EmpireDread CentralBloody Disgusting and Creators.co. Variety described her as part of the new wave of Latinx talent. (wikipedia)

• • •

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Yesssssssssss. Where has this puzzle, or puzzles like it, been (seemingly) all my life!? The Sunday is usually such a drag—often the stuffiest, stalest, tiredest puzzle of the week despite being the *marquee* NYTXW puzzle, with decidedly more regular solvers than any other day of the week (if my blog traffic is any gauge). Such a waste of a captive audience. A real chance to shine, and yet nearly every week, thud thud thud. But then, new year, New Attitude! This would've made a great, great contest meta puzzle: just cut out all indicators of where the dances are, all gray squares, and just ... let it ride. Tell solvers: "The answer to this puzzle is a question," and force them to figure it out from the title alone ("Busting Moves"). It would've been hard, and would've left a lot of solvers frustrated, which is why the NYTXW didn't present it this way, but I bet most of you could've figured it out, eventually. You'd be surprised what you can figure out from a punny title alone. People who subscribe to Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest actually sign up for this type of torture on a regular basis. It's "fun"! But ANYway, the NYTXW is a different animal, and they basically hand you the trick, but that's fine—that way, everyone gets to appreciate it immediately. And it's so good. I mean, no, you don't actually "cut in" in, say, "BALLET," but that's not the point; you do "cut in" at a dance, and these are all dance *types*, and that's all they have to be. I didn't have the gray squares in my software, so while I could see that there were "busted" dances, I was like "Why?" But my first thought, from solving metas for so many years, was to look at the break. Surely the "break" squares must do something, I queried, wearily, assuming that they would not, in fact, do something. But then they did. They spelled out a thing! A relevant thing! And that, readers, is how I had my first genuine, eye-popping "aha" moment with the NYTXW in a long, long time. 2021 should just stop right here. Walk away while you're on top, 2021!

This puzzle started out with two of my fill nemeses in one corner: ETAILER and EGESTS were like twin monsters trying to keep me from entering the grid and enjoying myself, but I was like bam, pow, take that you two, and I blew past them and things got much nicer after that. Best / worst moment was my total and complete inability to parse "KARATE KID," LOL "sports movie" WTF? (6D: Title nickname in a 1984 sports movie). I had KARATEK- ... and still, I swear, no idea. Woof. Not my finest hour. Had PLATES for ROUTES, yikes (7D: Courses). Real bad miss with "I FIGURE..." for ODDS ARE (15D: "My guess is ..."); between the -RE at the end and the "My" part of the clue (suggesting "I" in the answer), I really Really thought I was right. Oof. But again, I fought through it. I don't mind a puzzle that roughs me up a little if the payoff is nice. LOLAT is iffy but so iffy that I admire its chutzpah (52A: React to, as an online joke). I had some more trouble with MUFASA / FAULT. Wanted MUMBASA (which is a vowel away from a Kenyan city), and that FAULT clue just fooled me (61A: It's ground-breaking) (I figured if there's a FAULT, the ground is already ... broken?). I completely blanked on KONMARI despite having read and partially followed the advice in MARie KONdo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"! Never seen "Zootopia," but now mad at myself for guessing EEL at 127A: The antagonist Bellwether from Disney's "Zootopia" (EWE), as a "wether" is a sheep and I *knew* that. Oh ... it's a castrated male sheep. I did Not know that. 

OK. Great. Hope you enjoyed this one too. Cheers!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:01 AM  

Quick and dirty and just like I likes 'em. The theme was cute and tight with the dance moves split between the words like a good theme-split-between-the-words should be.
And a veritable crap ton of themers there were, too - no short-changing here!
Liked the mini misdirect for "Lobster-catching aid?" being BIB instead of "pot" because lobster.

Some side-eye material:

USUALS? How POC can you get?

And "driving SNOW" seems redheaded stepchildy compared to driving rain, IMHO. Don't know anyone who's ever said that, but I suppose such creatures exist.

The "Well, so's your face!" clue???? LOL!! I'd love to get into a snark contest with that loser!
I could hear the "Oh yeah?"s and "Why I oughta!"s flying hither and yon now.

Had fun, no serious complaints. Either that or I'll wait for someone else to find something and then I'll hope on the "Hey, yeah!" train with them.
Why work when you can echo?

S'long, chumps!


jae 12:10 AM  

Easy-medium. I solved on my iPad so I missed the cleverness. I did see the note about gray squares but I misread it and then forgot about it. Fun Sunday with a T WIST. Liked it a bunch and Jeff gave it POW.

@Roo - I enjoyed your five Stages that an SBer goes through from last Thursday and I’d like to add a sixth one...(6) Having an epiphany that it is a colossal time suck with a minuscule pay off and going back to reading books.

Robin 12:28 AM  

Been doing the NYTXW on-line for I don't know how long now, and I never check the title on the Sunday puzz before starting, and most of the time never after either. But due to the mix of circled squares and grayed squares I did eventually do so on this one, after figuring out the actual them. Okay, kudos on this one. As folks in my gram would say, it wasn't terrible.

The MUFASA/FAULT crossing was the square I had to track down when I did not get the happy pencil upon finishing. Initially had a V in there. Because why not/

Happy to say I got KARATEKID faster than Rex did, although I was bit surprised to see it described as 1984. I would have guessed a few years older, because I am that old.

KONMARI means nothing to me. Thanks for all the crossings.

Getting tired of Amazon as an ETAILER, because MONOPOLIST would be so much more accurate these days.

Anyhow, glad to see the Alfie cards in the post. Sad to hear the 2 dogs passing away, but I have enjoyed all the tweets about Alfie and Olive. From the recent Twitter pix I can tell that Olive is trying to figure out how to blogpost when Rex isn't paying attention.

Tmurrell 12:30 AM  

Thanks for this blog! And even though I don’t always agree with your rants I look every day. I’m sending $25. Keep up the great work.

okanaganer 12:48 AM  

This reminded me of the WSJ Friday puzzles that I used to do. Used to, because I got pissed off that they were so ivy-league MBA stockbroker slanted, and if you didn't know every single thing in the meta, you couldn't get the meta. So for instance if the meta was a list of ivy league colleges hidden in the long acrosses, if you didn't know every single one of them, forget it.

This was a much friendlier meta. Nice for a change!

From the HGTV show Bargain Mansions, I learned SHIRTWAIST is a style of house in Kansas City. Basically a "foursquare" house with a twist. TWIST!, get it?

Pete 1:02 AM  

Is a GORDITA a real thing, an actual Mexican dish, or a Taco Bell abomination? I had to choose between the J or G version of EGEST and would have appreciated some help there.

chefwen 1:23 AM  

Printed out the puzzle in the “Newspaper format” but didn’t get any shaded squares, so May I CUT IN was totally lost. I enjoyed the puzzle regardless. Got the theme early on with TWIST and was off to the races.

So wanted CReampuff (my favorite) for 68A, oh well. CRUMB CAKE, so boring.

Fun puzzle even if I got cheated out of the extra layer.

JOHN X 2:13 AM  

Yesterday, there was a small debate among the commenters here about being "off topic," and I couldn't agree more. Please stay on topic. This is a crossword blog, folks.

Moving to a different topic, here's a scene from Used Cars(1980, Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale). It was their first movie and it isn't perfect, but parts of it are:

"The Car For You" (test ride with Toby)

mkyritsis 5:11 AM  

I crashed on the puzzle but I love your cats! Want one and doing the necessary. Happy 2021!

Lewis 6:02 AM  

Well, yes, this was an impressive and delightful theme, one that helped the solve – the best kind of theme, IMO – and one with a second layer, the “May I cut in?” motif, which brought a happy surprise and a wow of respect for the construction.

Yes, this was perfectly pitched difficulty-wise for Sunday, where you don’t want to be battling nonstop through a huge imposing grid, nor do you want to coast downhill throughout, feeling like it wasn’t a great usage of your time, a big bunch of easy. This puzzle hit the perfect center ground.

But then there was that intangible aura of quality that infused the cluing and answers, something that naturally flows out of a constructor – call it talent – that a puzzlemaker either has or doesn’t have, and if they don’t have it, they can’t fake it. Paolo has it. It marks all his puzzles.

And here it was once more, and man, I look forward to experiencing it again, hopefully soon. You are a credit to this lovely pastime, Paolo, and once again, thank you for a lovely journey.

Coniuratos 6:21 AM  

And here I was real pleased when I threw in "Grand Ayatollah", albeit with the spelling butchered to fit, on 23A.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

A good gardener knows when to use DIRT and when to use SOIL.

