Miss ___ famed TV psychic / WED 2-10-21 / World capital that's home to Temple of Literature built in 1070 / Crop item grown in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Constructor: Kate Hawkins

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (the "Medium" part was figuring out the themers)

THEME: STOUT (64A: Kind of beer ... or a multi-word hint to 18-, 22-, 37-, 51- and 57-Across) — familiar phrases with the initial "S" and "T" taken "OUT" (wacky phrases, wacky clues):

Theme answers:
  • UMP SPEECH (18A: "Strike three!" or "Yer out!"?) (stump speech)
  • EEL TRAP (22A: Way to catch a conger?) (steel trap)
  • RANGE BEDFELLOWS (37A: The main characters of "Brokeback Mountain," e.g.?) (strange bedfellows)
  • ALE MATE (51A: Drinking buddy?) (stalemate)
  • ICKY NOTES (57A: Gross messages?) (Sticky Notes)
Word of the Day: Chinua Achebe (60D: Crop item grown in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart") —

Chinua Achebe (/ˈɪnwɑː əˈɛb/; born Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe, 16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013) was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), often considered his masterpiece, is the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Raised by his parents in the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, Achebe excelled at Government College Umuahia and won a scholarship to study medicine, but changed his studies to English literature at University College (now the University of Ibadan). He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service (NBS) and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for his novel Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease(1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah(1987). Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a "language of colonisers", in African literature. In 1975, his lecture "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" featured a criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist"; it was later published in The Massachusetts Review amid some controversy. (wikipedia)

• • •

This theme type is old as the hills. See those hills outside your window? Or, whatever, that building or wall outside your window? Older. Anyone who's done puzzles for 10+ years has seen some (but apparently not all) the variants. The TROUT and the SPOUT and the CLOUT and possibly the GOUT BOUT LOUT I don't do every puzzle so I don't know. All I know is that I knew the revealer after I got my first themer. Blew past EEL TRAP without realizing it was a themer—an EEL TRAP is a real, honest-to-god thing, and thus not at all "wacky" like the rest of the themers (maybe you call it an EEL POT, but the crossword has historically been so OBSESSed with eels and eeliness that EEL TRAP feels like an old friend, or at least like someone you've seen before). Then I swung over and up into the NE, and once I pieced together UMP SPEECH, after taking a second to think about what the play on words was, I saw it: S, T ... OUT. And I immediately went to the bottom of the grid thinking, "Oh, no, please don't be that, it can't just be that." And while I didn't find STOUT at the very bottom (weird revealer placement, by the way), I did, sadly, find it nearby:

At this point I took a deep breath and sighed dramatically, for an audience composed solely of my cats, who didn't even look up. "He's sighing again," they probably thought. "Seen it." And then I went back to finishing up the puzzle.

A puzzle like this, being based on a well-worn wordplay premise, is only as good as the wacky themers it produces, and there are hits and misses. The good news is the marquee themer, RANGE BEDFELLOWS, is pretty dang good. I still haven't seen the movie, but my understanding is that it features two cowboys who sleep together. And Michelle Williams, of "Dawson's Creek" fame. Anyhoo, the wordplay is sound there, for sure. ICKY NOTES and ALE MATE come in 2nd and 3rd (really glad they didn't try to put an example of an icky note in the clue, god knows how that would've come out). UMP SPEECH is dull. And EEL TRAP is invisible. The fill is all short stuff, except PROVOLONE, which is great, and RECESSION, which is not (they're both fine as answers, I'm talking about lovability now). 

Five more things:
  • 6D: Bulk up, as muscles (SCULPT) — took me forever because these are different things. Ask a professional bodybuilder (my trainer is one—she is not "bulky," and SCULPTing is its own art)
  • 8D: Toggle on a clock (AM/PM) — the worst. "Ooh, is it AM/PM or AM/FM, I can't wait to find out!" No one thinks this! So, yeah, I messed up this one and AVER / AVOW, and I had T-BILL not T-BOND (50D: Long-term U.S. security). I did guess the correct "E" spelling of CLEO's name, though (26D: Miss ___, famed TV psychic). That's something.
  • 6A: Line crosser, of a sort (SCAB) — in this economy!? I'd probably leave union-busting out of the puzzle, if I ruled the world. Also, no more flippant or wacky clues for COMA (7D: Out-of-it state).
  • 67A: Slyly spiteful (CATTY) — this answer is where the revealer should be, in the last Across position. STOUT was likely elevated one slot because longer terminal-U answers are a drag to work with (really restricts your fill options), and that's what you would've had on your hands if you'd have STOUT flush with the bottom of the grid.
  • 46D: Big, bushy-tailed squirrel (MARMOT) — here's a picture of a MARMOT to brighten your day:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 6:09 AM  

Some bonus hidden theme answers in the grid: ILL, ARE, ASH, which all make words with ST OUT of the beginning, and the wannabe ELMOS, just missing a FIRE at the end.

