Term for censored dissident in 1984 / FRI 1-1-21 / Title heroine of a James Joyce short story / Fast fashion retailer / Backdrop for the Compromise of 1850 / Park Corner London tube station / Appropriately named ghost in Nintendo games / Honorifics that can be repeated to indicate higher status

Friday, January 1, 2021

Constructor: Milo Beckman

Relative difficulty: Medium (6-something, but that's with repeated wrestling with the software over the number-boxes ... plus it's très oversized (16x16)


THEME: 2021 — numbers 2, 0, 2, and 1 go in the boxes at the center of the grid, resulting in the following number-containing answers:

Theme answers:
  • CATCH-22 (19D: Inescapable bind)
  • FOREVER 21 (39A: Fast-fashion retailer)
  • 20 PERCENT (37A: A fifth)
  • 01 ALUMS (38D: First graduates of the new millennium, informally)
Word of the Day: fast fashion (39A: Fast-fashion retailer: FOREVER 21) —
an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

You'll forgive me if this write-up is short. I figure if I'm up this late, I may as well celebrate properly at 12:00 a.m., but that's in less than an hour, and once I figure in drink-pouring time, well, the writing window is tight. Today's constructor sent me his original clues so that I could see how much they'd been changed by the editor. It's an 80-word puzzle and Milo counts just 25 of his own clues among the published clues. That seems like a pretty heavy editorial hand, but every constructor has a tale or twelve about such heavy-handedness. I once had something close to a quarter of the entire *grid* changed between acceptance and publication—and on a Sunday-sized puzzle. Humbling / humiliating. I couldn't see how the changes were anything but a lateral move, but then I didn't have decades of editorial experience and wasn't in charge so who cares. Point is, our puzzles are our babies and none of us are that thrilled when they come back to us looking all ... different. But editors standardize difficulty and also give the puzzle a distinctive voice and their work is crucial to any smooth-running puzzle. When editors are good, they improve your work, and it's a gift. I'm not going to do a side-by-side clue comparison today (if Milo has any specific comment, I'll post it later), but most of the final clues seem to have been simplified, shortened, or made more accessible in some way. This means, sadly, that a lot of the life (that is, a lot of younger-skewing cultural specificity) has been wrung out of them. Still, most of the clue edits I'm looking at seem reasonable, if not necessarily inspired. The most interesting change to me is the lone grid change: RZA got changed to MBA (23A: Résumé asset). I can hear 90% of solverdom exclaiming "thank god," but I think RZA is a cool answer (originally clued as [Wu Tang founder/beatmaker]). Dude is legit famous. He raps, produces, acts, scores movies (parts 1 and 2 of Tarantino's Kill Bill, for example). Main problem, though, is that he's not a household name to most NYTXW solvers, so every cross on RZA has to be extremely gettable, and I'm not sure the "R" in RPG (i.e. role-playing games) is. So we end up getting MBA ... more ultra-common snoozy bizspeak. But it's viable. And on a short answer, that's good enough. And anyway, the main interest of the puzzle lies elsewhere.


Not usually into themed Fridays, but at least today's theme is date-specific, so I can forgive it. There's nothing terribly earth-shattering about the idea to express 2021 like this, but it's still nice. I will say that '01 ALUMS does not sound nice to my ears at all. I had '01 CLASS there at first, and while that doesn't sound nice either, it felt like a more coherent phrase. So that answer felt forced. But the others seem fine, even if 20 PERCENT is entirely arbitrary. They could've at least clued it as [Common tip amount] or something like that, but it is what it is. [A fifth]. Maybe that was some kind of whiskey-related misdirect. Not sure. I really liked SO LAST YEAR (51A: Passé). Good any day, but on New Year's Day, mwah! I struggled up front with IFORONE ARCH and IFS, and then wanted PSYCHOTROPIC before PSYCHOACTIVE at 18A: Like some mushrooms. After that, only the SW gave me any trouble, largely because I (bizarrely) couldn't parse FERGUSON at all (39D: Missouri setting of 2014 civil rights protests). Oh, and I wanted GRAS instead of GROS (53A: Opposite of petit), had never even heard of EVELINE (44A: Title heroine of a James Joyce story), and couldn't get my head at all around 61A: Complete a lap? (SIT). Groan. Even with SI-, I had no idea. SIP? Gah. Thinking track "lap" and dog-drinking "lap" ... never considered the lap you "complete" (again, groan) when you SIT


OK, Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for coming around as often as you do (however often that is).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

136 comments:

Joaquin 12:04 AM  

A very clever salute to the new year with the “2021” in the four center spaces. And I guess Will Shortz is saying, “UP yours,” to the no dupe rule.

A happy and healthy 2021 to all!

jae 12:08 AM  

Medium. Apt and delightful. Numbers are good, liked it a bunch!

Happy New Year everyone!

Harryp 12:54 AM  

My biggest problem with this easy one is that I used an o instead of an 0 for the zero in 38D, and had to go over and over the puzzle till I figured it out! Okay by me.

Craig 1:06 AM  

Loved this puzzle but for one major error, at least as far as I am concerned. Am I the only person to think that 2000 was the first year of the millennium, and not 2001? If so, then the first graduating class must be 00Alums, not 01Alums. And, not knowing Forever 21 made it just as likely to be Forever 20. Am I wrong?

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Would of thought an English prof would have read The Dubliners at some point.

puzzlehoarder 1:45 AM  

I'm hesitant to put numbers into a puzzle so I hesitated over the most obvious part of the solve. There were some wrong guesses along the way too. I wanted TROPIC (with a long O) before ACTIVE. Unfortunately "sets" was in the 7D clue. Then I had to wonder if people really use NYE for today. Yes they do.

In the NE I cold guessed UND and EPI correctly but wanted MUY for 12A. Instead of quickly dropping in the downs I had to dolefully backfill off of PERPS and REI

It's quite appropriate that I start a new year slogging through the obvious. At least obvious when you're done.

Happy New Year to all.

John Hoffman 2:02 AM  

RZA would have been fatal to my solve!

Anonymous 4:16 AM  

@Craig - I think it's because we generally say, "Count from 1 to 10," not "Count from 0 - 9." Which would make 2000 the last year of the 1990s, and 2001 the first year of the new millennium.

Charles Flaster 4:44 AM  

Loved this EZ one.
Did not get numbers until CATCH 22– then it flowed.
Writeovers—MBA for gpA and MPH for gPs.
Thanks MB.

Loren Muse Smith 5:43 AM  

It took a minute to get the numeral angle. Thanks, Joseph Heller.

FOREVER 21. Hmm. I think my daughter used to shop there some, so I’ve been in one with her before. Entering alone, I’d feel a little conspicuous, sad. Aw – isn’t it nice that the old lady hasn’t given up yet on being HIP? Bless her heart. I could never seriously shop there, though. I mean, I can’t even bring myself to buy one of those long-sleeved tops with the shoulders cut out so your skin shows. Look. I know I run my mouth here about what and what not to wear (cap sleeves, gauchos. . .), and it's just the stupid opinion of someone who basically wears the same uninspired outfit in various muted colors every day, but I see someone my age in one of those shoulder skin shirts, and I’ma look to check if she has an edgy loop through her tragus. Maybe an ankle tattoo. Follow me for more sexist, ageist fashion advice.

I, FOR ONE, choose to lie to myself about my youth in private and am happy to report that I can still slide down the school's front stair rail on my fanny like nobody’s business. In my sheath and black cardigan. Clutching my pearls for dear life.

@Charles Flaster - I had a dnf ‘cause my resume asset was “gpa.” This made my Nintendo ghost’s name “Poo,” and I vaguely wondered why Poo would be an appropriate name for a ghost. I never thought to go back and question it.

“You might get a kick out of this at a restaurant” – that 2-tablespoon dollop of wasabi mistaken for guacamole because it was the early ‘90s, and sushi had barely been invented in the US and my friend was coming off a two-week heath spa stint and was starving and put the entire glob in her mouth at once. Not a good look.

Nice that Milo had REVEL and EVE, too.

Liked the SEASONS/HOT SAUCE/SPICED UP section.