Z 7:22 AM  

REEL seemed like a bit of an outlier to me. All the other moves are very familiar, but REEL as a dance resides in the cobwebbed section of my memory, still there but the floorboards were creaking as I dug through some old chest looking for it.

SHIRTWAIST was also something from the cobwebbed section. The term was there but I didn’t know what one actually looked like (probably from reading too many books without pictures). Apparently there’s some historical symbolism of which I was unaware, too.

KONMARI sounds like sushi to me.

🖐🏽 for being fooled by “sports movie.” Yep, accurate. But clearly not filed that way. I keep seeing stuff about Cobra Kai being good, but I still haven’t ventured to invest any time in it. Related to yesterday’s discussion of YouTube stars, the series started on YouTube.

MUFASA/FAULT was easy here. I do wonder if CASCA/IPECAC will cause people problems. CASCA isn’t exactly the first character you think of and IPECAC looks like something that happens while drinking and typing.


bocamp 7:24 AM  

Thank you, @Paolo, for a great Sunday puzzle! :)

Easy-medium solve.

Had a brief hitch at "lolat", thinking "laughing out loud" at, instead of "laugh out loud" at. Rechecked the clue to see that "laugh" and "at" does, indeed work. Wasn't 100% sure of either "paba" or "alts", so it all worked out in the end.

"Sail Along" Silvery Moon - James Last

Favorite sport to play: "volleyball".

Peace and Tolerance 🕊

Loren Muse Smith 7:35 AM  

Congrats on 15 years, Rex. The time you devote to this site . . . I can’t even. Come hell or high water, you post your write-up or make sure you have a pinch-hitter for us. And you do this religiously despite the people accusing you of gunning for Will’s job, despite the people who disparage your teaching comics, despite the people who brag that they never read your comments. If these guys don’t donate, then, well, let me look up to see if it’s freeloader or free-loader. Free loader. Sure, I fuss on occasion when your criticism drifts from the grid itself to your opinion as to the constructor’s not wanting joy in life or some such. But that’s not often at all.

Your dedication to this place has changed my life, and I can’t thank you enough.

I loved thinking about what makes a SLEEVE a sleeve and not just a case. I thought at first that it feels length-related, like it’s a standard pillowcase but a king size pillow sleeve. A peppermint wrapper but a giant Tootsie Roll sleeve. Nope. Upon further reflection, I’ve decided it’s a cover that’s closed on all sides save one. Like a sheath. So it really should be a pillow sleeve. The casing you stuff sausage into could be a sausage sleeve. I’ll just stop right there and let you make the puerile leap to responsible family planning purchases.

My one question on LOL AT is how to say it. L – O – L at? Or just lol at. It gets problematic when we start inflecting it as a verb. I was lolling at my dog? I was l-o-l-ing at my dog? I lolled for about 30 minutes watching Best Of clips of Graham Norton.

PSST alone doesn’t have to be a scary thing -

PSST - you have some toilet paper caught on your shoe.
PSST – there’s another box of Moravian cookies that is mispriced.

But add over here after PSST, and I just want to run the other way. Those words are drifting menacingly out from behind some kind of trench coat ugliness you want no part of.

RETORT – “Well so’s your face!” That’s not really that inspired, but I guess we all have at least one memory where our retort was wince-inducing. (Steve Carell). I’m working with a student to perfect a terrific retort that goes like this:

Me: Angel, I’m not as dumb as I look.
(looks me over, squinting, appraising) Ms. Smith, you couldn’t possibly be that dumb.

But she invariably gets tickled and has yet to nail it.

My worst RETORT was back in undergrad before I had discovered Linguistics, the Way. I, too, was an insufferable pedant. Once in PE, some jerko-schmerko girl fussed at me in a flag football game, but she got a pronoun case wrong. I shut her down with the devastating, At least I have good grammar. Bet she’s still smarting over That gem. Sheesh. Actually, after this post, I’m going to say something else about this retort, but many will not be interested.

Paolo – terrific idea for a play on “Bust a Move.” I thought of CLOTHES HANGER and NUDIST COLONY. I agree with Rex about upping the difficulty on this, losing the shading/circles.

amyyanni 7:46 AM  

Volleyball Net unfurled in the SW is wonderful. The clue also made me smile, reminding me of my Uncle Spike. (He was 'skinny as a spike rail' and that became his name.) His sister, my Aunt Scoop, acquired her name by being the (small) town gossip. And my mom was Tade, because she was teased with Ada-Potato.

Loren Muse Smith 7:51 AM  

Before I took my first linguistics course, I was an obnoxious grammar meanie, and I know now with 100 percent clarity that my sole aim was to impress others with my intelligence at the expense of some hapless regular person whose speech I would correct. I wasn’t interested in “helping” the poor guy speak better, not at all. I just wanted to be admired. I, too, was under the *Wildly Mistaken, Misinformed, Ignorant* belief that grammar rules were rules set in stone, and I viewed anyone using lay and not lie as simply an opportunity for me to separate myself from the unwashed.

Enter gentle Dr. Bouma and his Intro to Linguistics course that changed my life. I exhausted Ga Southern of all linguistics courses, minored in it, and then went on to get an MA in theoretical linguistics at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s my experience that the vast majority of people here who whine about language change, commenters’ “mistakes,” the general degradation of English are, how can I say this, uninformed. Batshit uninformed. (I place my family and most co-workers in the batshit uninformed group.) And yet, and yet. . . I’ll probably get the argument that our language needs rules so that it can be clear and precise, so that we can have optimal communication. People who insist on this have no idea how language works. English has “rules” – they’re not ones you notice, but they’re there, and the lie/lay distinction is most assuredly Not among them. (An example of a linguistics rule: You can’t end a sentence in a contraction like, *Barb is as hungry as we’re. Or you can’t have more than one WH word in certain constructions: *Whose book do you know who bought?

Anyhoo – I guess every now and then I need to scramble to justify my defense of all dialects, all “mistakes,” and thinking about that embarrassing RETORT all those years ago on that football field had me remembering Me the Purist before I saw the light.

I will remain steadfast in my utter certainty that some Joe Schmoe who corrects people’s grammar here does it (possibly) to shame the offenders or (probably) display his own superiority. Both even. I’ve owned the fact that my proclivity to come to the defense of the correctee by publicly embarrassing the corrector is spectacularly hypocritical and unfair. But it’s a force bigger than I’m.

JD 7:53 AM  

Learned a new word yesterday from a book I'm reading on birds, "conspecific." It means an organism belonging to the same species as another. It came to mind when I considered the "conspecific-ness" of the Hora to the Twist to Ballet after I solved. Yep, they're all dances but does anyone actually "cut in" on a Ballet (sir, please return to your seat)?

Kidding! Just having a Rexian moment.

Sailed along through this. Little sticking points at Ejects and Cream Cake, Creme Cake? Casio with one S? Those and others easily remedied by the crosses.

@Frantic, Your Usuals was my Radars. Radars?

@Pete, Had the same thought and looked it up. It's an actual thing though Taco Bell surely bastardizes it. BTW, it means Chubby Girl.

@Z from yesterday, Worked with an engineer from Presque Isle. But did visit Mio as a child to see relatives, which looks to be about 200 miles from Holland (and now I see the mitten).

Colin 7:56 AM  

Great way to start the New Year - As I was going through this, I was thinking, "A-a-a-h..." and am now beginning to appreciate the difference between this and many of the recent puzzles.

I actually know about Marie Kondo, but did not know the name of her method, KONMARI. Really enjoyed FAULT as ground-breaking; OSCAR wins for Hammerstein; and SLEEVES as covers (I love my LP's); but the NE corner took some time. "-hole" held me up, so I had to work around this. For a while, I entertained "ODD, SIRE" as my guess.

Rex, thanks for your ongoing efforts and maintaining this blog. Even though I join in really only once a week, I can see the work involved and the community cultivated here.

To all: May we stay free from ailment, hardship, and injustice in 2021. Happy New Year!

sf27shirley 8:21 AM  

This reminds me of when a basketball player at an Ivy League school, I think it was Bill Bradley, responded to fans chanting "Put Bradley in" with the comment, "I can't believe they ended a sentence with a preposition."

Ann Howell 8:23 AM  

I guess I'm in the minority of not seeing the point of this theme, as it wasn't necessary to the solve and only provided a minor shrug of satisfaction once completed. But, I guess I'm just an ornery old fart this morning... At least most of the long answers were worth the price of admission!