ATE OUT, MALLS, and MASSES got me CLAMORING for a future more like the past.

A most lovely journey to solvation, Kate! Thank you so much!

Conrad 6:15 AM  

Agree with @Lewis and disagree with @Rex. "Used before" is not enough to disqualify a theme, or even to degrade it. If themes were never reused there wouldn't be enough puzzles.

Tom T 6:23 AM  

Just a few seconds off my best Wednesday ever, and would have been my best if I hadn't put in fraud instead of ARSON for 17A, a situation made much worse when HARLEY at 3D fit perfectly with it. So I had to finish by untangling a mess in the NW.

S.T. Stephen 6:30 AM  


Halloween is not a holiday - neither in the root origin of the word "holy day" (the holy day, all saints or all hallows, is the next day) nor in its evolved meaning - an observance that involves a suspension of work. Call Halloween (all hallows eve) an custom or a celebration, but it is not a holiday.

It's bad enough that the meaning of words are regularly watered down through everyday careless usage. We don't need the NYTimes puzzle hastening and encouraging the process.

Z 6:32 AM  

Was wondering why the EEL TRAPs weren’t EEL pots. But, yeah, pretty invisible as a theme answer.

Anyone else amused by the RAF taking out NAPOLEON at Waterloo?


Anywho. Pretty much with Rex. Three good themers. Two meh themers. Decent fill. 👍🏽

ICYMI - @Carl Larson pointed out late yesterday that that theme had been done with essentially the exact same theme answers in the same position back in 1994.
Also@Chuck D - 👍🏽👍🏽
Now, do I finish the AVCX or not? 21x21 can get sloggy anyway and then **Spoiler Alert** - I hate anagrams. I got about a third of the way done when I figured out what was going on and I am now a crossword solver example of being tempted by the sunk cost fallacy.

Guilherme Gama 6:33 AM  

COMA clue struck me as downright I sensitive.

Anonymous 6:46 AM  

@Rex. The clue is Clock so AM/FM is not an option. you were thinking radio or clock/radio.

Anonymous 6:49 AM  

Sorry, but what's I "sensitive"?

Anonymoose 6:52 AM  

Time for another round of Is it? or Isn't it?....A dupe, that is. tomCAT & CATty. (Personally I don't care)

SouthsideJohnny 7:05 AM  

I worked my way through this one without bothering to try and make out the theme (it did hit me after I was finished and took a second look at the revealer). I thought UMP SPEECH was kind of cute.

We come across HANOI frequently - it’s probably a good tool in constructors’ toolbox due to the 3 vowels. Today’s clue seemed a touch obscure tough. The clue for COMA was a bit off-putting, but not a criminal offense. All in all, I’d say a very clean, refreshing and straightforward Wednesday. Is it just me, or has February really been a pretty stellar month so far ?

K.A. Conway 7:07 AM  


Not sure what you find so funny about the RAF talking out Napoleon at Waterloo.

I suppose you think it's funny, too, that the Continental army “manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory."

I am sick and tired of people denigrating the singular contribution of our air forces during the 18th and 19th centuries. Show some respect, for God's sake.

JJK 7:32 AM  

An easy and fun Wednesday with an aha revealer (for those of us less jaded than Rex). I liked UMPSPEECH and ICKYNOTES. But I have to say that two men sleeping together is not particularly strange, so that one is a little off.

Very cute MARMOT picture from Rex.

Barbara S. 7:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frantic Sloth 7:37 AM  

I liked this. Cute concept, well-executed with a fun, appropriately placed revealer. *Mwah*

No nits that I can think of and the difficulty seemed Wednesdee COOPT.

Wasn't there a doll named ICKYNOTES ELMO?


Anonymous 7:39 AM  

We call them whistlepigs, here in Idaho...

Hungry Mother 7:48 AM  

The theme came to me quickly and helped to fill in the themers. It seemed in the Monday/Tuesday realm, but no complaint; I felt smart and SB said I was a Genius.

pabloinnh 7:50 AM  

Welll, UMPSPEECH struck me as a huh? and I missed EELTRAP altogether, so the theme didn't kick in until RANGEBEDFELLOWS, which I thought was pretty funny and also turned the "oh, I see", light on, which is a step down from an aha! . Thought the other themers were fine, ICKYNOTES is a smile and I have a few ALEMATES, or at least I used to in the before times. Thought the revealer location was fine, being up one line certainly didn't annoy me nearly as much as it did OFL, but I suspect that's true of most things you can think of.

Was reminded of how to spell PROVOLONE and wanted an INSERT, which I use for running, instead of an INSOLE, which is the generic item, but otherwise a nice smooth experience with some fun involved. Thought the missing ST smacked a little of Thursday, but that's OK with me.

Nice one, KH. Thanks for the fun.