My favorite moment was learning that the honorific SRI can be reduplicated to recognize a higher stature. I tried to find out more, but all I could find was a list of people who’ve earned extra SRIS (don't get all upset by the variant transliteration):

Shri: for anybody
Shri 2: honorific, guru, e.g. Ravi Shankar
Shri 3: title used by former Maharaja of Lamjung and Kaski and PMs of Nepal (e.g. Shrī Tīn Jung Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji)
Shri 5: title used by former King of Nepal (e.g. Shri pānch ko sarkār (His Majesty's Government)
Shri 108: used by spiritual leaders
Shri 1008: used by spiritual leaders (e.g. Shri 1008 Satyatma Tirtha)


I can understand Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. That’s two SRIS. But Satyatma Tirtha? 1008 SRIS? Maybe they just mercifully say the number 1008?

I also tried to look into why it’s “dwarfs” and not “dwarves” but ended up in a bunch of historical linguistics stuff that I was too impatient to follow. Same question a few months ago when I read the word “hoofs” instead of “hooves.”

Nice little “2021 Has Arrived!” puzzle. Nicely done, Milo. No beeves from me.

Ernonymous 5:52 AM  

@anon 1:09 Would of thought(sic) someone making a dig at an English prof would not use "would of" for "would have"

Anonymous 6:11 AM  

Yes, you're wrong, but it's an understandable wrongness. There was no year 0, so millennia run from 01/01/X001-32/12/X000.

Guilherme Gama 6:15 AM  

@Craig I believe the consensus for centuries and millennia is that they begin on the respective year ones, the rationale being that there was no year zero, and thus both the first millennium and the first century started on 1 AD.

Anonymous 6:26 AM  

It ARE SO true. It are not a lie.

Conrad 6:31 AM  


@Craig and @Anon 4:16 - There are those who hold that 2000 was the first year of the 21st century. Others say it was 2001. It's kind of a holy war, with each side believing the other is doomed to burn in hell. It all depends on your definition of "century". If you define it as "years with the same leading numbers" then the 2000 tribe is right. If you define it as "100 years," the 2001s have it, because there was no year zero.

mooretep 6:48 AM  

Loved the puzzle, but put in letter X's rather than numbers, so was confused until I came here.
Didn't expect a Friday to use non-letters.
Nonetheless, enjoyed this puzzle and it degree of "crunchiness".

Loren,
Great comments per usual.
How goes the Gmail debacle?
Sent you an email a coupla days ago to try to assist your transition.

Lewis 7:04 AM  

MY FIVE FAVORITE CLUES OF 2020
(in order of appearance):

1. Looks that can be difficult to pull off (6)(5)
2. Wanders around LAX or JFK? (3)
3. What’s found on a couple of plates in Italy? (2)(4)
4. Batting equipment? (4)(9)
5. 1, 2, 3, 4 … 11, 12, 14 etc. (6)


SKINNY JEANS (Erik Agard, 1/26)
TSA (Byron Walden, 4/10)
MT ETNA (John Guzzeta and Michael Hawkins, 7/18)
FAKE EYELASHES (Robyn Weintraub, 10/23)
FLOORS (Sam Ezersky, 11/21)

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

I'm thinking that if 20 commenters had favorite 5 lists, of the 100 items there would be no more than a 5% overlap. Still fun, though. Thanks, Lewis for your weekly lists.

JOHN X 7:21 AM  

Well this puzzle kicked the living shit out of me, and that’s a rare event in the life of JOHN X.

I knew something was going on in that center section, but I never quite caught on. Plus, the NE was completely out of my wheelhouse.

“Catch 22” is probably my favorite book ever so that made my failure even more painful. The entire book is genius but the chapter “Major Major Major Major” reaches religious levels with me.

Barney 7:47 AM  

Per timeanddate.com:

Anno domini, the year numbering system (calendar era) we use today, was devised by a 6th-century monk named Dionysius Exiguus, who lived in an area now part of Romania and Bulgaria. Dionysius used Roman numerals to number the years “since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ”, as he put it in his writings—and there is no Roman numeral for the number zero.

ChuckD 8:08 AM  

Liked the idea here and don’t mind the numbers - just thought the overall cluing and fill was flat. To the solver - it doesn’t matter whether it’s on the constructor or the editing team. CATCH 22 is solid - as @John X a classic and required reading in existentialism/absurdism 101. But the other themers are rough - especially 01 ALUMS. The plural OATMEALS as longer fill? You can add UNPERSON, A PLUS AVERAGE, RESEALED and APP STORE to that list also. Hand up for GPA before MBA - again poor cluing.

Was hoping @LMS would provide the lurid details of a once past life as a POLEDANCEr. Did like SO LAST YEAR and EVELINE and always like to see OTTERs.

Full on melancholy watching the Time Square celebration last night. I was downtown earlier in the week - it’s like a ghost town and I don’t know when or if businesses will ever go back. 2021 - I’m counting on you.

Ted 8:23 AM  

A pleasant solve!

Now I'm curious to see the original clues that were swapped out. The puzzle as presented seemed fine.

Like others, I agree that RZA might have been problematic to get... depending entirely on cluing, of course. But a short word with single crosses and an abbreviation is a danger zone. And I say that as an RPG player and GM.

kosher and quick 8:28 AM  

Could someone please explain why principal is arch? I just don’t get it.... thx

pabloinnh 8:30 AM  

Thought we were looking for numbers with the 20PERCENT answer, which had to be right, and was delighted to find the adjacent numbers to make 2021. Slick trick. Also I learned FOREVER21, of which I had not heard, since 21 was (coughs) years ago, and fashion does not interest me.

On the other hand, any puzzle with my favorite book, CATCH22 (hi JohnX) and my favorite animal, the OTTER, is going to be way up there on my favorites list. Is it a coincidence that Milo, as in Minderbinder, used CATCH22? If there's another five letter word or phrase followed by 22, it's unknown to me, so there's that.

Well done, well done indeed, MB for which many thanks. I'm giving this Puzzle of the Year.

amyyanni 8:33 AM  

Speaking of poo, as did LMS, wanted poo for 62 down (traditional source of fertilizer). Happy 2021, all.

Hoboken Mike 8:41 AM  

Or for that matter think that Evelyn was the TITLE heroine of The Dubliners

kitshef 8:43 AM  

Finished with an error at 00 ALUMS crossing FOREVER 20. Guess I enjoyed 2020 so much I was hoping for a repeat.

Definitely felt more Saturday level. Nothing obviously out of my wheelhouse bar EVELINE, but just one of those days when every initial guess is wrong. SPIrited before SPICED UP, yesterYEAR before SO LAST YEAR, eER before OER, and so on.

I’ve mentioned I like to go back and do puzzles from the same day of the week and date of the year from previous years. It is often claimed that puzzles have gotten easier, but the 1/1/99 puzzle probably took half as long as today’s.

But if you want a challenge, try the 1/1/10 puzzle. That was a HARD Saturday-level puzzle that ran on a Friday.

kitshef 8:45 AM  

@kosher and quick 8:28 - your principal enemy = your arch enemy.

Hungry Mother 8:53 AM  

Nice start to the hopefully happier new year. I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to having numerals in a puzzle, but this was definitely fine with me. The NW was slow to get into focus. CATCH22 remains one of my favorite books. In 2004, I was on an RV mini-caravan into Mexico, with a week in San Carlo. It was a thrill to recognize the runway from the movie. I must admit to being in a FOREVER21 outlet to buy gift cards for granddaughters.

Unknown 9:02 AM  

Kosher and quick, think of arch enemy....

Excellent start to what promises to be a better year, at least eventually. Puzzle plenty hard without Rza, thank you. Very satisfying as it is.

Happy New Year!

mathgent 9:03 AM  

Absolutely loved it, Chock full sparkle. Plus 2021 dead center in the grid.

Ivo Karlovic is an excellent professional tennis player from Croatia. He was top twenty at one time. He's a big guy who always seems to be glowering. Brad Gilbert, the tennis commentator, calls him Doctor Ivo.

Learned a new word from Loren today, tragus.

My daughter does competitive pole dancing at her gym. I had thought that it was only done at strip clubs.

There are 31 more squares in a 16x16 grid than in a 15x15 (16 squared =256, 15 squared =225). That reminds me of a mathematical fact you may not know. The difference between the squares of two consecutive numbers is the sum of those two numbers. E.g., 5 squared minus 4 squared is equal to 5 plus 4.

Yesterday's puzzle was great. Today's is better.

mmorgan 9:15 AM  

@anon 1:09: there’s no “The.”

Enjoyed this but I had landRUSH and that screwed me up for a long time.