Z 8:24 AM  

@JD - Mio and Presque Isle? Wow. That corner of Michigan (north of Midland, east of I-75) is technically still one with the trolls (trolls live under the bridge - that is, in the lower peninsula) but has a very yooper (U.P.er, upper peninsula resident) vibe to it. The “big city” in that region is Alpena, with fewer than 10,000 residents at the moment. Definitely not an area many people have friends and family from. Holland is down right “urban” in comparison.

@LMS7:51 - 🤣🤣🤣 - 👍🏽

Frantic Sloth 8:26 AM  

Hop (but I suppose "hope" works) on the "Hey, yeah!" train.

Well, OMG and how do you do! This is why Rex gets paid the big bucks. I'll be sending this amount because exactly what @LMS said and way more eloquently than I ever could.

"May I Cut In?" is a huuuge part of this puzzle theme and I really pooped the bed on missing that!
I liked the theme before, but now I'm all agog. (Not a good look, BTW)

@JOHN X 213am Leave it to you brighten my day with a dead dog.

@Z 722am I see SHIRTWAIST and I always think of this horrible tragedy.
Your links are better. And Cobra Kai is exactly what you might think it is and one of the more embarrassing guilty pleasures we've had at our house. Venture in at your own risk.

@Loren 735am As usual, primo everything. Love Graham Norton and that is a rabbit hole to China I've fallen in many times! FWIW, my response to "I'm not as dumb as I look." is always "You're lucky." Most times I'm just Steve Carell.

@Loren 751am It's Schmo. 😉 👍‼️

@JD 753am *sigh* My USUALS are always your RADARS. And I'm sick of it!
BTW, nice misdirect on "sir, please return to you seat" like we don't know it was you in that scenario.

KRMunson 8:31 AM  

Never heard of LOLAT. So i guessed LOLAF. That made more sense but I couldn’t believe the NYT would allow it.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

Speaking of bustin' some moves (never "busting"), here are Atlas, Spot, and Handle doing just that at Boston Dynamics:

ChuckD 8:45 AM  

Easy enough solve - I can appreciate the theme and throw in but I didn’t like this as much overall. Keep the SUPREME LEADER out of my puzzle - especially one whose human rights record makes our moron in chief look like a good guy. Same side eye as @Z to SHIRT WAIST - sounds like something from my father’s era. Backed into a lot of these oddball entries connected to Tinder, LIZZO, KONMARI etc. Two Shakespeare references.

Liked the clue for VOLLEYBALL NET and always like to see the great LAVER. We also get yesterday’s Trader Vic’s MAI TAI.

Not among my favorites.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Liked it, and not just because I could do most of it. The theme was fine, but at the end I was wondering if the gray squares were more than to just bust up the dances. As I wrote them down in order, voila. A good puzzle became great. Very nice!

TTrimble 8:53 AM  

This took me longer than most recent Sundays. It felt as if the layout broke up my rhythm, and somehow the answers were not quite on my wavelength (HIDEY crossing GEEKDOM, CASCA crossing SD CARDS -- these are not really in my lexicon). Brain played tricks with me at KARATE KID (KARA TEKID? who's that?), and SHIRTWAIST doesn't exactly play to my strengths. I had GROUND as a guess before GERUND -- that kind of use-mention trickery often gets me. TABla before TABOR.

Fanciful translation of GORDITA: little fatty? Little fat girl? (Looking it up) hey, I was right!

Tricky little clue for DEED. Thumbs up.

Side eye at SUPERLIKE. I guess I don't get a lot of Tinder action.

So yeah, it was a twisty little workout. I was relieved to get through it, but the puzzle grows on me.

pabloinnh 8:54 AM  

I noticed the theme with the first couple of themers, thanks to the title, and proceeded to ignore it thereafter, since it was unnecessary to the solve, which was fun. Stuck on the LOLAT answer , which I found jarring. Three abbreviations and a word? No thanks.

My favorite RETORT is still Tommy Smothers'(s?) indignant "Oh yeah??", which he referred to as his "snappy comeback".

My father-in-law's nickname was SPIKE, but I don't think it was volleyball related. His first name was actually Elmer, and I suspect SPIKE was his idea.

Anyone of a certain age who has children had IPECAC around. We had one occasion to use it, and I can say it works.

Fun stuff, PP, although I have to say that SNOGS is about the worst word I can think of for kissing.

TTrimble 9:02 AM  

This reminds me of a joke my dad used to tell. Virgina Tech guy (a Hokie) is visiting Charlottesville and the University of Virgina for the first time, and stops a passerby to ask, "hey, can you tell me, where's the Rotunda at?" The passerby, a UVA man, says, "Here, on the Grounds, we know better than to end a sentence with a preposition."

"Where's the Rotunda at, asshole?"

ow a paper cut 9:06 AM  

I like puzzles with references to Shakespeare and I like your blog. Glad to contribute : )

Joe Welling 9:10 AM  

@ Loren

I remember this one from a 1980s-era linguistics class:

You can say, "He is good with kids," and "He's good with kids."
You can say, "My! How good he is with kids!" but you can't say, "My! How good he's with kids!"

I only vaguely remember the rule was something like you can't contract across a marker left from some kind of transformation.

Nancy 9:13 AM  

What an odd Olympics this is going to be for you, Olympics competitor. You've got several EPEES and only one SKI. Wouldn't it be much better to have one EPEE and two SKIS?

EPEES is not the only silly POC here. This is a field day for POC complainers, because there's also USUALS and RADARS. "Waitress, may I have the USUALS, please?" And: "I escaped prosecution because I flew under the RADARS."

SAILing right ALONG to the theme: I was mostly able to IGNORE it, solving as a themeless. When I paid attention to the theme at all, it was mostly to confirm answers, not to find answers. I didn't really need it to find answers; the puzzle was pretty easy -- though not uninteresting. I found it fairly enjoyable.

Loved BOY PROBLEMS. We've all had those -- right? SHIRTWAIST brings back memories too. And MOUNTAIN GOAT is a term I use all the time. As in: "You expect me to climb that? What do you think I am -- a MOUNTAIN GOAT?"

A pleasant puzzle -- neither SUPER nor SUPREME, but perfectly fine.

chuck w 9:15 AM  

I had the same problem Rex had with Karate Kid. I even had Kara Teki_, and thought, "Who the heck is that?" And I even saw the movie.
"Snog" is used constantly in the Harry Potter books.
Nice puzzle

Frantic Sloth 9:20 AM  

@Anon 842am That was fun! Hope you don't mind that I'm posting your link here for the copy/paste lazies.

Liz T 9:21 AM  

Thanks to Rex and all the commenters! I read this blog pretty much every day, am akways amused, and always learn something. I love the digressions! I'll mail a donation so I can receive one if Ella's lovely cards from Rex.
Warm wishes and peace to all.

kitshef 9:24 AM  

I enjoyed this more than most Sundays. Enough odd things that were not auto-fill, and a well-executed theme. A very nice work.

I’m guessing AARON is the first name alphabetically in any hall of fame.

Following on from yesterday, I think the “no duplicated words “ rule has been officially waived for 2021. Today we get:

The KonMari website is full of exciting things you can buy. You want to know how to keep clutter down? Don’t buy books on decluttering.

pmdm 9:28 AM  

It;s only an impression, but it seems to me that whenever Mike inclueds "I think" in his description of a theme, he winds up disliking the theme. Nice that, whatever I think, that is not a foregone conclution.

I tend to dislike puzzles by this constructor. True to form, this puzzle was quite ingenious but turned me off. I solved it as a non-thematic, and never got the theme until reading about it here and in XWordInfo. Had I allowed more time, I might have figured it out, but scanning photos took up all my time.There are enough puzzles published on a Sunday that I don't particularly want to find one within the crossword that stumps me. I guess the title did not provide a good enough clue for me. Too bad, because the concept is quite clever and the number of themed entries is greater than normal.

LMS: very nice story.

SouthsideJohnny 9:30 AM  

Sounds like many of the solvers here had a relatively easy time with this one, which I found to be a real workout. I just could not find a place to gain a toehold initially. I finally found some familiar items in the southwest, recovered a bit and was able to complete pretty much everything south of the equator. However, there was just too much resistance as I attempted to forage my way into the north. Items such as SNOGS, HIDEY-hole, GORDITA, MUFASA, SHTETLS, PABA, SEIS and APSO put up too much resistance, and alas, I finally relented (still feeling content that I put in a good effort - nothing to feel down about as that is quite an esteemed collection of “non-words” to be bested by).