Snoble 7:54 AM  

Until the revealer, I thought it was a “booze” theme—and the revealer clue clinched it! DRINKING BUDDY, TEMPERANCE PROPONENTS, MAKE DRUNK, RUN OUT OF JUICE,LIKE SOME BREADS AND BEERS, TEND TO THE SAUCE, KIND OF BEER

JustMarci 8:03 AM  

@S.T. Stephen It must really steam your muscles when Brits go on holiday.

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

@ KA 7:07 Lighten up buddy. You're going to have an aneurysm for heaven's sake.
If you are a current or former member of the armed services, we are all grateful for your service - but geez, it's a joke.

JenKlopp 8:09 AM  

Thought it was fun. Just what I want for a Wednesday!

Barbara S. 8:16 AM  

1) Quiet declaration of how old you are
2) How Noah took a shower
3) Ceiling fresco
4) Summer kimono
5) Trousers so ugly they make you sick
6) Equinoctial sundial OR Large Hadron Collider

Well, I thought this was fun. All the themers got at least a smile from me, even EEL TRAP, and some elicited a chuckle, such as RANGE BEDFELLOWS, the one I got first and the one which gave me the theme, which I cottoned on to before I got to the revealer. I was fascinated by the idea of the Temple of Literature in HANOI. Apparently it's a temple built in honor of "Confucius, sages and scholars" and is the site of Vietnam's first national university. I, too, fell into the fraud/ARSON trap, but apart from that, no write-overs. I've never liked the word CATTY because I like cats, just as I've never liked the word "arty" because I like art.

Today's quotation is brought to you by BORIS PASTERNAK, born Feb. 10, 1890.

"You come out; it is still dark. The door creaks, or perhaps you sneeze, or the snow crunches under your foot, and hares start up from the far cabbage patch and leap away, leaving the snow criss-crossed with tracks. In the distance dogs begin to howl and it takes a long time before they quieten down. The cocks have finished their crowing and have nothing left to say. Then dawn breaks.”
(From "Doctor Zhivago")


Frantic Sloth 8:19 AM  

Rex's description of his cats' non-reaction to his sighing was funny and I also completely missed EELTRAP as a themer, despite the "why not EELpots?" side eye (Hi, @Z!); however, "...weird revealer placement, by the way..." Huh? It's okay to have a revealer in the big, stinking' middle of the puzzle, but one line up from the bottom is a grid too far? Whatevs.

And don't even get me started on "Michelle Williams, of 'Dawson's Creek' fame". Beyond that, just standard Rex grousing.

Oh, also had TBill before TBOND, because it's more correcter. Not really, but in my head, which is all I have to work with.

As far as this theme being "as old as the hills", not for me. Yeah, I've been dong these puppies for decades, but not every day over all those years. It's only lately (this past year) that I'm learning to spot these "word as sentence" doohickeys, so (as with most things) I tend to enjoy them much more than OFL. Too bad, so sad - for him.😕

@K.A. Conway 797am Yeah! And never remember Bowling Green!

Unknown 8:20 AM  

My morning pattern: I do the puzzle, it puts me in a good mood.
I read Rex's review, and it puts me in a bad mood.
Truly time to move on.

Learned that marmots were related to squirrels. Who knew?!

@ Z Re: theme had been done with essentially the exact same theme answers in the same position back in 1994.
I'm just curious why you felt the need to re-post this tidbit. Because it's a cool coincidence? Or an implication that the constructor was plagiarizing someone else's work? And how can it be "essentially" the "same exact" answers? (You don't have to answer that, I'm just trolling now. See what Rex does to me??? Honestly, you don't have to answer any of my questions.)

Z 8:21 AM  

@Conrad - If themes were never reused there wouldn't be enough puzzles.
@S.T. Stephen - It's bad enough that the meaning of words are regularly watered down through everyday careless usage.
Seriously? Did you even think about what you were saying? If you don’t like and expect creativity and wordplay I don’t know why you’re even doing crosswords. And reading Rex must be really really annoying to you.

@Guilherme Gama (and Rex but he doesn’t usually read the comments) - I disagree. The role of humor in helping people process and cope with grief and anxiety is well established. Perhaps it is the tsk tsking of dark humor that needs to stop. Google humor and grief and you will find research and think pieces on humor being a coping mechanism. Why are we laughing? Because it beats crying.

@K.A. Conway - Of course. How could I forget the heroics of the USAF at Fort McHenry as immortalized in song... And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our planes were still there.

Man o Man puzzles are ticking me off today. I pitched the AVCX (see above) and now The New Yorker has a double Whac-A-Vowel natick at a rapper crossing a fashion icon I don’t know and a psychologist who I know as clued but, you know, a vowel in a name. That’s right, three names crossing where even if you have heard of them the vowels are not necessarily inferable. Did I mention the fashion designer I don’t know died 48 years ago and the name has two common spellings? Blrrgh.

bocamp 8:26 AM  

Thx, @Kate for a "stout"ly themed Wednes. puz!

Easy+ solve.