Happy New Yeah. Sigh. Here’s hoping it won’t be any worse than last year. That seems like a reasonable request

Z 9:18 AM  

Oooh - A Lucius video. Wildewoman... I imagine it is @LMS on the left and @Frantic Sloth on the right. Or maybe the other way. Anyway, they always seem to be having fun as they sing.

As to not knowing EVELINE, “Pedantry proceeds from much Reading and little Understanding.”

Unknown 9:20 AM  

Can someone clue me into ARCH for PRINCIPAL?

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

arch enemy

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Archbishop, archangel, arch enemy. Actually, also architecture.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

I also had FOREVER20 and 00ALUMS, thinking that the center four would be SOLASTYEAR.

Lewis 9:26 AM  

This was a tussle from top to bottom for me, that is, fully engaging, with some lovely answers (i.e., PSYCHOACTIVE, ASTUTE, FEROCITY), clean grid, and some excellent NYT debut answers (EDITS OUT, SPICED UP) – a most excellent tone-setter for the new year for veteran solvers, IMO, as well as a notice to newer solvers that there is plenty of room for improvement. Bravo, Milo, and thank you! And how could you resist having CATCH-22 in the puzzle when you share your name with one of its memorable characters?

I love my NYT puzzle habit and the post-solve airing out in this most marvelous outpost/oasis. I am so grateful to all of you who come here to share, I wish you well in the year ahead, and look forward to more treasured time with you!

Space Is Deep 9:37 AM  

Loved this puzzle. Medium for me. As noted, if you are going to have a theme on a Friday, this is a legit theme.

Joe Welling 9:40 AM  

The number disagreement between "It's true" and ARE SO is especially jarring in a puzzle centered on numbers.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Did anyone else think the center squares were rebuses? I put in the words "Twenty" and "Two" for the last two squares of 19D. The "Twenty" made sense for 37A, except that it left me with a blank square before "Percent" and no idea how to fill it. Took a while to figure out my error. Happy New Year all!

Nancy 9:59 AM  

I FOR ONE liked this a lot. (Also, I 4 1 liked this a lot.) Although I could have done without the DR EVIL, FOREVER 21, EVELINE crosses -- all PPP I didn't know. Finding that "V" when I had DRE??r for some sort of movie villain who does something strange with his fingers was impossible. That's because DREVIL is a DOOK. And also because...

I wanted RaVEr, not REVEL (50A). I'm thinking of a hearty partyer. A noun. And REVEL is a verb. To me there's a disconnect. Not happy about this.

Also not happy about SEASONS for "TV sets". Too cute by half and not really fair.

But the 20 moving right along to 21 made up for everything. Especially now that NYE has moved right along to NYD. A brilliant concept for a puzzle that runs on 1/1/21. Crunchy fun and very original-- only wish some of the above-mentioned problems had been smoothed out.

Old White Guy 10:02 AM  

Rex

Publish the original clues or link to them, please?

Frantic Sloth 10:05 AM  

Happy Thank-the-gods-it's-a New Year!

Maybe it's my imagination, but I couldn't help but notice the many ER or RE letter combos throughout much of the grid. It's a weird thing that might happen all the time, but the fact that it jumped out at me is freakin' me out a little. I know - sounds like a personal problem, but only because it is.

And I CATCH(ed)22: SAVER, OTTER, DREVIL, FOREVER21, REVOLTED, RESEALED, FERGUSON, REVEL, OVERRIDE, 20PERCENT, PERPS, REI, ATREST, APPSTORE, OER, ERA, ARESO, FEROCITY, ERRS, QUEEREYE, UNPERSON, APLUSAVERAGE

This was a crunch-a-munch of a puzzle for me - over double my average time or thereabouts. These last couple days have been rough on the ol' Slothnoggin, which is wonderful!

This was fun from start to finish, but what a cheeky little surprise nugget that center was! Nice touch.

Funs include, but are not limited to: QUEEREYE, UNPERSON, POLEDANCED (there's a story), APPSTORE, SOLASTYEAR (my fave), APLUSAVERAGE (if this describes you, shut up), and that middle!

If I even had any nits, I would ignore them.

***Stupid Stuff Alert***

They say SOLASTY EAR often accompanies SLOP ITCH in the more extreme cases. It often HYDEs in the FEET, hoping nobody NOTICES, but they still SEES it. What DREVIL. OTTERLY ridiculous. Sorry.

Inner voice: Please stop and go read Rex and the sane people.
Me: 👍


🧠🧠🧠.75
🎉🎉🎉🎉

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

there are a boatload of coders who spent hours, if not days, DEBUGging just because they don't grok the difference between adding and length: 2000 to 3000 is 1001 units, while 2001 to 3000 is 1000 units. the innumerate get caught up. in the C world, that leads to infinite number of dangling pointers. well, I guess you have to have been there to get that.

Jeremy 10:06 AM  

I think it makes more sense for the first decade/century/millennium/what-have-you to be missing year 0, than to propagate that silliness onward and have every one of these “technically” start at 1.

Even in a world that still denies the importance of 0, centuries after its invention, what are the years that have psychological importance? Remember when everyone said on January 1, 2001, “Wow, the old millennium is finally over... what a time to be alive!”? Or, “Yeah I was born in the eighties, meaning the years from 1981-1990.”? Yeah, me either. That “clicking over” into a new ten, hundred, or thousand is what has meaning, and that is as it should be.

Unknown 10:07 AM  

thank you for commenting on "sit". I didn't understand it even after I finished, for some reason it clicked when I read your piece

bertoray 10:12 AM  

Earned a DNF for having put the letter O in for the zero. Dang, it looked oh so right. (O,0). Happy New Year everybody!

Nancy 10:16 AM  

After reading the blog I see that just about everyone thought the trick was "2021". But if that were the case, 20 and 21 would be next to each other in the grid. 21 would not be directly under 20.

No, the trick is "20 --> 21". 20 turning into 21. Which is what happened last night at the stroke of midnight. I think this is a much stronger theme, don't you?

Oh, and btw, I also hated "It's true" for ARE SO. Forgot to mention it because, unlike my earlier mentioned nits, this one didn't hamper my solve. But it's just awful -- and so unnecessarily awful!

Suzy 10:19 AM  

@LMS—. If your wit and style are half as much fun in your classroom as on this page, your students are lucky indeed!

Thank you, Mr Beckman, for a very satisfactory beginning to the new year. 2021, don’t let us down!!

CS 10:20 AM  

Another vote in favor of this sparkly Friday puzzle to start the New Year! Loved the 2021 in the center. Enough resistance to make me think but on the more solvable side for a Friday. Just right! Let's hope the year continues in this vein.

Happy New Year all!

--CS

Carola 10:20 AM  

I'm giving myself the New Year's Dunce Cap Award, as I had all of the numbers in place but didn't see that they made 2021. I caught on to the digits with FOREVER 2!, and just thought, "Huh, that's different, numbers on a Friday." So my word of the day is DOPEY. An engaging grid all around, enjoyed it.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:21 AM  

Turned on the live cam of Times square last night when the big moment was near, and -- absolutely nothing happened. Real downer. Also, my cork was on a bottle of Portuguese bubbly that tasted sort of like 7-up. Oh, well, it's a new year. I left the space blank in DREV_L. If I hadn't been so sure GED was write, I would have filled in DRiVEL for the principal(ARCH) of the thing.

Crimson Devil 10:23 AM  

Hear hear !! Re: Major Major Major Major

JBH 10:23 AM  

Like ‘ Arch’ enemy, I figure.

pabloinnh 10:25 AM  

@Nancy-

We've been going to the Christmas REVELs here for years, so that's at least one time that REVEL works as a noun.

Happy New Year.

Unknown 10:30 AM  

A wonderful start to 2021. This skewed slightly easier for me than most fridays, but I've learned over the course of the year that doing puzzles regularly doesn't make you smarter; you just start to see certain patterns appearing again and again.

OK, hands up if you knew that RZA scored the music for the two (fairly forgettable) Quentin Tarantino moves Kill Bill, vols. 1 and 2. Anyone? Anyone?? yeah, I thought so. I get that rex is trying to show us his cool-kid cred, but the reality is for a NYT demographic, MBA was by far the better answer.

But if you are looking for a fun Tarantino film to watch tonight, go for Death Proof. I re-watched it a couple of months ago and it was funny, had great dialogue, and a pro-feminist ending that even YFL would approve.