TJS 9:35 AM  

It seems that I am in the minority regarding this puzzle. Possibly a minority of one. I will grant the ingenuity of the theme, although I pay no attention to titles and notes before taking on the Sunday puzzle, but I just found the cluing to be so obvious that the solve was more of a "get this over with" slog for me. Supremeleader, shirtwaist, mountaingoat, volleyballnet. sailsalong...
Then there's "lolat" crossing "alts", paba, sil, overlie. I have been doing crosswords for many years, and I guess there are some that just aggravate me for reasons that are hard to explain.

Anyway, going to see if my PayPal acct. is still active so I can feel better about ragging OFL for another year. And the sun is shining here in the D.R. although we are not allowed out after Noon, for the next seven days. Cheers.

Mr. Cheese 9:38 AM  

I happily donate even though, at times, I think thou nit-picks too much.
Don’t know how you solve some of these puzzles before 6AM!

Birchbark 9:45 AM  

IPECAC seems to skew a little old, but ENIAC makes up for it.

REELy, @Z (7:22) -- This REEL gap in your omniscience is akin to an unfinished Death Star. Yes, floorboards creak when the band plays a REEL, and you were right to hear them. In a barn on a moonlit night in the fall -- Celtic folk music, bluegrass, or straight-up, flag-waving Midwestern country. The grimmest wall flower becomes a KARATE KID under the impish, rhythmic spell of a REEL. I should know. And after that, ODDS ARE we find out who won the apple pie competition.

I mean a good-natured Death Star, by the way.

Alejandro 9:46 AM  

Interesting post by @John X 2:13 AM. Part one of his post excoriates those who post comments that are “off-topic” and asks that everyone confine their comments to things crossword-related, Part two of his post veers off-topic and contains a link to a clip unrelated to anything CrossWorld.

I wonder which came first - the irresistible urge to define for others the parameters of acceptable behavior, or the realization that he is entitled and that the rules apply to others but not to himself.

Teedmn 10:00 AM  

Two errors, one my fault and the other, I'm blaming the crosses. ALTS, that's a thing? Crossing what I thought was an all-initials answer at 52A, making LOLA_ a 26-letter toss-up. Later I realized it was LOL AT, but that was after I hit "reveal" for the T. Gah.

But the actual puzzle theme was nice, with all of the dances and the MAY I CUT IN. Thanks goodness for the note because there were no gray squares on my grid to let me know there was a meta.

That little GERUND ODOM SALON CRUMB area had me baffled for a long time. Not until I had an aha moment on the CRUMB CAKE (with help from the theme) did I break through that section.

Paolo Pasco, very fun Sunday, thanks!

Nancy 10:06 AM  

Alejandro (9:46) -- You do understand humor, parody and the occasional joke when you stumble across them, don't you, Alejandro? Please tell me that you do.

And it certainly shouldn't be hard to recognize when you're reading @JOHN X -- humor being his stock-in-trade.

If you take everything he says with a large grain of salt, you'll be ahead of the game. Why, who knows, you might even laugh.

Frantic Sloth 10:16 AM  

@KRMunson 831am You might be onto something there with LOLAF and I'm pinching it. (Well-hidden bathroom-humor pun intended.)

@JOHN X 1000am FWIW and I don't care that you don't care, but I liked your joke...which doesn't say much for any who missed it, I guess.

Also, what @Nancy 1006am said.

Andrea 10:22 AM  

A GORDITA is a real thing. Only, in Mexico they’re made of regular “masa” (from which you make tortillas) and not deep fried, but heated on a “comal”.
Also, they’re normally stuffed with refríes beans 😊.

Hungry Mother 10:29 AM  

Same here, a medium slog. My wife’s morning CRUMBCAKE (Mini) made the grid today. I have no idea what the circles and shaded squares had to do with anything. Themes and metathemes aren’t my thing. I like wordplay and good use of my grey matter. I fill-in names in the puzzle, often by means of perps, and never think, “Wow, now I know that!” Instead, I think, “The constructor got stuck with GIGI and had to find a person for it.” Maybe better to clue with ‘?’ and admit the problem.

Z 10:29 AM  

Interesting Sunday Puzzle Serendipity. The WAPO title is “And Cut” and the theme shares a feature with this puzzle (revealed/spoiled in the revealer clue, but I won’t add more). Very different takes on the “cut” concept, but still fascinating that they both appear today.

@Birchbark - The joke about where I grew up was, “Why don’t Dutchmen believe in pre-marital sex? Because it leads to dancing.” Hence, no real REEL experience here despite growing up in the midwest.

@TTrimble 9:02 - 🤣🤣 - But it does raise the question of why we want that “at.” “Where is the Rotunda?” suffices so why do we add the “at?” And why don’t we write that last question as
why do we add that “at”?
? Yes I know the rule about punctuation always going inside the quotation mark, but there are times where the rule makes meaning murky so it strikes me as a dumb rule.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

I had a Natick on MUFASA/FAULT because I had vAULT instead. The latter is actually an alternate correct answer - nowadays many cemeteries require people to be buried inside a vault that is then placed in the ground (which has just been broken to dig the grave). And MUvASA sounded just fine to me.

Dan 10:33 AM  

Loren (7:51)

I love your writing so much already. But this was one of the most eloquent, unexpected social media posts I've ever read. (Mostly I just read this blog every day. I'm mostly a lurker.) When I got to the end, I genuinely lolled. Then I turned around and read the entire thing again. I couldn't agree more.

Have a beautiful day.

RooMonster 10:33 AM  

Hey All !
@jae 12:10
Perfect 6th step!

So far (three days in), 2021 is the Year of the One-Letter DNF! Dang. Had it today at LOLiT/PABi. Was gonna to a tirade on LOLIT being The Worst Answer of All Time, but when I got the Almost There! message, took about 30 seconds of looking for my mistake before I resorted to Check Puzzle, and low and behold, it crossed out that I. PABi or PABA were equally obscure to me. But, looked at LOL_T, and said, "Laughed Out Loud AT actually makes sense, a boatload more than LOL IT!" Have I mentioned I talk to myself a bit? :-)

Seeing the cirlces and shaded squares, had me thinking Rex wouldn't like this puz solely on that basis. But, he surprises me yet again. I did get a chuckle at his "2021 should just stop right here." Good stuff. I had forgotten about the shaded squares as I solved. I guess once the letters were put in, the ole brain just decided to make those squares white again. Stupid brain. So I missed the second tier of the theme. I also missed, as embarrasingly as it is to admit, that each dance was "busted" by only one square. Slow brain day, apparently. Put cool and difficult for Paolo to come up with 9 dances that could not only be separated by one letter, but also find words/phrases that contain said dances, And only be separated by one letter, AND that work with putting the hidden question in the one square that separates the dance. Phew! I'm tired just writing that out!

Speaking of I'm, @LMS LOL AT your I'M ending ending!

@JD 7:53
RADARS was the only that rankled me, too! USUALS I can give a pass to, solely on the fact of hanging at the bar in my younger days with a bunch of us ordering the same things all the time!

Nice DREVIL tie in! Of course, I put my finger to the corner of my mouth!

Dang, how do you really feel? Har. Personally, I did get the joke, and thought it was a hoot!

Happy January 3rd, everybody! Last week of Football. Let's see how the Playoffs pan out. "Playoffs? Playoffs?!" :-)

One F

Smith 10:43 AM  

No trouble with the puzzle, but IPECAC... no, no, not anymore! We had some in our medicine chest. For some reason explaining it to youngest child and significant other, both born in '96. Took it out to inspect. Expired 1994. Googled it and according to poison.org "Don't use it!". No longer sold. Causes more harm...


Carola 10:52 AM  

Cute, fun to solve. The party was half over by the time I finished the CRUMB CAKE and realized that the moves were all dances and that the conclusion to MAY I would be CUT IN. Now more sure-footed, I enjoyed moving easily from the HORA to the SALSA. I especially liked the melding of VOLLEYBALL and BALLET: when all the moves are clicking, a team really does look like a perfectly choreographed corps (Go, Badgers!).

DNF: MUvASA x vAULT (hi, @Anonymous 10:32: my thought was "ground-breaking gymnastics move"). No idea: KONMARI. Do-over: CReMe CAKE. Hesitated at: SUPREME LEADER: I'm so into the Star Wars universe, I didn't quite trust my memory that the title is also used in our galaxy.

@Frantic Sloth 12:01 a.m. - Just want to verify that yes, a creature does exist who first thought of driving SNOW, which I find terrifying to drive in - that fusillade of white against that windshield that blinds you to all else. In another context...as I recall, in the olden days, maidens were "pure as the driven snow."

JOHN X 10:53 AM  

JOHN X ain't a troll.

JOHN X only aims to make people laugh.