Only a slight hitch in the Great Lakes area, having "amfm" and not knowing the Italian cheese. The "stump speech" soon bailed me out/safe. LOL

Someone mentioned the negativity in yesterday's puzzle, which I hadn't given much thought to, aside from "offs", but I really felt the bad vibes in this one. Nevertheless, enjoyed the theme and there was lots of good stuff in the puzzle to offset the downers. :)

Made many an "umps speech" (pre-game plate meetings) in my Little League career. Even did some umping for the softball team at my secondary school.

"Frank" Sinatra ~ "Strangers" in the Night (from High Society -1956)

yd 0

Peace ~ Health ~ Hope ~ Equality for all ~ Teamwork 🕊

mmorgan 8:38 AM  

Rex got the revealer after the first themer. I didn’t realize there WAS a theme until I got the revealer.

Z 8:41 AM  

@Unknown8:20 - I don’t mind, fair questions all. The topic of recycled themes has been a topic here. No need to relitigate everything, but there are people here who will be interested in that tidbit. If that information had come earlier many people would have weighed in. As for the “essentially” part, I didn’t want to give any spoilers but if you remember the alternative themer many thought of yesterday (just the one word), the earlier puzzle had that alternate word.
I would not use the P word. Absent a database this would have been an unrecognized coincidence. But the database exists and checking a theme set against the database seems like it should be SOP for constructors and especially editors (although Shortz is on record as being lenient towards this sort of replication given enough time - far more lenient than I would be).

@Anon8:07 - it’s a joke - indeed.

GILL I. 8:44 AM  

Oh, look...a puzzle about beer. You might as well give me a Cubano without the pig. All I know about beer is that my husband likes it and I only use it to make bread.
I got to RANGER BEDFELLOWS and thought: Hmmmmm, this one is missing a bit of a ST. So I thought i'd sneak back upstairs and look at the strange UMP SPEECH. Oh, OK,so everything has a little saint in front of it. Another "Oh, Look" at STOUT. So the saint gets thrown out. Cute.
This was fine. My first entry...CHICK and I so wanted that one to be clued with a little Corea or maybe "My Spanish Heart." I liked seeing everyone's favorite faux-Jamaican tarot reading psychic, Miss CLEO. I think she's no longer with us. She sure had a voice on her.
Now I want some Dixie Cups going to the CHAPEL......

Frantic Sloth 8:59 AM  

Well, today has been an awfulcorrect and typo nightmare.
Stinking'?? 797am?? Is that a time or a Boeing??

@Barbara S 816am Good ones!

@bocamp 826am What an odd juxtaposition that video is! 😀

@GILL 844am Your wish is my command.

ChuckD 9:00 AM  

Fun theme - we have seen the dropped or added letter scheme before but that’s ok for me. The central themer stands tall. Wasn’t so keen on the grid and the cluing. The NE and SW corners have pretty weak short stuff. Agree with Rex on SCULPT - that is far from bulking up and the only worse than using SOT is using BESOT.

I’ll give it an semi-enjoyable solve based on the inclusion of LEIA.

Smith 9:14 AM  

1. Muscle at night?
2. Esophagus
3. Hollow wheel of PROVOLONE
4. Fill with gold-bearing rocks

Never cared for MALLS but miss them now...


Axel 9:33 AM  


Rich Glauber 9:40 AM  

I thought the theme execution was outstanding. All of them were solid to terrific. As far as 'seen this trick before' being worthy of sighing and disappointment, nah that's on Rex, and how jaded he must be after solving zillions of puzzles. I appreciate the professionalism and wit of this one.

Peter NY 9:44 AM  

Perfectly serviceable puzzle, but does anyone else have an issue with the MARMOT clueing? Yes, they may be related to squirrels, but I question the bushiness of their tails. Foxes, raccoons, some dogs, and yes, grey squirrels have bushy tails. Google up images of marmot tails however and they are not at all what I would call bushy.

Label me picky, but it rubbed my fur the wrong way.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

ATEOUT next to YEASTY. Eww

Nancy 9:53 AM  

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said:
This is one of the funniest and most delightful puzzles I've ever done."

Well, I suppose there's always Rex. I haven't read the rest of y'all yet.

Yes, this sort of theme has been done before. The trick is in making your wordplay even funnier and more surprising.

And Kate has succeeded wonderfully. I laughed out loud at RANGE BEDFELLOWS and ICKY NOTES. UMP SPEECH is pretty great too. The only one that didn't make me laugh was EEL TRAP -- the first themer I got to and the one that I didn't guess would be a themer. I had no reason to think that EEL TRAP isn't an actual Thing.

A puzzle in which the joy of creating it is palpable. I can hear Kate laughing out loud and clapping her hands together as ideas came to her. So much fun for all involved-- I was quite sorry when it was over.

RooMonster 9:58 AM  

Hey All !
Hmm, no comments on all four corners being closed off? Figured someone would gripe about it. Apparently that someone is me.