GILL I. 10:37 AM  

Well never in 21 years would I have gotten RZA. I listen to music all day long in my abode. All kinds.....but I can't abide rap. NOSIREEBOB. I once listened to the lyrics of Eminem's "So Much Better" and thought how endearing his mysoginistic lyrics are. To be fair, I also wanted to blow my brains out listening to Mimi's death scene act from La Boheme. Man....she just never wanted to die..
On to the puzzle: I really liked this one. It was one of those erase erase, guess guess, not right, ooooh, I know that one, how do you spell PAGEANT types. You need a bit of Pinot to finally get the right answers. And...by gum, I did.
What did I like? All of it. @Loren...I am a tad (ahem) older than you but I've shopped at FOREVER 21 for myself. I've even gone into the dressing room. I'm a strangely weird size. I believe young women are somewhat taller and clothes are made to fit them better (I guess). Anyway, this is the only place I found a jeans size (that didn't have holes in them) that fit me. Does anybody else carry a 6 1/2 for old toothLESS women? QUE sera sera.
Love me some SPICED UP OTTER HOT SAUCE. Next time you cook some buttery scrambled eggs be sure to add some El Yucateco Chile Habanero . It OTTER make you do the TWO STEP and get the QUEER EYE from DR EVIL. OERr the ramp arts we've watched with HYDE and DOPEY.
Happy 2021 to all who celebrate. I need a life.

bocamp 10:50 AM  

Thank you, @Milo, for a most enjoyable and challenging Friday puzzle! :)

Thought the 2021 theme was perfect! No prob inserting numbers (no rebus required on iPad).

Had a dickens of a time in the NE but eventually sussed it out, which almost doubled my solve time.

How can you be so "obtuse"?


Peace 🕊

Knitwit 10:56 AM  

Liked this! Thought of H & M before FOREVER21, but that was my aha moment. Happy New Year to all. And thanks Rex and all those who comment here, crosswords have been a much needed distraction this year and you have all made it a lot more fun! Not to mention improving my solving skills

Whatsername 10:58 AM  

QUE Rico!! What an absolute delight and a stupendous start to the new year. If this is what’s in STORE for the future, my slightly larger in the evening FEET will be doing a little DANCE every day. I give this an APLUS all around.

2020 is SO LAST YEAR. Wow! Feels good to say that.

Today is my favorite holiday. January 1 is like official permission to leave the past behind and start anew with the possibility for something better ahead. For most of us, that’s never been more true than it is this year. I FOR ONE am FOREVER grateful to ALL of YOU here for making my days a little brighter, a little more interesting with a little more JOY than I might have had otherwise. I wish each and every 1 of you an abundance of hope, peace and good health throughout 2021.

Amelia 11:01 AM  

@ Will Shortz

I'm 67. I've been doing the NYTXW for more than 50 years. Not only do I know who RZA is, I like RZA. And a whole bunch of other musicians who I shouldn't like because I'm over 60. He's also an actor and filmmaker, so I know him from other media, too.

I would have gotten it. So don't make assumptions based on YOUR age and solving ability. Give your solvers some credit. (Except Rex who loves telling us things like he doesn't know who that dude James Joyce is.)

P.S. I love the Spelling Bee.

JD 11:03 AM  

@Frantic, "the ol' Slothnoggin!" Oh girlfren, that was too much. Spit take, Oatmeals everywhere 🤣 Reminds me of the Dansk "Nothsloggin," for Pole Dancing (had Line Danced in there for a while, what a rube).

Ran the first pass on the downs and really suffered til I got to the doable SE corner. Then north up that corridor and eventually swirled around to the numbahs, boom. Major major fun. In my pinwheel house, (i.e., Friday on the easy).

Thank you Milo for the mindbender (I could've stopped myself but ah what the Heller).

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

It shouldn’t have been. He is mentioned in fact, in today’s NYTimes, as having introduced marijuana to Martha Stewart.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Y2K rears it’s ugly head!

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

I thought this was the worst clue in the puzzle. I wonder what Milo’s clue was.

Birchbark 11:17 AM  

PSYCHOACTIVE HOT SAUCE is SO LAST YEAR. In 2021, it's all about pluralized OATMEALS.

Ring out the old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

-- Tennyson, "In Memoriam."

Yesterday afternoon, I listened to 101-year-old radio actress June Spencer (a/k/a Peggy Archer) read this poem for the Ambridge New Year's celebration on the BBC 4's "The Archers." It is so resolved.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

I agree. But “RPG” is firstly thought of as “rocket propelled grenade”. Sorry!

Newboy 11:21 AM  

ears to both @LMS and @K for links worthy of a new year’s click dive to start the new/finish the old decade depending on when one starts🤔

Liked the puzzle though that central four squares flummoxed AcrossLite even more than it did me....maybe, like others I had never heard of FOREVER20/21 so having 3of4 squares correctly entered blocked Mr. Happy? NW was a tough sell as long as pirates remained a noun instead of the verb—sigh. A bit like knowing that els is “20 PERCENT “ of level that recently mystified and delighted. Good job Milo, today’s grid was a worthy Mindbender to open a new ERA.

Apologies to any anti-bull fight activist offended by that opening quip—no animals were harmed in its construction. & finally kudos to @Lewis for his echoes of delight from the year now past. May all commentariat have smooth solving in days ahead.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Whatshername,
If you really want the feeling of starting over, you should check out the Sacrement of Reconciliation.

Anon early morning,
Mike is waiting for the comic book version of Dublinerss,

Z,
Bwhahhaha. No one reds more than Mike Sharpe yet seem to understand less. But nice try t the snark. Keep doing do. And kissing Rex’s keister.

jethro 11:26 AM  

To the author re Thursday's idiotic commentary: when you figure out how to hatch from your bottle maybe a BRAVE NEW WORLD will be waiting.

Michelle Turner 11:31 AM  

Has anyone else considered that UNPERSON could be used to describe someone on the wrong side of cancel culture? I think it is interesting to note that the dystopian novel 1984, written in 1949, deals with some of the themes we see playing out in our culture today.

mbr 11:31 AM  

@Nancy & @pabloinnh: I took the clue for 50A as a verb, as in Wiki's definition:

party hearty (third-person singular simple present parties hearty, present participle partying hearty, simple past and past participle partied hearty)

(idiomatic) To engage in unrestrained merriment.

JC66 11:47 AM  

@Nancy

I bet you can read this.

pabloinnh 11:52 AM  

@mbr-

FWIW, I read it originally as a verb too. Was just looking for a REVEL=noun example.

Nancy 11:53 AM  

@mbr (11:31) -- Thanks for that. I actually did think, in the middle of my carping, that "party hearty" might be an [idiomatic] verb. But I didn't want to accept it because it's so ungrammatical. It should of course be: "party heartily."

Ah, Birchbark (11:17): You quote from my favorite poem in the world by my favorite poet in the world. And it's so apt right now. But the lines from "In Memoriam" that really affect me, and always have, are:

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last -- far off -- at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night;
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

@mbr 11:31. I thought of it that way too and then realized it "should" be Party heartily. verb/adverb

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

Its ugly head
The apostrophe in your answer shows a contraction, not possession. I had this argument with my child's second grade teacher the entire year he was in her class.

pmdm 12:03 PM  

I enjoy puzzles that include numbers in the grid, so I liked this one. Might not have if 23A was not changed to MBA.

I don't know if I'm duplicating anyone, or if this information is already in the queue for publications, but if you want to see the original clues, XWordInfo mentions how to view them.

chuck w 12:04 PM  

Loved the puzzle, even though I had 2020 instead of 2021. A minor point: The title of the book is "Dubliners," not "The Dubliners." Also, I agree that 2001 was the first date of the millennium. But some of us got excited just seeing a 2 in front of the year.

Frantic Sloth 12:07 PM  

So now life = "younger-skewing cultural specificity", Rex? And you can go ahead and count me among the 90% for MBA over RZA, because I'm old and (apparently) dead to you. But I agree my unfamiliarity with RZA is on me, and as always with such things, I learn it (or try to) and move on.
However, it is disturbing, and I would be mortified as a constructor if only 25 (of an 80 word puzzle) of my clues were retained. I'd love to see the originals!

I do have to agree with 01ALUMS being somewhat awkward. Thinks me at the time, "Is that a thing? I don't think that's a real thing. Do people actually say that? Is that a thing? It could be a thing...some people might say it. I guess it's a thing. Whatever."
My thoughts are deep and pithy.

Amused that Rex was flummoxed by the "lap" formed by SITting. Even I have seen that enough times to not fall for it anymore.