I'm not sure if I accomplish that every time but I try.

If you ever have insomnia call me on the telephone and I will start telling you my war stories
from the engine-room of a nuclear submarine in the North Atlantic & Arctic. You will be sound asleep in five minutes.

Frantic Sloth 11:00 AM  

@Z 1029am This is why I had so much trouble making blue links. I always used the "smart quotes" because I could never figure out where to put them and trusted their superior intellect.
I just put the quotes outside punctuation when it's an actual quote, inside when it's anything other. Which still makes it clear as mud.
Actually, I'm hoping @Loren or @Nancy or some other language/grammar guru can offer up a more concise way of putting this.
Or I can look it up.
Or I can just wait for someone, anyone to offer clarity.

@Roo 1033am Love your Jim Mora impression. 😉

Joe Dipinto 11:00 AM  

Meh. No, not even meh. Just mh. I thought @Rex didn't like puzzles by Old White Men. This puzzle felt hauled out from yesteryear, barring a KONMARI here and an ODOM there. Even the Lizzo/Lorde and horror director clues had old-timey answers.

Not to mention that you could ignore the theme altogether while solving. And realizing what the gray letters were going to spell out wasn't much of a payoff. (Does anyone even say that at a dance in this century?)

I figure some retro music is suitable for the occasion:
My B'day-twin's biggest hit, which according to the album SLEEVE was dedicated to the memory of Florence Ballard, who was not the Supreme leader.

Also, El éxito mas grande en iqnglés de Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona.

Eldreth 11:08 AM  

A puzzle we finally agree on - Happy New Year!

JD 11:10 AM  

Off topic alert. @Z, so I think this guy Dave did mention upper peninsula regarding a slight accent he had. I'd ask him to say certain words for other people, "Dave say About for Susie." Mio had a little Catholic shrine that the cousins helped maintained.

@Roo, Rankle is an underused word.

Newboy 11:13 AM  

Greatly pleased to see that Elizabeth (Lizza) Koshkey has found new employment in today’s grid! Yesterday she was a mystery woman, but today I could say “hey” to a passing acquaintance.

All in for Rex’s positive and insightful critique. That other guy at xwordinfo also liked it (POW for Paolo— whose age matches the number of his NYT published puzzles). So that’s three 👍🏼 with my rare like for an oversized Sunday! This new year is off to a great start, so back to enjoy other’s responses and then dig up my checkbook to link money to mouth. PayPal is easier, but that kitty looks damn cute this year.

Richard 11:15 AM  

It's an agonizing question that will plague me all day (maybe all next week): I filled in the entire grid correctly, understood the divided dance conceit, but did not see the MAYICUTIN part. Is that a DNF?

Beadola 11:34 AM  

Don't know if you'll see this because I'm posting late, but I just want to say to Loren that I love you. And to Rex, I've already sent my donation - love you also.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

I agree. Not once did I find myself looking at or to the theme for help with a clue. Actually, I did write in TWERK as part of the shirt waist clue before I realized the NYT crowd world never let that one through.

A 11:52 AM  

Happy Ten Lords-a-leaping-and-a-REELing Day!*

Well, I was surprised by the pleasant Rex review today. Sure, the theme is cute, the construction impressive, but there would've been plenty of opportunities for Rexrants. Hardly a scintilla of imagination in the clues. And the doubles, as pointed out by others - @kitschef don't forget UNSEE and SEETO.

But then I saw those adorable cards! Who could look at those and not be in a good mood, especially if your child created them? Brava Ella Egan! I had already planned to send snail mail - can't wait to do it now!

@Z Thanks, I guess, for the SHIRTWAIST link. Neat stuff, but then I scrolled down to another story which mentioned the tragic fire of 1911. (Hi @Frantic) 146 young garment workers died. If the love of money is the root of all evil then that kind of worker abuse is the treetop.

I did like the clue for RETORT, ENIAC, MOUNTAINGOATS AND PORTAUPRINCE made me smile. Had fun correcting CReMeCAKE and ROUndS (for courses). Wondered what a POPIDOL/POPI DOL was for a long time - the only time I LOLled AT anything was when I finally saw POP IDOL. Duh! Though I was pleased with myself not being fooled by the clue for GERUND.

*Thanks to those of you who noticed, but were too kind to point out, my error in confusing ladies and maids. It's such a shame, too, because in my version the eight ladies danced on our heads the morning after NYE, and my nine maids' milk was in that days' puzzle. Here I thought it was so nicely fitting. Turns out not ATALL, kind of like my size 6 jeans.


GILL I. 11:54 AM  

HOW DID I LOVE THEE PUZZLE, PAOLO....? Let me count the ways. I know you are much too young to want to dance with this old CRUMB CAKE, but If you said "MAY I CUT IN"...I'd do a TANGO with you that would knock your socks off.
So I finished this little gem and immediately went to the MAY I CUT IN and remembered my very first time. It was far better than my first kiss with a "gordito" fellow who came up to my chin. No....he was a very handsome, dark haired, gapped front toothed and dimpled young counselor from my summer camp that my parent's shipped me off to every summer to get rid of me. It was called "Circle F Dude Ranch Camp For Boys and Girls" and it was in the swamps of Florida. No crocodiles...just drool infested men. I was dancing with the gordit(o) du jour when Mr. Gorgeous CUT IN and asked if I would do a little SALSA with him. He knew I lived in Cuba and figured I could show him a little move or two. Well, it turns out that all he wanted was to try to impress his little GIGI (who was the blonde bomb shell counselor) with a few BALLET moves. I wanted to BOP him a few times in his nethers.... maybe give them a TWIST and a TAP for good measure. I wanted to go find a HIDELY hole after our little waltz.
@Pete1:02....GORDITAS are very much Mexican. They are the street foods of heaven. They are very similar to Arepas or Papusas from Central America. Please..... for all that is holy, don't eat at Taco Hell. Go to your nearest "Roach Coach" and eat the food of gods....
@Rex....you are like my grandmother's Apple Pie. I love coming here. No one else can stand my rants so this is where I can come and spew my silliness knowing that no one will listen anyway. I love your blog and hope you continue being just you. Sometimes I wish I were Jeff Bezos so that I could give all my money to the homeless and to every animal that needs shelter. You're the next best thing.....Greenery on its way.

Irishmaineiac 11:56 AM  

Ta$k done. Good puzzle. Look forward to more from him. Thank you for all you do.

burtonkd 12:06 PM  

@Alejandro: unless I've been grossly mistaken for a long time, John X posts ironically. Of course, you may also be...

Joe Dipinto 12:09 PM  

Oops – inglés. Don't know where that q came from.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

@ChuckD. Nothing makes Trump "look like a good guy". If he could, he would easily be every bit as bad as the ayatollah. He has already called for the arrest of opponents and encourages all kinds of violence. We know he idolizes leaders like Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin who have great latitude in responding to opposition.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Isn't "Busting Moves" slang for dancing? That's how I took it, anyway. Or just literally "busting" the circled dances. Posed as a question in a meta puzzle, "May i cut in?" would certainly be a great answer. Glad everyone enjoyed a Sunday puzzle.

Peter P 12:17 PM  

@Loren - well said, coming from this English literature major/occasional copy editor who, outside of specific contexts like editing text to a style guide, takes a more observational/linguistic approach to language. The variety and change in English is what makes language fun! One of my favorite linguistics observations/rules is the order of adjectives in English. There's a general multi-tiered order to them, and it's not something we're taught in English classes (possibly in ESL/EFL, though.) Take "German white big car." Does that sound grammatical -- in the linguistic sense -- to a native English speaker? Understandable, but odd. Now, "big white German car" -- that would sound grammatical to native speakers (unless there is some outlier native dialect that I'm not aware of.)

JC66 12:35 PM  

I'm not a fan of metas and my reaction to this one was akin to Ralphie's reaction to the Ovaltine decoder ring in A Christmas Story.

Doodles 12:36 PM  

Agreed. ❤️ @LMS

Carola 12:41 PM  

@Richard 11:15 - I'm not sure that there's an "official" answer to your question. For myself, yes, it's a DNF if I don't (completely) understand the theme, because I like that aspect of the challenge of matching wits with the constructor. But I know from reading years of comments here that others have their own criteria for what counts as a DNF (or as cheating), and some routinely solve a themed puzzle as a themeless. I'd say, decide the question by what makes the puzzle most enjoyable for you.

TTrimble 12:48 PM  

@Z 10:29 AM
--But it does raise the question of why we want that “at.” “Where is the Rotunda?” suffices so why do we add the “at?”