My not-realizing-it-is-part-of-the-theme answer was ALEMATE. I was going to make a stink about that being a non-thing. Har, it's part of the theme. (ST)UMP SPEECH is a new one to me. Was that old Presidents speeches? Standing on a tree STUMP?

This puz didn't elate me as much as recent ones. Kind of a strange theme, with a strange revealer. STOUT as S T OUT? Bit of a stretch.

Misread 34A clue as "Mo. with a holiday on its first day" and wrote in jan. But once I got OGRES, I thought "October doesn't have a holiday on its first day! CANT BE!" And was perplexed until I read the comments, then went back right before writing this post, and finally saw it said final, not first. Amazing what the ole brain chooses to see.

Anyway, sorta kinda an OK puz, seems it would've been better placed on a Tuesday. Open up your corners next time, Kate! :-)

One F

Sir Hillary 9:59 AM  

Finally, a puzzle this week that wasn't hairy. The last two had left me AVERSETO DOS.

After scuffing in the NW with CHurch, EELTRAP was first for me -- like seemingly everyone else, I wondered why the clue had a "?". Totally messed things up with rATe and elm in the NE corner, so UMPSPEECH was nowhere in sight. Only with RANGEBEDFELLOWS did I catch on, and from there things went smoothly.

Determined to get it in the grid, I also tried RAtE at 37D. Yeeeeaaaahhh, no.

Heath Ledger's performance in "Brokeback Mountain" is one of the best I have ever seen. I know we tend to overestimate the abilities of many artists who die young, but I really believe he was a rare talent.

Oh, if only Evil Doug were here...47D would be the most-commented entry.

JWaan 10:07 AM  

I'm with Peter NY on MARMOT, which is like a very big squirrel with a rather small tail. Or call it a ground hog's Western cousin. The clue better describes a fox squirrel.

G. Weissman 10:09 AM  

I take Rex’s point re EEL TRAP, but think this puzzle is pretty good, as far as NYT crossword puzzles go. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that being exceptionally good at doing something doesn’t make that something particularly great as a form of art or entertainment — and lower expectations. Someone should create a blog devoted to critiquing the Jumble: “I saw that punchline a mile away.”

Nancy 10:11 AM  

Wonderfully clever, @Barbara S (8:16)! I immediately got #1 and #2, but couldn't get any of the others. My faves were #1, #2 and #5.

Masked and Anonymous 10:12 AM  

@RP: Nice stout MARMOT.

This puppy was one of them puzthemes where U have to piece together a few themers, to solve the mystery. Kinda like that, even tho this general kind of mcguffin has clearly been used before.
Nice staha moment.

staff weeject picks: (ST)ILL, (ST)ASH, (ST)ARE.

fave sparklers: PROVOLONE. NAPOLEON. SCULPT. BESOT [Theme-wise].

Thanx for the fun, Ms. Hawkins darlin. Really liked the UMPSPEECH one. Only U opener I thought of was (ST)URGEON, but it's tamer than snot.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Anonymous 10:13 AM  

I saw some Marmot at Mt. Ranier!

Charlie 10:16 AM  

I felt "strange bedfellows" being clued as Brokeback rather tone deaf. Very last century. On the other hand, "icky notes" was funny.
BTW, while there's not enough time to see every movie out there, Brokeback is well-made, has enormous literary merit, and powerful performances by the late Heath Ledger, and Jake Gyllenhaal. And a heart-wrenching 30 second cameo by Roberta Maxwell. Highly recommended.

Douglas 10:19 AM  


Douglas 10:22 AM  

@JJK and @Charlie. 37A does not imply that the bed fellows are strange. The actual answer and the theme answer have no relation to each other in all the other themed clues. If you look for things to be offended by you can find them anywhere.

Douglas 10:31 AM  

Great Wednesday puzzle and I loved the theme, even if it has been done in the distant past. I cringed at the marmot answer, only because the marmot is my nemesis in the mountains. They tend to chew up shoes, trekking poll handles, and will ravage any food not protected. They have even been known to chew up brake lines underneath a car in the trailhead parking lots.

Whatsername 10:35 AM  

Cute, very cute. Despite what Rex says I did not find the theme one bit ALE. See what I did there? My only CATTY remark is the final day of OCT is merely an observance, not a holiday.

MARMOTs are adorable little creatures but I did not know they were considered a squirrel. I can still remember the smell of the LYE soap in my grandmother’s house. Very INKY stuff.

Joe R. 10:36 AM  

I had - - - A at 7D when I saw the “Out-of-it state” clue. Seeing a four letter state ending in ‘a’, I of course thought of Iowa. “Is that really their state motto?”, I mused. “That seems rather strange.” It was at that point that I realized I must be rather out of it myself this morning, to have even thought that was a possibility.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Maybe she doesn't want to open her corners.