@mathgent 903am Fun math fact! Surprisingly, I didn't know. 😉

@Z 918am I'm glad you're back...I hope you're back! I'm pretty much a heathen, so had no knowledge of Lucius. I think I love them whether that's what they wanna know or not. Thanks for the introduction and your imagination's surprising inclusion of me in the same rarified air as @LMS. (I don't belong there, but it's awshucksian!)

@Lewis 926am Thank you for your kind words and wishes. (I'ma just go ahead and include myself as part of the "you" here.) Never doubt what a treasure you are to everyone here.

@GILL 1037am 6 1/2?? Unless you're 2 feet tall, sounds like you need some thin-shaming. But, Shirley tells me I'm jesting. 😘

@JD 1103am Here's you: Dansk Nothsloggin Here's me: Huh? (I hate my stupid!)

@Birchbark 1117am Brilliant! As usual.

As others have mentioned, ARESO for "it's true" rankled, but I'm sure there's a lawyerly explanation. At least I hope so. Because it stinks.

Nancy 12:07 PM  

Nice link, @JC66 (11:47). What city is that?

@Michelle (11:31) -- It was my very first thought, as well, when I saw UNPERSON. And, yes, Orwell was so ahead of his time it's uncanny. It's also scary as hell.

@mathgent (9:03) -- I'm always charmed by the interesting and surprising things you teach us to do with numbers. I bet your math classes were entertaining and extremely lively and that your students loved them.

Barbara S. 12:10 PM  

@bocamp and @Nancy from last night
Thanks, you two.

**Serious Rambling Alert**
If you’re not @Nancy, you might want to skip the rest.

@Nancy
Here’s the short answer to your question (which I’ll immediately expand into a long answer): I’ve never been comfortable in the role of seller/salesperson/flogger of goods. During my years in the book business, I spent some time in the retail end of things. The most problematic stint for me was working for a large chain (yes, one of those that puts small vendors out of business) and that’s where most of my defensiveness resides.

Several decades earlier, at the other end of a working career, I managed an independent bookstore and that was a much more comfortable experience ethically. The problem there was that the store was in a nickel-mining town and there was a strike that crippled the place for almost a year – we nearly went under any number of times. That was a fabulous store in its heyday, though. It was in an old flatiron building and there were three floors of captivating stuff. At the top one found an extensive children’s section and a used book department. In the middle was the bulk of the book inventory: the adult fiction and non-fiction. On the ground floor, magazines and newspapers from all over the world, an eccentric selection of LPs, “comestibles” (as my partner used to call them), which were gourmet jams, mustards, chutneys and sauces in elegant glass jars. We had some boring stuff, too, like stationery. Oh – and did I mention the woodstoves? We didn’t carry much in the way of inventory, but we could order whatever you wanted. This was in northern Ontario, so there was call for such things in our winter-dominated community.

You said of the book trade: “As industries go, it’s one of the more noble and worthwhile… Books are a good thing, right?”

Amen to all of that. And if people don’t sell books and if people don’t buy books, books will disappear.

I think one of the reasons for my squeamishness around sales is that I’m from a public service background: my father was a career civil servant (who, from one of the departments of the federal government, edited a highly-regarded scientific journal) and my mother worked in public education. I spent a long time in academe between the indie and the chain mentioned above. Yes, there were tuition fees and the students paid for their educations. But I always felt that we “retailed” so much more than mere things: the tools of observation and analysis that are critical for thinking your way through an ever more complex world.

OK, oops, over my word limit and I’ve barely got started. @Nancy, I hope this gives you some clue and hasn’t put you to sleep. Thanks for handing me a soapbox.

CDilly52 12:27 PM  

Excellent tribute to what we all hope will be a better year! This was delightful and clever and was, for me, incredibly difficult in the SE. I completely lost my wavelength connection with our constructor. What fun and HAPOY NEE YEAR EVERYONE 🎉

Why Not 12:30 PM  

Good call! You saved me some more stress trying to figure it out. Happy New Year!!!!

Schuly 12:31 PM  

Or called it THE Dubliners rather than Dubliners

Uke Xensen 12:38 PM  

SMH

RooMonster 1:14 PM  

Hey All !
Had my regular client out on the town last night/this morning. 11 hours, most of which for me was sitting in the Limo waiting for them for the party to be over. Hours, people, sitting, reading YesterBlog, listening and singing to the radio, sitting, trying not to fall asleep, waiting...
Finally dropped them off back at their humble abode (well, not really humble!) at 6AM (picked up at 7PM), just to have Dispatch send me another ride! Because "no on else was available" to do it.
So, to steal aline from "Gone In 60 Seconds" (the modern remake one, not the 1969 one), "I'm a little tired, I'm a little wired, and I think I deserve a little appreciation!"
Har.

Speaking of Nicholas Cage, I actually drove him on Christmas Day, for 6 and 1/2 hours. This job really knows how to ruin Holidays.

Anyway, my babbling aside, liked this puz. Neat to have 2021 in the center. Did notice the 16 wide right away, but not the 16 long grid. Dang. Was going to wonder aloud here why another themeless was 16 wide, but you need to do that to get an even number entry in the center. Too bad that logic escaped me on not noticing the same thing has to happen in the length. Selective braining.

Who did the pinkie thing to their mouth when they got DR EVIL? C'mon, admit it. I do it Every. Time. I see DR EVILs name!
ARE SO as clued (and in general) can hang back in 2020 and wait for the Langoliers to gobble it up.
OATMEALS, forced POC. Maybe if you're giving them to your 2.5 kids (is that still the average? Haven't heard anything about that in a while), "Hey kids, here's your OATMEALS!" (Followed by groans, as kids don't usually like OATMEALS.)

Had atROCITY for the longest time, messing up the NE. That, plus not knowing UNPERSON (only one left in USA that's never seen or read 1984), or QUEER EYE as clued, had me run to ole Google for the UNPERSONing. Finally saw EDITSOUT, had crosSOUT for a bit, which got me QUE, and erasing the at of atROCITY, got me to see FEROCITY, and FEET (which went through ears and arms) and presto changeo, puz done. However, no Happy Music. Dang. Hit Check Puzzle to see I had the letters O and I for the numbers 0 and 1.

Don't know why I'm so verbose this morning. Overtiredness, probably. But thanks for reading this mindless DREVIL (har). 2021! Hooray! I FOR ONE would like to see people stop saying "It's gotta be better than 2020!" That's like saying the Field Goal kicker hasn't missed a kick forever. Then Bam! He misses one. It can always get worse. Just hope and pray 2021 is better.

I'll shut up now.

Three F's
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

20 percent=0.2=2/10=1/5=a fifth

Nancy from Chicago 1:22 PM  

@LMS I laughed at your "ageist sexist" fashion advice (because I agree with it, for me). I don't understand those "cold shoulder" tops either. But interestingly, whenever I pass my city's Forever 21 it seems everyone going in has not seen 21 in quite some time. I don't think I've ever seen an actual young person entering.

@Lewis, thanks for your lists. I think the clue for SKINNY JEANS is probably my favorite.

I enjoyed the 2021 (or as @Nancy posits, 20->21) theme today. I hope everyone here has a wonderful year!

jberg 1:25 PM  

Given the recent history of police shootings, I thought it was a bit macabre to clue PERPS is "cops' targets." Then when I saw FERGUSON, I thought it was very macabre --or maybe a deliberate political statement, which I appreciate.

Other than that, I loved the puzzle. I got to 19D early on, and thought CATCH 22, maybe? But it didn't seem to work with "A fifth" as the cross. DOPEY me, I had to get PER from crosses before it occurred to me that there could be 2 digits across as well as down. After that, 21 was obvious, but what chain of stores? My wife was sitting across the room, so I asked her what fashion chain ended in 21, and she couldn't think of any. But I guess I had heard of it, because it popped into my head instantly when I got the final R from RESEALED. I conclude from that that I would have eventually got RZA, another case where it looks familiar once I see it, but I wouldn't have come up with it without some crosses.

As for MBA I got it, but not without thinking about my daughter-in-law, one of many whose resume asset is an MFA.

I didn't even know that POLE DANCing has named "moves." Fortunately, breakdancing was too long.

Toughest part of the puzzle for me was QUE at 12A. First went with muy, which made 14D unlikely to be anything; then tried tre (is that even Spanish, or just my mind playing with the French tres?) before I finally got Q. Which reminds me, I thought that show had a longer name, "Queer Eye for the straight Guy." Did it change somewhere along the way.