It's a Southern thing -- y'all wouldn't understand.

(Loren Muse Smith has the chops to tell us what's going on here, but my guess is that it might could be an intensifier of some kind.)

--And why don’t we write that last question as
why do we add that “at”?
? Yes I know the rule about punctuation always going inside the quotation mark, but there are times where the rule makes meaning murky so it strikes me as a dumb rule.

I think that might be an American thing: the Brits IIRC put their punctuation on the outside of the quotes. This feels to me like the more logical thing to do, usually, so that's the way I go myself.

To all: I do recommend Language Log which is a group blog written by linguists. What @LMS was writing earlier is very consonant with their own take on grammar and punctuation rules of the prescriptivist ilk, and comes from a deep place of understanding. Has had a bracing and tonic effect on yours truly, although I still have much to learn.

kqrbob 12:53 PM  

Brings to mind Dizzy Dean’s retort to a teacher who complained kids were modeling his bad grammar: You teach them English, I’ll learn ‘em baseball.

Masked and Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Gotta admit, I was a bit lukewarm on this dance-splits puppy, until I finally realized there was that bonus MAY I CUT IN message. Primo stuff. thUmbsUp.

Lotsa answers above my brain-grade in here: SDCARDS. KONMARI. SHIRTWAIST. MUFASA. GORDITA. The RR CARR. ALTS. PABA. ADA Limon.
Did know SNOGS and HIDEY and ODOM(sorta), tho.

staff weeject pick: LAT. Cousin of LO-LAT. honrable mention to SRS.
Some mighty fun fillins, such as: ODDSARE. GEEKDOM. KARATEKID. GERUND. SUPERLIKE. Not many real long items, but havin 9 longish themers kinda takes up that slack.

Whenever I'd start to get stuck in this puz, somethin easy would always bail m&e out. Nice friendly balance, there. Few nanoseconds were unduly harmed, at our house.

Thanx for the cool dance set, Mr. Pasco dude. Congratz on yer NYTPuz #20.

Masked & Anonym8Us

Mostly all @r.alph's fault:

TTrimble 1:05 PM  

Heh. I won't say exactly what this is in response to, but I'm reminded of Mark Twain responding to his wife's recitation of swear words:

"You have the words, dear, but you don't know the tune."

JOHN X 1:11 PM  

@Anonymous 12:44 PM

I guess the reason is because, as a submarine veteran, I have been trained to handle that language slightly better than you civilians.

I use "profanities" and not "vulgarities." There is most most certainly a difference.

Now, let me you the story of how we almost sank on Bravo-2 Sea Trials. We had a T-Hot Cut-Back in our reactor which requires the throttles to be shut, and started sinking stern first. We were at 45-degree angle going down . . .


Larry 1:20 PM  

@Varoius Anomi or @One redundant Anomymous - Had you been paying attention around here you would know that John X has almost half a mortar shell still embedded in his brain from black-ops work in Viet Nam m/ Cambodia / Laos, PTSD from being tortured in Desert Storm, permanent brain damage from years and years of LSD usage, and syphilis that's been untreated for 50! years. We overlook his occasional tourettes like outbursts out of respect for all he's done for our country, and for Mexican hookers. Also he's Malcom X's cousin, and you don't want the Nation of Islam after you, so shut the hell up for your own sake(s).

sixtyni yogini 1:29 PM  

Well, I missed reading a Rex Rant today- so here’s my little one.

“May I cut in” sorta clever but otherwise theme answers esp ballet and twist did not make sense.Just WRONG.
Boring. Couldn’t wait to get it over. Where was the fun? Lost in the Mashed Potato (that was a no show)

Haha trashing is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. (Ok ‘🧩‘twas not THAT 💣🪓💣 bad)

Appreciate and respect 👏🏽 the blog reviews 👍🏽 or 👎🏽.
💰 on its way.
Cheers 🥂 all!

Anonymous 1:30 PM  


just to prove your point. this from today
“Something how Dr. Fauci is revered by the LameStream Media as such a great professional, having done, they say, such an incredible job, yet he works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work."

Fauci has worked for every president since Nixon. The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) didn't hire or promote him, so claiming my work is a bit much. well, except for a psychopathic narcissist.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

The mods, however, aren’t letting John slide.
They’ve, right.ly, deleted his post.

Deb Sweeney 1:51 PM  

Fun to see the gray theme at the end. More writeovers than usual for me slowed things down (honey hole vs hidey hole, pop star vs pop idol, have a go vs have one, plow vs. snow) but eventually got it except for "egests" which was definitely not a word I've ever heard. Fun puzzle.

puzzlehoarder 1:53 PM  

There's something magic in this puzzle. Not only did it restore my faith in the Sunday NYT puzzle but it even caused me to read our hosts comments and they were totally on the same wavelength. I've been thinking I should probably start sending him money again anyway and sure enough it turns out to be that time again.

I really have no idea how long I've been coming here. I just retired and it's been over two years now. My perception of time feel off the map around 2000 and it's yet to come back. Maybe now that we're back to decades you can actually name things will get better.

I haven't been around much this year but then again it's been a strange one. Prior to coming here I had no idea how many other people did the puzzle and just how much they are into it. Thank you to all for helping me out from under my rock and keep on commenting.

RooMonster 1:56 PM  

I love reading your rants! True, I don't listen to them, though! 😂🤣 But they way you so eloquently just let your thoughts flow through your writing is amazing.


Always a classic. (That clip... and you!)

@Larry 1:20
Inspired. Sounds like you know @JohnX. Did you spend some time with him in that Mexican prison?

RooMonster Following Up Guy

Joe Dipinto 1:58 PM  

@Richard 11:15 – There's no component to solving this puzzle requiring that you understand anything extra about the circled and shaded boxes. It could just as easily have been presented as a themeless. You finished it.

egsforbreakfast 2:11 PM  

It strikes me that the meta theme would be a great USUAL question for a surgeon to ask his pre-operative patients.

Got. John X’s joke and LOLATed it.

Sent my Rex contribution because I need, need, need to support this platform so I can continue to soak up the wit and wisdom of many regulars. Thanks to all.

Z 2:15 PM  

@Richard - Do you think you finished? Someone here used to espouse the position that if the grid was filled but with an error it was not a DNF. Solving online I will distinguish between a technical DNF (I had an error but it was a typo) and a DNF (I had an error that I thought was correct). For me, for a puzzle like this, I would consider not catching the MAY I CUT IN piece a DNF, but if you don’t that’s fine. It’s your solve. My go to comparison comes from my days as a building administrator. I had two George’s on staff. For George I, a math teacher, if a student wasn’t in their seat with their book open when the bell rang he marked them tardy. For George II, an English teacher who taught mostly seniors, if a student was somewhere in the area code (literally) when the bell rang they were not tardy. Both were great teachers. So feel free to be George I or George II or somewhere in between.

@TTrimble - If my understanding is correct the Brits are just as bad as we are. They always put it outside the quotation marks while I was taught to always put it inside. Like @Frantic Sloth what makes sense to me is the context. Was the punctuation a part of the original? If yes than inside, if no then outside.
As for adding “at,” it ain’t just a southern thing. Maybe @LMS will deign to post a third time and illuminati us.

@A / Mimi (&@Frantic Sloth) - The fire came up as I looked for pictures, but employers treating workers little better than cattle is hardly SHIRTWAIST specific, or even something consigned to history, so I went with answering just my original musing, “what does a SHIRTWAIST look like?”

Bingo Player 2:17 PM  

Yo, @Anonymous Sh!tgibbon 12:09. Just FYI, you’re shtick is so over-the-hill that it can’t get a deal with Rhino. You may want to try a thought experiment - imagine Steve Martin going on one of the late night shows and breaking into his “Excuuuuse Meeee!” routine, which he would not do because he knows that it would be greeted by nothing but groans and would go over about as well as flatulence at church.

Barbara S. 2:17 PM  

I liked the puzzle and I grasped that we had a whole bunch of dance types cut in two, but I forgot to look at the title (a separate click) and took little notice of the grey squares which separated the two halves of each dance, so I had no notion of the MAY I CUT IN angle until I read Rex. Very clever indeed.

I got stuck for a while in both eastern corners. In the NE, I had the HI for HIDEY-hole, but I couldn’t believe HIDEY was right because I couldn’t feature an answer for “My guess is…” that would start with ODD. GEEKDOM likewise escaped my imagination (although you would have been amazed at my prowess in the videogame Diablo II back in the day – Rakanishu!). And, furthermore, I was absolutely sure that “Damascenes, e.g.” referred to a type of fabric. [Pause for research] And it does, more commonly known as damask. But I finally forced myself to fill in HIDEY despite everything, and then the pennies started to drop.