Yes, you have seen it all 10:39 AM  

Has Rex really done that many more puzzles than Amy Reynaldo at Diary of a Crossword Fiend? Than Jeff Chen at XWord Info? Somehow they were not overcome by jaded, heavy-lidded boredom (though Jeff did say a couple of the themers were too real-feeling and too short). I'm not one of the habitual Rex-bashers here, but his act is getting stale -- making me feel jaded, heavy-lidded, bored.

Woodchuckie 10:43 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle as I flew through it but must admit that as I finished in southeast I thought MARMOT!? And went immediately to Google. I learned MARMOTs are “related” to squirrels but I think I’d clue as HUGE squirrel and ixnay the BUSHY TAIL. Yeah. I have nothing to do except pick that nit....

Charlie 11:01 AM  

A bushy tail is not one of the marmot's defining features. At least none of the ones I've seen when hiking in the west...

Wundrin' 11:02 AM  

It appears there are a couple of key questions to be authoritatively answered.

How bushy must a tail be to be called "bushy"?


Exactly what sort of a "day" celebration qualifies as a holiday?

gloriosky 11:06 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. And thank you @FranticSloth - I always come to the comments to find you. You always make me smile.

Canon Chasuble 11:08 AM  

Started today’s puzzle at the bottom right and “stout” was the second word I filled in, but it still took time to get the ST answers. But the absolute best part of the puzzle was reading Rex’s word of the day. For those who don’t even know who he was, Chinua Achebe is considered probably the greatest Nigerian author of the last century, and his books give us great insight into Africa’s past and present.
I heard his speech on Conrad, and what he said and claimed then has been a thorn in the side of Conrad scholars ever since. It’s been a controversial take on that author for nearly a half-century. Achebe opened up our understanding of colonialism, and for that alone we should be grateful. If you haven’t read “Things Fall Apart” please take a few hours to do so.

Joe Dipinto 11:08 AM  

(STR)AW MAN is an almost-themer. Plus there's (ST)ILL, (ST)ARE and (ST)ASH. This would have been more interesting if the ST had come out of different parts of the answers. With it always coming off the top, I thought of ST. ELSEWHERE as a revealer, and oh look, there's (ST.) ELMO'S too...

A little road song from 1972

Also: Oates sings lead!

Carola 11:10 AM  

Me, too, for getting the theme at the terrific RANGE BEDFELLOWS, which then let me appreciate UMP SPEECH and EEL TRAP. Okay, then, let's see if we can get the rest....ALEMATES, yup, but I needed crosses for the ICKY NOTES. I wasn't able to anticipate the reveal, so that also had the delightful "presto change-o!" quality that makes puzzles so fun. I thought this one showed MASSES of creativity and wit.

Speaking of @Rex's cats and CATTY in the corner, I'm sure most of you have by now seen the video clip of the unfortunate attorney who inadvertently appeared at an online court session masked by the Zoom filter of a kitten. Nightmare for him, pretty hilarious otherwise.

@Barbara S - Love your "retch pants!" :)

jae 11:25 AM  

Easy-medium. Fun themers (especially 37a), smooth grid, MARMOT...lots to like here.

TTrimble 11:30 AM  

@Barbara S.
Nice! I especially like AGE WHISPER and RETCH PANTS. I expect you and I both are fond of British-style crosswords.

1. Consensus on age?
2. Tat this shoulder!
3. Eagle alert
4. Eve's diseased?
5. Competent prodigy

Today's was definitely a fun theme, even if this type of thing has been done before. Like pop music, it can be really hard coming up with something that doesn't remind people of other things they've seen or heard. (Thus, I think Rex is being a little harsh.)

Case in point: I like the punny wordplay of "Road hog?" (HARLEY), even though I suspect something like this has been used before.

I had mentioned to @oceanjeremy the other day that I liked Rick Beato's YouTube channel, but neglected to link to it. So, killing two birds with one st+one, here is Rick on a somewhat recent case about plagiarism in pop music: Katy Perry had lost a lawsuit that charged her Dark Horse with plagiarizing off a Christian rock song (Joyful Noise), and he calls BS although it's entirely possible she had heard that song.


Z 11:42 AM  

Did you know that there are 15 species of MARMOTs and that looking at images on Google suggests that some MARMOT tail is bushy? I cannot tell from the pictures whether or not when you ATE OUT bushy MARMOT tail if it would be YEASTY, though. Probably best that if you know the answer to this question that you not share.

@Charlie - “strange bedfellows” isn’t in the puzzle. The actual answer seems rather spot on. The whole point even.

@Carola - Some reporter on Twitter had to ruin the fun by pointing to the story he had done on that lawyer. Turns out the lawyer is a small town bully and creep. Be forewarned, reading this article may lead you to think that defunding the police is a good idea.

egsforbreakfast 11:46 AM  

I actually liked this puzzle quite a bit, although it wasn’t very challenging, But the theme was well executed and gave me a chuckle or two.