I did like the symmetrical pairing of ASTUTE and OBTUSE.

@pablo, @nancy -- I read it as a verb, but you can also find the noun in The Tempest, "Our revels now are ended." But I don't think it's a noun in the singular. (Also, for those bothered by the grammar of "Party hearty," it's a saying used by fraternity bros 20 years ago, or so I'm told.

My mother and I liked to argue. We once spent at least an hour on the question of when a century starts. Logically, it's in '01, but here I think usage confirms '00. The whole "century" concept is arbitrary anyway, an artifact of how many fingers we have.

Happy New Year everyone! And welcome to the 2021 American Birding Association Bird of the Year, the pileated woodpecker!

TTrimble 1:26 PM  

(I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point out both mistakes of Anon 1:09 AM ("would of" and the "The" in "The Dubliners"). What's that law of the internet, that you can't correct someone's mistake without introducing one or two of your own? Ah, here it is: Muphry's law, or Skitt's law.)

(I could point out some more recent examples, but it would only inflame the ire of a troll who lurks miserably around here, eyeing posts beadily throughout the day for gotcha moments, and invariably getting things wrong in the process. You know exactly who you are! [See what I did there? Something akin to a CATCH-22 for the poor fella.])

The puzzle took me a little while to get into, but I finished in decently under average time.

Yes, OATMEALS, come on. The POC is a POS.

Sometimes I skim the comments quickly, and so what I'm about to say might have been observed already, but the 16x16, "très oversized" or not, is needed to accommodate the symmetry about the central 2021 square.

Following on @mathgent's observation, there's a slew of related marginalia on the subject of "difference of two squares". Here's one: add up the first n odd numbers, and you get n squared. For example, sum the first 4 odd numbers -- that's 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 -- and you get 16 which is 4 squared.

Here's another from my own life, which I often tell my students, the "butter knife story". Once when I was a graduate student, I went to a restaurant with my housemate and some of his friends. One of them, on learning that I was a math grad student, seized his butter knife and [I almost wrote UND] held it under my chin and said, "What's 79 times 81?" Without a moment's hesitation, I said, "6399!" Thus satisfied with my response, he put his knife down. Now, how did I do that? Am I just one of those whizzes who can spit out instantly the answer to a random multiplication problem? Not really. But I'll give you a hint, connected with what mathgent was saying: the difference between the squares of two numbers, not necessarily consecutive numbers, is the product of their sum and their difference. (Clearly the butter knife wielder knew the trick as well -- I think he was a physics grad student.)

Quick, everyone: what's 43 times 47? Happy New Year!

Nancy 1:34 PM  

@Barbara S (12:10)-- Found your email on your profile and sent you a response about half an hour ago.

GILL I. 1:40 PM  

@Frantic....I've been a size 8 for as long as I can remember except when I was pregnant and wore a size 27 1/2.... For a reason beyond my imagination, there are many stores now (like FOREVER 21) that don't want to fat shame anyone so they lower their sizes. I'm supposing it's to make you feel better about yourself? I'm thinking the shoe industry is doing the same. I used to be a size 10 and now I'm a 9. I'm sad. I'm shriinking. Does this have anything to do with my drinking?
@Barbara S. LOVED your book store story . There is an old, musty, fabulous book store in downtown Sacramento that fits your flatiron building one to a tee. I love that place. They don't sell food but you can find an old world map tucked under some old parchment.......
@Roo. Please feel free to be as verbose as you need. Parking is on me.

TTrimble 1:48 PM  

***SB Alert***
Hey, all you SB-ers! Give today's a try. It's short, and there are some delicious ENTREES (sorry, maybe I meant APPS) in the list. A party is on for tonight at my chateau.

old timer 1:51 PM  

I figured out it had to be 20PERCENT, and though it took a while, I remembered FOREVER21, and was done, and appreciated the New Year's Day-ness of it all.

FOREVER21 is one of those things you know if you had teenage daughters, and a local mall. My only writeover: putting in "rebelled" before REVOLTED.

OATMEALS I looked askance at, until I remembered there are a number of different instant OATMEAL varieties. But who ever gets an A PLUS AVERAGE? My eldest daughter was #3 in her high school class, and we of course knew the kids who were #1 (Harvard) and #2 (Stanford). They did not have an A+ average, since they all got the rare B+ or A-. What they did have was a GPA over 4, as did my daughter, because an A in an AP class was counted as a 5, rather than a 4.

So I FOR ONE liked the puzzle, and of course was delighted by @LMS, whose comments I plan to reread.

puzzlehoarder 1:52 PM  

The clue for 50A seems to have caused confusion, for some, as to wether the answer should be a verb or a noun. Until I saw it in writing I was never really sure if the word people were using was "hearty" or "hardy". Either way it's the misuse of an adjective in place of an adverb simply for the sake of the rhyme.@Nancy, yes it absolutely should be "heartily" but that verily doesn't rhyme.

**** SB alert****

The main reason for my commenting again is that today's list was probably the easiest QB ever. I think it was a sop after such a brutal December. Today there's only one vowel and it isn't an E. It's probably back to the grind tomorrow.

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

READ DUBLINERS

Frantic Sloth 2:07 PM  

****Off-topic Rant Alert***


Here's a thought: How 'bout we just stipulate that various errors made by many of us here are due to typos, autocorrect, not proofreading, or any other "innocent" origin, and not because you are just so much smarter than everyone else?
Come to think of it, if the only purpose of your comment is to call out someone's mistake and add nothing else, even some polite aside, then how 'bout saving us all from the blinding light of your superior intellect? I can't speak for anyone else, but my eyes are weak enough.
Then again, just why I'm looking for civility and compassion on a blog (or the internet in general is beyond me.) Anonymity can be rocket fuel to the nasty.

(Correcting your own post for clarity or your own personal reasons doesn't count.)


***End Rant***


@Barbara S. 1210pm I hate to break it to you, but I thoroughly enjoyed your post. So there.

@Roo 114pm FWIW, you've got my appreciation! And I agree that things can always get worse, which is why I'm happier to see the end of 2020 than assuming 2021 will be much of an improvement. Initially anyway.

@TTrimble 126pm Wish I read your comment first - could have saved me (and others) a rant....perhaps. 😉 Thanks for the math mot, but @mathgent beat you to my capacity for the day. I'll have to come back. Thought I might have had the "6399" figured out and then "43" happened. Never mind.

@GILL 140pm And here I was thinking sizes got smaller when saving production costs for material and labor (various sweatshops in Asia, et.al.) became the standard. In other words, "we're not trying to cheat you, you're too fat." Which is kind of the opposite of what you're saying, isn't it? I'm so confused now. Maybe you are shrinking? Because I'm definitely getting larger. 🤷‍♀️

anon 2:10 PM  

RZA crossed with RPG would have been the first Natick of the year, and Rex would have had a (different) fit.

My Name 2:31 PM  

The criticism towards this particular anonymous post is IMO for the most part well deserved. (I can see going for irony in that "would of" though.) However I would also expect OFL to know Eveline. Sorry, but with everyone telling me what an _important_ author James Joyce is...

Happy New Year!

mathgent 2:34 PM  

TTrimble. Very cool! 2021 = 43 x 47. And also 45 squared minus 4. Which you can do in your head if you know the trick for squaring a number ending 5.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Barbara S,

I visited Sudbury with my parents in 1960 and have never forgotten it, and also never been back. The lack of trees resulting from the smelter was unsettling. Is the air cleaner now and have the trees grown back?


Nancy 2:44 PM  

@GILL, @Frantic -- Re the size of women's clothes:

Way back in the day, if memory serves, Size 6 was the ideal that everyone wanted to wear, but few could. That's what those skinny models who wore SKINNY JEANS wore. I'm pretty sure it was the smallest size available. Just as I think Size 5 was the smallest Junior size.

I don't think I ever saw even a Size 4, much less a Size 2 -- which seems to be what those same skinny models wear now. And I walk into some stores and actually see tags that say "Size 0". That's a joke, right? Who wears Size 0??? Might it be the first wife in "Blithe Spirit", the one who's invisible?

At this point I have no idea what size I wear. I usually look for a "Medium" and call it a day. Look, if you don't wear high fashion, S,M,L,XL may be the only choice you're even given. Right, ladies?

albatross shell 3:07 PM  

Kid1: You're a tattletale.
Kid2: Am not.
Kid1: It's true./ARE SO.
My lawyerly defense that @frantic, and others I suspect, would prefer not to see. So just pretend it doesn't exist. I do not want to make anyone unhappy today.