In the SE, I had SAILSALONG and GLOM and nothing else that was correct for a longish time. I knew Marie Kondo’s name, so I was sure that answer was going to be KONDO-something. Kondo messed up GLOM, so I took it out. Of course, I wanted BIOLogy for “H.S. class with dissections,” but it was too long and I didn’t notice the abbreviation at first. Anyway, it all fell into place eventually, and for the third day in this New Year, I can say, with nose-in-the-air superiority, “Google? What’s a Google?”

I’m reading an English novel right now, and one of the characters goes around saying “BOTHER” instead of Damn, or stronger epithets. I like it.

Shakespeare’s CASCA has a great speech about the Roman mob, deriding their chapped hands, sweaty night-caps, and stinking breath, so powerful that it causes Caesar to faint. (Starts to make lockdown seem more palatable.)

Isn’t KNELL a great word? It always makes me think of this -- see stanza IV.

Driving SNOW is all too familiar in my neck of the woods. Sometimes we sit shivering in our parkas and pray for driving rain.

I had an unsuccessful sports career in high school. Once, in an inter-school VOLLEYBALL competition, I did a dig which sent the ball at remarkable speed all the way to the extremely high gym ceiling. It fell to earth on the other side of the NET (whew), at which point the other team spiked it back at us (bother).

What? 2:25 PM  

I’m not a word person (science is my heart and soul) but I’ve always believed that the purpose of language is to communicate. As I’ve said before, if they gets it, it be good.

What? 2:35 PM  

The comments on this blog are more interesting than the puzzle. Maybe I should just skip the latter as a matter of course.

Anne H 2:36 PM  

DITTO!! Thank you for that, Beadola😁

gramgram 2:41 PM  

...loved this ‘break - dancing’ puzzle...Rex, the cheque is in the mail💙gramgram

Anne H 2:42 PM  

DITTO‼️ Thank you for that, Beadola😁

JD 2:46 PM  

@Richard, It counts if you just do a head slap and don't mention it to anyone. Then into next week, try to remember it differently or blame Will Shortz.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

for those that can actually read, you know I didn't invent The Orange Sh!tgibbon (because that's what it says), just find it tickles my funny bone. others may not be so tickled. I couldn't possibly care less.

just some further proof of the evil of that guy, the WaPo has an hour of audio of him extorting Raffensperger to fiddle the vote in Georgia. nice guy.

Dave S 2:55 PM  

That pentathlon clue drives me nuts. The epee is part of the Modern Pentathlon, which is a very specific thing. Just this very day, women competed in the pentathlon in the European Indoor Track and Field Championships, a popular event that includes hurdles, high jump,shot put, long jump and an 800 meter run. There are many other combinations of five athletic events competed as a pentathlon as well, of course. Few of them involve swords.

kitshef 3:01 PM  

@Richard 11:15.

A couple of weeks ago there was a puzzle where if you drew lines on the grid a in a certain place you could get key answers to fall in the correct place as though on a sheet of music. I'm pretty sure no one, including Rex, saw that. Did we all DNF that day?

My personal standard is if the grid is filled in correctly, with no lookups or checking, it is finished. Themes are there to add fun, not difficulty.

Frantic Sloth 3:05 PM  

@Carola 1052am Of course! "Driven snow" purity. Duh! Thank you for the reminder.

Not that anyone asked, but here are some of my parameters for cheat/no cheat:

Using material (print/internet, etc.) to get an answer: cheat
Using material (print/internet, etc.) to verify an answer or its spelling: cheat
Asking others for help: cheat
Typo: no cheat
Using "check": NYT website considers it a streak-killer, so kind of a cheat. I think it's kosher (i.e., no cheat) if you're trying to find a typo, but if you find that you purposely entered any incorrect letter(s) only revealed to you via the check? Cheat.
Not getting/understanding the theme which results in grid errors: cheat
Not getting/understanding any part of the theme after solving correctly: no cheat
Manufactured "errors" due to software glitches making you do headstands and black ops to figure out the problem: no cheat
Running the alphabet in your head: no cheat
Running through the alphabet in your software until you stumble onto success: cheat

I could probably be talked into or out of any of them. In the grand scheme of all things? What constitute a "cheat" for anything outside of an actual contest is solely between you and your conscious. MHO has spoken.

Newboy 3:11 PM  

“Your dedication to this place has changed my life, and I can’t thank you enough,” said @LMS. And for Newboy that goes equally for she who made the comment. And @Lewis. And @Z. And any number of commentariat who daily add spice and deepen my understanding of language, life on a Boomer, political issues, ad infinitum. Rex alone is a gem; y’all together are a treasure trove. Thanks sincerely.

Frantic Sloth 3:25 PM  

***Off-Crossword-Topic-But-Not-Off-Rex-Topic Alert***

I sent Rex some $$ via snail mail because I want a postcard. This required a paper check which still has our old address from 4 years ago because whoTF writes out checks anymore?? (I know there are those who still do and even "entities" who still require it [if you, like me, happen to live in the land that time forgot and progress fled] so don't get all literal and jump down my throat, please!)
And these days, whenever I have to sign or write something, what appears under the misnomer of "handwriting" is otherworldly and utterly indecipherable. Who knew someone at my age would still have to practice penmanship? Sad.

albatross shell 3:37 PM  

I'm sure most of us got the joke and laughed. Sounds like you have put your sniper rifle down. How did you keep in practice on the sub? Eating that hot chili sauce in close quarters do it?

Complain about a dead dog that is not even movie-dead, and then bless us with the Triangle Factory fire. Was that a joke too? Or revenge? Or simple social awareness? Or just puzzle related?

I agree completely plus on quotation marks. To be clear only punctuation that is actually part of the quote should be inside the quotation marks and the punctuation of the sentence containing the quote should always be included. If the quote ends in mid-sentence a "..." should end the quote. I try to write that way, but since my grammar and spelling and proofreading are a bit iffy, I am not sure people would notice. People probably think it's another unintentional mistake.

Would like to know @LMS's opinion on punctuation, logic, muddled meanings in written language.

Here is a pole dance with a touch of ballet to celebrate dance in crosswords this week (where's Jules Feiffer):


Anonymous 3:45 PM  

@Bingo Player 2:17. I'd ask you what you're talking about but I don't think you know.

Bingo Player 4:09 PM  

@Anon 3:45, I thought my post was pretty straightforward. There is a poster here that admitted that he pilfered some material and is determined to repeat it ad nauseam. I pointed out that saying something groan-inducing more frequently doesn’t make it any less malodorous.

thefogman 4:11 PM  

Loved it (mostly). Did NOT like the IPECAC - CASCA crossing - but I got it anyway. The theme was excellent. Nice work Paolo.

Bonnie Buratti 4:15 PM  

Roller coaster of feelings doing this puzzle. I was worried when I read the essay (“puzzles have appeared in many places, including… USA today…” Well, maybe it’s just the Harvard tuition.). More upbeat when I saw that the clues were a bit harder; downbeat when I realized many of the answers to the harder clues were crosswordese (oreo for piecrust flavor); angry to see “have one” and “one more” practically next to each other. I was finally devastated when I realized – about halfway through the puzzle – that the “theme” was to connect the dark letters into a simple expression. I never got the second half of the theme – that the long clues are dances (out of my wheel house; I flunked ballet). But given the triviality of the long clues, I never bothered to connect their meaning. Not much fun. The NYT really has to up its game with the Sunday XWord. It’s sad when you have more fun doing the 7X7 KenKen.

Brad Z 4:18 PM  

Ipecac? Never heard of that but I see it’s a thing:

Ipecac is taken by mouth to cause vomiting after suspected poisoning. It is also used to treat bronchitis associated with croup in children, a severe kind of diarrhea (amoebic dysentery), and cancer. Ipecac is also used as an expectorant to thin mucous and make coughing easier. Small doses are used to improve appetite.

jberg 4:24 PM  

As I was opening up my browser to come here, it dawned on me that E'ER resembled E'En in contracting out the V-- so I finally stopped worrying about what an OVEn LIE might be. Then, having puzzled over the gray squares without success, my eye fell on the including IN and workedits way backward through CUT, etc. Eureka! My enjoyment of the puzzle went way up.

When my wife's cousin was visiting from Sarasota, they went sightseeing and came back with a copy of The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up (there's that final preposition again -- only it's an adverb), which they presented to me rather pointedly. It really works. I haven'g gone all the way, which involves putting all your clothes in a big pile on the floor, then going through them one by one to see if they spark joy (or are useful) or not, but I have applied the method to particular areas, like a drawer of my bureau, or the shoes on my closet floor. She's right when she says that once you do it, you will never regress.