@Douglas 10:22 am. I used to try to explain how a theme worked when people made comments demonstrating that they didn’t really get it. Thank you for trying to do so above, but unless the universe has changed, you will get either no acknowledgement, or derision for your effort. On the other hand, I guess I’m acknowledging your effort, so ipso facto.... the universe has changed.

@Barbara S. Nice clues and theme answers!

Thanks, Kate Hawkins, for a sweet puzzle.

sixtyni yogini 11:48 AM  

Just plain fun. 🤸🏽‍♀️
And fast. 💥
❤️Loved it. ❤️ with all four valves‼️
No staleness noted here. 🤔 (Beginner’s mind/newbie-ness does have some ➕s.)

Azzurro 11:54 AM  

Put PACE for 37 down and then tried forever to make 37 across PANGENDER___ something. Eventually found my error when I saw the theme.

Old theme, but I think it worked well.

Frantic Sloth 11:56 AM  

@gloriosky 1106am Aaaaww! Thank you for your kind words! And your check is in the mail. 😉

@Carola 1110am That cat face filter is so freakin' adorable. I think the world would be a much better place if such things were a requirement for Zoom meetings...

@Z 1142am ...And so much the better for participants who are bullies and/or creeps!

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

The phrase "defunding the police" has as many meanings as the number of people who have used it.

jclaireb 12:05 PM  

Isn’t Strawman/Awman also a themer?

jclaireb 12:07 PM  

Oops never mind!!

mathgent 12:16 PM  

I had fun figuring out the themers. The rest of the puzzle was pretty dull, though.

Really liked the other possible themers by Barbara S, Smith, and TTrimble.

misterarthur 12:21 PM  

Re: Bushy-tailed squirrels. Most marmots have little or no tails. There is a species with a bushy (actually long) tail but it's essentially a bad clue/answer.

bocamp 12:34 PM  

@Canon Chasuble 11:08 AM

Thx for the "Chinua Achebe" insight! Have the ebook on hold; the audiobook can be accessed here

@Joe Dipinto 11:08 AM

Thx for the vids. :)

@Barbara S @Smith @TTrimble

Thx for the alternative themers; Challenging and fun. :)

pg -1

Peace ~ Health ~ Hope ~ Equality for all ~ Teamwork 🕊

albatross shell 12:52 PM  

Additions to hidden theme bonopodes (ST)ATE OUT, (ST)ARS ON or (ST)AR SON. They are words strung together anyway. And when the Post Office honors calligraphy with a complete alphabet series we CAN then add (ST)AMP M. Or you could consider it an attack on a Peter Lorre character in a Fritz Lang movie. Again not any of these are common phrases. Is that trump reversal in bridge-speech?

Today I did not get the theme until I came here. They'll be days like this my Momma said, but maybe she was just being kind. I deviate from some here by not considering getting the theme a part of solving the puzzle. All squares correctly filled is a successful solve. Otherwise you should also say every clue must be correctly understood. I like more objective measures. I've never been to a CW contest. I assume you are not asked to explain a theme. But maybe I am wrong. And everyone is welcome to their own high or low bar.

On the other hand to really appreciate the puzzle one needs to get the theme. And getting the theme certainly upped my appreciation of this puzzle. Explained the odd answers and added the humor and sparkle. Very good. Put a basic theme type to work with style and pizzazz.

Teedmn 1:28 PM  

@Barbara S, my vote goes to ARK NAKED and RETCH PANTS. Nice!

Yes, my aha on the theme followed a path similar to many of you. I did get to use the theme to splatz in ICKY when I had NOTES already in.

@Kate Hawkins, thank you for the heads-up on the thieving MARMOTs over at xwordinfo. It reminds me of the bold chipmunk I met in the BWCA. I thought it was so cute when I felt a tiny impact and looked down to see a chipmunk looking at me while leaning on my hiking boot. Not so cute when I found evidence of non-human consumption of our bread and Newton cookies in the pack I was leaning against!!

I liked this, it was clever and provided a small Wednesday work-out.

A 1:31 PM  

Happy Leontyne Price’s Birthday!

What a fantastic excuse to listen to one of the greatest voices of all time! This Verdi aria Addio bel passato isn’t just another dying soprano’s last breath. Listen to the end and you will be rewarded. I chose this one because it is the name of, and is posted by, one of the best posters on YouTube for classical music. Lyrics below. Oh, and I’m pretty sure this aria is older than today’s theme, and I don’t care either, @Frantic - I like them both!

Speaking of opera, Rex did’t like seeing SCAB (line crosser) but I did - they’re there and should be OUTed. I also didn’t mind COMA because of the cluing. Nice being reminded of a time when COMA brought to mind ‘zone out’ instead of the alternative. And Rex is not ruling the world anyway, that giant MARMOT is.

@Barbara S., great stuff! I love the connection between your (st)art up and the hares in the cabbage patch. Totally agree about CATTY and arty.

@TTrimble, @M&A and others also invented excellent themers - what a creative bunch!