I watched most of 4 or 5 Thin Man movies on TCM yesterday. Mystery slapstick. Myrna Loy was hilarious. Powell almost as funny. And, of course, our monthly acquaintance ASTA. The films put me in such a good mood I do not care about any complaints about ASTA until it reaches 21 for 2021.


Many cheats on today's puzzle. But such a good one. New Year theme and subtree. Numbers. Catch 22. I read straight through the night in 9th grade. I thought I'd wake up the whole house I was laughing so much. READ BACK THE LAST LINE. Too much.

Oh and those packets have blueberry oatmeal and maple oatmeal. They are many OATMEALS. No no no. I'm making folks unhappy again. Just the pluses far outweigh the minuses here. Especially the lawyerly minuses.

I got SIT today and WAR yesterday with no crosses. Rex and I have such different minds. It took me over an hour with cheats. The SE I got with no cheats and a fair spread from there. After that trouble everywhere.

Masked and Anonymous 3:13 PM  

Six weeject 3-stacks! Wow. Some great longball fillins too, tho. Made for an all-around happy 2021 first puz outta the chute. Luv it, when the FriPuz has a mini-theme.

staff weeject pick: RZA. The new year's first documented weeject reject. Wouldn't have known RZA, but mighta gotten the RPG crosser. RPG was also a cool old computer programmin lingo, by the way. M&A once taught a night school class on RPG programmin.
RZA woulda coulda maybe shoulda been a NYTPuz debut word, btw.

fave sparklers were quite numerous, but a few faves included: HOTSAUCE+SPICEDUP. FEROCITY. HIJACKS.
EVE-LINE seemed sorta timely.
PSYCHO-ACTIVE seemed real timely … but only for until Jan. 20th.

Didn't know FOREVER21. M&A is pretty much FOREVERINBLUEJEANS, tho. Except durin overnight snoozefests, of course.
Also not familiar with DREVIL & AUDEN. POLEDANCED my way outta that tough spot OK, tho.
Like @RP, I went with 01CLASS early and lost precious nanoseconds.

Happy & Better New Year, and thanx to Milo Beckman for a primo start.

Masked & Anonymo9Us


Will put some hair on yer chest:
**gruntz**

rochdale 3:14 PM  

In its original incarnation, The Onion, would run the syndicated NYT xwd but change all the clues to snarky comments on politics and college life. It was print only then in Madison, WI. I think that once they expanded to other college towns, they dropped the puzzle.

Frantic Sloth 3:16 PM  


@Nancy 244pm, @GILL The last time I wore a size 6 was also the first time. It was actually size 6x, and I was...wait for it...age 6.
I had a very short stint working part time in one of those chi chi fashion stores on Greene St in SoHo. They had enough size 2s and size 0s to make me want to ice-pick my eye, so I just had to ask. The answer I was given was that they were designers' sample sizes for models and were purposely tiny in order to save money on fabric. It was an industry standard, I guess.

And you are so right, Nancy. I find sizes vary greatly among retailers. Medium is usually the best place to start, but for me...let's just say I start "elsewhere" lately!

It occurs to me, @GILL that you're referring to the actual size of a garment being labeled as a smaller size. I haven't seen that, but what I do see is the same size on the label actually being put on a smaller garment.

joho 3:20 PM  

I remember that you could only see Major Major when he wasn't in. Right?

Frantic Sloth 3:44 PM  

@albatross shell 307pm Learning a new way to look at something could never make me unhappy, so thanks for the lawyering! Besides, anyone who loves Thin Man movies and ASTA (of course!) is just jake with me. 👍

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

@Nancy:
That's what those skinny models who wore SKINNY JEANS wore.

If you have any sway with the fairer sex, can you prevail upon those who're, say, size 12 or greater to forego yoga tights in public?

Barbara S. 3:56 PM  

Hey, didn't anyone notice the grid art?? (Or did I consume too much PSYCHOACTIVE HOT SAUCE?) I thought the black squares formed a fireworks burst around the central 2021. Ooh-Aah!

I tried very hard to cheat while solving this puzzle and failed. I knew nothing about the Compromise of 1850 and had no idea as to its backdrop. I had the letters DRU in the middle of the answer. So I went to Wikipedia and my eyes crossed and nearly fell out because of the length of the entry, which I tried my best to peruse and came up with...nothing. Damn. I was forced to solve the puzzle legitimately, which I'm happy to say I did and in decent time.

I liked the literary content. EVELINE showed up because of her useful letters, I guess, although she's an odd choice for a puzzle celebrating a new beginning. As I recall the story, *** SPOILER ALERT *** when offered the chance of one, she ends up rejecting it.

I like AUDEN, but usually only parts of his poems rather than the whole thing. From three different poems:

"About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters..."

"Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm..."

"Yet Time, however loud its chimes or deep,
However fast its falling torrent flows,
Has never put one lion off his leap
Nor shaken the assurance of a rose."

@Frantic Sloth (10:05 AM)
Thanks for the warning about SOLASTY EAR, but I think you may have got the species wrong. SOLA STY EAR is a condition of pigs, whose ears become diseased after being forced to live in unhygienic and squalid pens.

@Anonymous (2:35 PM)
How ASTUTE you are! I can't really answer your question because I haven't been back there these 40 years. In the late '70s, though, the INCO Superstack, (which had been built several years before) was said to have greatly improved the environment in the city of Sudbury itself by spreading the pollution far and wide over the surrounding countryside. Such good ideas we homo sapiens have! As a new arrival in the latter 1970s, I had no basis of comparison, but I do remember the occasional inversions mentioned in the article (Superstack or no Superstack).

@Nancy (1:34 PM)
I'm just going to check you out.

What? 4:02 PM  

Missed “2021.” Ruined my year. Have to get over that kind of stuff. Resolute.

TTrimble 4:06 PM  

@mathgent
Should we explain the trick for the squares of d5, where d is a digit? Write down d times d+1, and then follow by 25.

For example, here's how to square 45. Here the digit d is 4. Write down the product 4 x 5 = 20. Follow that by 25 to get 2025. That's 45 squared.

Let's do another: 85 squared. Write down 8 x 9 = 72. So the answer will be 7225: that's 85 squared.

Somewhat relatedly, at Los Alamos, Hans Bethe once chastised Feynman for not knowing how to square numbers near 50. (Meaning of course these quick mental calculation tricks.) This is in Surely You're Joking,Mr. Feynman!, starting on page 75 of 133 in the pdf, where he's talking/bragging about his calculational prowess, including crushing the Japanese abacus savant at a calculation contest when it came to cube root extraction.

GILL I. 4:25 PM  

@Nancy @Frantic. Continuing on the "actual" clothes sizes and how much they fool you.....
Ad ploys and wanting to make you feel good about your size....@Frantic.....I went to Walmart to grab a pair of cheap jeans to work on our community garden. The one I picked out was in the medium size bin. When I got home, I looked at the label....SIZE 5....Yep, that's what the tag from China said. And I'll be a monkeys uncle if that damn thing didn't fit. My other stupid size story involved my boss (who probably approved of all rap lyrics). He told me that I was to be the main speaker at a convention of about 500 travel agents in Acapulco. It was a convention that was held annually. My boss was a pussy that was scared of public speaking and made me the patsy. He told me to wear my "best" clothing since I'd be eyed by many. So I went to Macy's to buy a suit for the occasion . I had the prettiest, most accommodating, patient woman, wait on me. I wanted something "whitish" or maybe linen since I was going to be in the tropics. She pulled out this gorgeous beige pant suit and said "This is you." It was....It was a size 4....it cost $250.00. Guess what I did?
Moral of the story: Pretty people lie....a store will lie...Sizes are wrong....Price tags are exaggerated.....Don't be a sap. Oh...I did buy it, it fit.... I only wore it once.... my speech went fine... my boss eventually got fired. Yay.

A 5:01 PM  

Happy 8 Ladies Dancing On Your Head Day!

I really enjoyed wrestling with this one - even if I didn’t like some of the content, I SEES where it was necessary for the fun theme, which I agree with @Nancy is 20-21, not 2021. ARESO.