@Loren, I've come to agree with you, but be careful -- converts can become fanatics all too easily. I like Fowler's approach -- when he wants to convince you not to do something (like omit the final comma in a series) he finds examples where doing that thing leads to confusion -- also the point of Eats Shoots and Leaves, of course.

And I was really happy to see GERUNDS in the grid -- a vastly underrated part of speech, IMHO.

@JoeDiPinto--the constructor may be a White Guy, but not an Old one.

@Z I was wondering why that Triangle Shirtwaist article didn't mention the fire, but then I saw the "Triangle Fire" heading at the top of the page -- so I guess it was a cross reference from another article.

I just saw a little snow out the window -- I think I'd better quit and go see if it's too late for our daily walk.

thefogman 4:28 PM  

Aternative title: BREAK DANCING

Frantic Sloth 4:30 PM  

@albatross shell 337pm As obtuse as I am, it isn't clear to me whether you are joking about my dead dog "complaint" or the fire...so, I'll just answer the questions: No. No. Not really. Yes.
And in case I wasn't clear, I actually meant what I said about @JOHN X's clip brightening my day and tried to convey as much in a manner that was hopefully a reflection of his style, but obviously failed miserably. Oops. I should know better, but I never do. 🤷‍♀️

albatross shell 5:02 PM  

I should know better too,
But seldom do. I guess I should work harder at not misunderstanding you. Never know how seriously some people are about dogs. Someone here called the cops for having a husky tied outside for an hour in a snowstorm. I saw the dog too and thought he looked happy. Maybe he wasn't, but I doubt it. Thanks for setting me straight.

Joe Dipinto 5:26 PM  

@jberg – I was snarking on Rex; the constructor is neither. He's

a Filipino American who grew up in San Diego, he doesn’t fit the typical profile for crossword-puzzle enthusiasts: the traditional target audience is mostly older and whiter. But he and others of his generation want to diversify the puzzle world.

– Harvard Magazine

Barbara S. 5:36 PM  

@Joe Dipinto (11:00 AM)

"The final score: Pigs 9, British Bipeds 4. The Pigs go on to face Vikki Carr in the finals."

Joe Dipinto 5:58 PM  

@Barbara S. – Tee-hee!

(Which reminds me: shouldn't that song title/lyric have been "It Must Be He"?)

My phone keeps doing the thing where instead of previewing the text of my post it erases it. So I have to switch to Web Mode to preview. Does this happen to anyone else? It's very annoying.

Anonymous 6:58 PM  

IPECAC is kind of interesting, but this stuff https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paregoric is a bit more so. the parents had a bottle when my brother and I were kids, and kept it on the top shelf of the linen closet. I guess we were given it on purpose at least once, because I climbed up the shelves to retrieve it. I don't remember how it turned out, but at least it didn't kill us. ah, the good old days of snake oil and freely available narcotics.

JOHN X 7:09 PM  

Wow, I had a comment deleted (and somebody else was too)!

It was probably all for the best. I probably pushed the joke one notch too far. I never aim to hurt anyone's feelings.

So I accept that I deserved it. I can take it.

I've been treated worse, and in shittier places too. God bless.

mmorgan 7:10 PM  

Well, I was 1000% wrong. I was sure Rex would trash this — a bunch of dance-ish stuff broken in half, bust a move ha ha ha Not. Boring and unimaginative and everything that’s wrong with Sundays. And way too easy. That was how I felt... But no, this one garners deep Rex praise. Okay, I did not solve (or look for) the meta, and MAY I CUT IN really is super clever and an impressive feat of construction. But if I didn’t notice it at all, then hmmmm.... I do love wordplay and clever puns and such in a puzzle, rather than feats of construction that have little or nothing to do with the solving experience. Mine, anyway.

@JOHN X is awesome.

chinch 7:28 PM  

@LMS, Besides your typically delightful post about the puzzle, thank you for the apt appreciation of Rex and his blog.

Joe Dipinto 7:58 PM  

Btw, today's Acrostic is brilliant. Cox/Rathvon outdid themselves, imo. A much more satisfying solve than the main event. (Clue/answer W made me lol.)

Jo 8:24 PM  

I want Alfie art but I haven't had checks since 2006! Maybe I'll paypal you and send you a card that says so.

Nancy 8:25 PM  

Several people today have wondered out loud whether I would place quotation marks inside or outside the punctuation. There's no hard and fast rule; it all depends on the sentence. Let's try this sentence, which is a question:

Who was it who said: "Happiness is a warm puppy"?

Just try putting the quotation mark outside the question mark and here's what you would get:

Who was it who said: "Happiness is a warm puppy?"

Doesn't make any sense that way, does it? Charles Schultz would protest that he was making a statement and not asking a question. There are many instances where the quote marks can go outside the punctuation and there are also many instances where it can't. I'd say: just use your common sense.

chinch 8:40 PM  

@Newboy 3.11pm, Here, here!

TTrimble 8:41 PM  

@Joe Dipinto
My own opinion is that Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon are consistently very good. This week they managed to get quite a lot of answers connected in one way or another with the theme of the quotation, more than usual I believe. For that reason, I'd have to agree with you.

Woof, woof!

Anonymous 9:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joe Dipinto 9:54 PM  

@TTrimble 8:41 – at least half have some relation to the quote subject, by my count. That may be a record.

Ian 10:17 PM  

My kids and now my grandkids roll their eyeballs, then correct themselves, when I tell them that Me and him went to the movies should be He and I. Never ends.

JC66 10:26 PM  

@Joe D and @TT

Agree on today's Acrostic. A lot of fun.

Sandy McCroskey 10:57 PM  

(Excuse me if this is a duplicate, but I'm not sure it went thru the first time.)

I really liked this, especially since I could fill in the letters for almost half of the gray squares before I "got" there and I used the theme to get a few of the remaining answers too, after I sussed what was going on.

Kevin 10:57 PM  

You're my idol

Stevied 11:58 PM  

This egomaniac is full of bull with his 6 minute solve claims. His online solve WITH help took longer

Photomatte 12:34 AM  

Does anyone else mentally say 'Lots of Laughs' when they see "LOL?" Whenever I see, or type, LOL I always have the words Lots of Laughs playing audibly in my head. I know it's supposed to mean Laugh Out Loud, but who decides these things?

JOHN X 2:43 AM  

@Anonymous 9:45 PM

Would you really like me to respond to your comment?

Matthew B 12:27 PM  

I wasn't going to comment but I am surprised at the accolades. Not only did I find the puzzle itself simple but the circles in the pdf version removed any challenge in the themes. I found it kinda boring. And yes, I am a meta fan : WSJ (I've won a mug) and Gaffney. But I'm glad most of you enjoyed it. Happy New Year to all.
Oh, and I did contribute but no postcard yet...

Burma Shave 11:56 AM  




spacecraft 2:23 PM  

By all accounts and evidence (previously published puzzles), Mr. Pasco has more than enough BRAINS for the job--but I can tell you one thing: he knows nothing about KARATE, or he would never call it a "sport." I too had ___ATEKID and was stopped cold. "Well, it surely can't be KARATEKID, that's hardly a sport," I thought. But then it was. This gross misclue very nearly caused a DNF.

So too did other unknowables like KONMARI and PABA. They would not be denied for the crosses, but wow, who knew that? Both of you? Another unknown, GIGI Saul Guerrero, became DOD after I Googled her post-solve.

The theme was, of course, ingenious. Saw the dances right away, and inferred that the grays were going to spell out something related. Sure enough, MAYICUTIN hit the bullseye. So theme: two thumbs up. Fill: yikes! TOPUP??? You top OFF for a refill. TOPUP is absurd. I challenge anyone to name one restaurant where the waiter says, "May I TOPUP your drink?" Bah. It became a slog to get through all that BS. I guess we'll call it a par.

rondo 2:52 PM  

So we finally get a meta-puz and it's already solved for us by shaded squares.
TOPUP ought to be clued as a convertible option, as opposed to top down. That PABA/LOLAT cross is plain ugly. GIGI isn't ATALL, yeah baby. SUPREMELEADER shoulda been 'Diana Ross?'. Better than most Sundays.

Diana, LIW 8:12 PM  

I took all day on and off (mostly off) to finish. Funny - I was hoping "cutting in" would fit in somewhere in the puz. Must be psychic.

I woulda preferred Diana Ross, too.

Diana, Lady of Crosswords

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