Also got a kick out of the neighbors today: PSYCHOACTIVE HOTSAUCE
SPICE SAVER
FEROCITY ATREST
POLEDANCing OTTERs
EVELINE FOREVER in Ireland
RAN OER
HYDE and SEEk
PAGEANT ALUMS

@Joaquin Crossed UPs! maybe a nod to 2020?

@mathgent Thanks for the pleasing math fact! How about a mathematical “elegance of the day”? @TTrimble Nice followUP! Something for my left brain to work on while the right does the SB?

@LMS I didn’t know the name for that little part of the ear, or that it shares a root with tragedy. So does anyone actually stick their fingers ‘in’ their ears? When I plug my ears I use my tragi.
Dwarfs? Hoofs? What next - elfs?

@Frantic Nice CATCH on the ERREs, and you nailed it - @Lewis is a treasure!

@Z Thanks for the pedantry link; I liked the Seneca quote “…some error comes thanks to our teachers who instruct us how to argue but not how to live....”

@GILL I. That scene is definitely too long. And who dying of consumption could or would sing?

@Barbara S. Interesting - my mother, a teacher, instilled the same feeling in me. Loved your story. The library was my babysitter many an afternoon - your store sounds like heaven.

@Birchbark and @Nancy Loved the Tennyson - thank you both for those selections!
Here is Britten’s setting of Tennyson’s The splendor falls
with tenor Ian Bostridge and horn Marie-Luise Neunecker. Let’s hope the echos of 2020 are dying away.

(1000 years of) Peace,
Mimi

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

Thanks Will.
Not a fan of RZA. I’m surprised so many here appear to be. His lyrics are deeply offensive. If some of them were spoken by a white man that man would be shunned by polite society.

May He who United human nature to Himself through Mary, full of grace, also purify and perfect the divine image in each of us in the year ahead.

Happy Solemnity of the Mother of God, and Happy New Year.


I hope the mods allow my comments. They are, in my opinion, at least as relevant to the puzzle than sharing numbers that end in 5.

A 5:17 PM  

Forgot to comment on @Loren's avatar - Yes, SOLASTYEAR! Thanks @M&A for the reminder (PSYCHO ACTIVE for the time being)

Anoa Bob 5:18 PM  

Like many of yous, I was totally awed by CATCH 22, both the book and the movie. But the clue "Inescapable bind" threw me. I was thinking a bind as being more of a constrictive situation, like being tied up or in handcuffs or something like that. Painted in a corner, maybe. As I recall, the CATCH 22 was more of a lose-lose, damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Yeah, there is definitely some overlap there and I should have been able to see that. Not having ever heard of FOREVER 21 or 01 ALUMS didn't help, though. The later sounds like a [fill in the color] PAINT example with 100 possibilities.

Re the discussion of OATMEALS, I think just about any plural can be justified as grammatically or semantically correct, however convoluted the reasoning might be. The one thing almost all of them do have in common, though, is that the added S (or es or IES) is there only because it fills up more space, making it easier to complete the grid. It's a plural of convenience or POC.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

I am slightly disappointed it wasn't RZA/RPG, just because I'm younger and it would be nice to see some more modern references from time-to-time. I always struggle with the older actors/music clues!

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 5:46 PM  

I'll be darned. Being from Fall River, I thought what people watched on TV on New Years' Eve if they didn't have a party to go to was Three Stooges movies. But my sophisticated Cambridge, MA sister's staying with me for the moment because of a fire n her apartment complex, and she thought we should watch Thin Man movies. Which aren't on my cable lineup, they cost $2.99 on Amazon Prime. I thought they were about at the intellectual level of the stooges, but they drank champagne instead of beer. In any case, I finally put my foot down about the big outlay and insisted we watch an 'included in Amazon Prime' movie about Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, which was fabulous. And he went to Harvard.

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

FOREVER 21 - I shop there every Christmas for my granddaughters. You think you get looks - I'm their 78yo grandfFATHER. I'm proud to say their friends compliment me on my selections.

Birchbark 6:32 PM  

@A (Mimi) (5:01) -- "Our echoes roll from soul to soul" -- Thank you for the Britten/Tennyson "The Splendor Falls" (n.b. link didn't work but it's on YouTube, and I read the poem). Listening again now. Britten elevated what he touched, at least what I've come across (if you have time and energy, see his version of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"). There's some Mahler echoing in "The Splendor Falls" as well, dying, dying, dying.

Aufildesjours 11:04 PM  

@LMS, regarding your comment about dwarfs/dwarves: if you're glad to skip the linguistic treatises, you could try the hilarious (if you're eight years old or in touch with your inner eight year old) series The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, featuring four heretofore anonymous Princes Charming and the named but heretofore underestimated Cinderella, Rapunzel, etc. The story features some "dwarfs" who angrily insist on being called "dwarves" as a matter of dignity and keeping up with the elves.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Since there was no year zero, the first year of the millennium was 2001.
2000 was the final year of the previous millennium. I hope that helps.

thefogman 11:46 AM  

I too had XXXX in the centre squares. This one is too cute for my taste, Crosswords should only contain letters and not numbers, unless of course they are Roman numberals. BOO!

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Most dashboards don’t show “MPG”. Maybe on some screens on newer cars but really a lousy clue. “EPA abbr.” would have been better..

spacecraft 12:32 PM  

Conversely, I think RRNs in a puzzle are desperados, so actual numbers--at least used as they are today--are a refreshing change. I did hesitate: "Can they DO that?" But when I saw the point of it I threw 2 thumbs up. Or 2 UPs thumb. Whatever. It was a little harder to see, syndi-solving on Feb.5, than it would have been in real time, but I got it.

In general this was difficult; I hate to think how much tougher it would've been without the clue changes as reported by OFC. Plenty of triumph points as is. I had a couple of do-overs in the SW; Opposite of petit, from my medical background, was GRan, as in petit mal: gran mal seizures. Then I went to GRaS, as in Mardi (fat), and finally, when REVaLTED made no sense, GROS.

Fergie, or Stacy Ann FERGUSON, will be DOD. Has she ever POLEDANCED? A good, tough, solid puzzle despite a hefty 24 "weejects." Birdie.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

Bottom half a piece of cake. Top half NOT.

Burma Shave 2:36 PM  

FEET ATREST?

LASTYEAR we SPICEDUP our romance,
SO now I’m FOREVER21 TOYOU.
IFORONE AVOW that I POLEDANCED,
SO now YOU TWOSTEP, or it’s CATCH22.

--- DR. NED FERGUSON

leftcoaster 4:06 PM  

Good to see a themed Friday, especially today with its four-way numbers and answers. Had some fun with it.

Alas, didn’t get a clean finish in the NE corner. Stuck with atROCITY instead of FEROCITY, which led to other problems in that area. Finally sorted it out, but not before resorting to a couple of look-ups.

Questionable clues and answers: ERRS clued as “chokes”. ARE SO awkwardly clued as “It’s true”. ARCH clued as “Principal”. Hmm.

My grade: B

rondo 4:41 PM  

My dashboard shows MPG, but MPh is what first came to mind.

Back in our tiny high school while running for my life returning kickoffs, I led the conference in return yards, AVERAGE return yards, and number of returns (never good to lead in number of returns, means you’ve been scored on a lot). The cheering section called me CATCH22 (my number was 22).

Cambodia has the corners with Phnom PENH.

So this is how real-timers started 2021.

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

I'm with anonymous earlier. Most cars don't show MPG on the main screen, even newer ones. They'll show MPH (in the US anyway), or RPM (which was my first guess before getting the crosses). MPG (or in my case L/100km) might be on some secondary information display, but certainly doesn't leap to mind as what I would typically see as a "Dashboard abbr."

spacecraft 6:33 PM  

@Lefty: Agreed that principal is a late-week clue for ARCH. Think of a superhero's ARCH enemy, the one he (she) can't quite finish off: Moriarty, Lex Luthor, etc. Or then there's the ARCH Diocese in Catholicism.

Diana, LIW 7:20 PM  

Since what I know about sports could fit in a thimble, I was going to ask Mr. What a hook spin or a knee swing was. Glad I didn't. I don't want to know if he knows. And how are we supposed to know? Isn't the Periodic Table and Urdu and all the gods and goddesses enough?

My latest car does show the estimated MPG, but I still don't think of that as something on my dash (like the MPH).

Remember reading Catch 22? A long time ago. When cars were cars and sports with poles required vaulting. Oh. My.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for 2020 to finally go away for pities sake!!!!

leftcoaster 7:42 PM  

@spacey -- ARCH, thanks, got it.

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