@Nancy, I also didn’t suspect EEL TRAP isn’t a thing, much less wonder “why not EEL pots?” Who are you people and why do you know about EEL pots?

@Roo, good catch on the closed corners. Thank goodness the solve was easy enough for it not to matter.

@TTrimble and others also have some fun themers - what a creative bunch!

Going to check out Chinua Achebe - thanks Rex and @Canon, and @bocamp for the link!

Addio bel passato
‘Farewell, sweet dreams of days long gone;
The roses in my cheeks already are faded.
Even Alfredo's love is not here,
To comfort and uphold my weary spirit.
Oh, comfort, sustain an erring soul,
And may God pardon and make her his own!
Ah, all is over.

The joys, the sorrows will soon be over,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Neither tears nor flowers will my grave have,
No cross with a name that covers my bones1
Oh, comfort, sustain a tired soul,
And may God pardon and make her his own!
Ah, all is finished.’

pabloinnh 1:42 PM  

Combining a today's thread with a today's theme--

Our sun-seeking felines in winter--


One of these guys (Fenway)has a tail to rival a gray squirrel, so there's that too.

sanfranman59 1:55 PM  

Medium-Challenging NYT Wednesday ... 8% above my 6-month Wednesday median solve time

Thumbs-up here. Themed puzzles aren't typically my thing, but this one's pretty good. I got a few smiles out of the themers, enjoyed working through much of the cluing and don't recall wincing very much. That's about all I ask of early-week NYT puzzles. Only 36 of 76 words in this grid are of the 3- or 4-letter variety. That's a big improvement over the previous two Wednesdays.

I got off to a very slow start working everything out in the NW corner and then (mostly) motored through the rest of the grid. 'T-Bill' before T-BOND {50D: Long-term U.S. security} was the only other major time sap. In spite of her apparent fame, I had no idea about CLEO {26D: Miss ___, famed TV psychic}.

If you enjoyed this puzzle, KH is a pretty regular constructor in the USA Today and has also had a couple of grids published by David Steinberg at Universal in the last year.

Joe Dipinto 2:28 PM  

These are pretty bad, but I don't care.

1. Always truthful and sincere
2. The act of playing dead?
3. Military action done for someone you're besotted with?


jberg 3:07 PM  

I loved the theme, done before or not. The answers were so funny. As for the other big issues:

I've seen plenty of MARMOTs, but until today I always thought they were essentially big pikas, i.e., a kind of rabbit, not a kind of squirrel. Or else a kind of woodchuck -- but wiki says woodchucks are a kind of marmot, so now I've learned two things. Pookas aren't really rabbits, either, I think the woman who wrote "Harvey" was influenced by the linguistic resemblance to pika (just a guess, though).

I heard Chinua Achebe speak once; he was pretty old at the time, it was a conference on service-learning which somehow had arranged to meet at the UN. He was impressive. And if you've read Arrow of God, that Y plays a pretty crucial part.

I kind of liked the random-bowling-pin clue. Is the beginning of a new convention?

Oh yeah, for those of you who aren't financial wizards (just kidding), T-bills are not long-term, as far as I know. Personally, I waited for the crosses on that one.

Rug Crazy 3:13 PM  


TTrimble 3:13 PM  

@Joe Dipinto
Those were tough! By far my favorite was 3., and I had guessed "OP", but couldn't see how to complete it. (And I had been playing around with RIP TEASE myself, but I couldn't come up with a clue that I was happy with.)

The cluing for 1. is clever and devious. If only "one" were pronounced like "own" and not "won" (why is that, anyway? -- English is such a strange language).

Barbara S. 3:27 PM  

@K.A. Conway and others talking about the use of the Air Force in the 18th and 19th centuries--
The air above our heads was used for military purposes earlier than we might think. Check this out.

Thanks to videos of URIAH Heep yesterday and ABBA today, my eyes are slowly going dim due to overexposure to knee-high glitzy silver boots.

@Smith, @M&A, @TTrimble, @pabloinnh, @Joe Dipinto
HAH! I'm chuckling over all of your offerings. I love it when a theme sets a bunch of us off! (See what I was saying the other day -- the creativity that accompanies communication through the written word.)

Like @Joe, I had an "OP" one, too, and I forgot to post it:
Clue: SEALs creeping toward a target

I also played around with something like
Clue: Group of bodybuilders working on their abs
Answer: RIP CLUB

Wasn't sure if that last one really worked. OK, that's it. I'm all STOUTed out.

Joe Dipinto 3:36 PM  

@TTrimble – I couldn't guess any of the earlier ones. I liked your STINK UP THE JOINT and @Barbara's RETCH PANTS. Since it's only about taking the ST off I didn't think it should matter if the remaining word was pronounced differently. Though if you're trying to solve by sounding them out then I guess it does matter.

pabloinnh 3:54 PM  

I had the same sort of pronunciation question with my department chairman concerning the word "scone", which he pronounced "skun". When I suggested that didn't make a lot of sense, do we have other words like that? and he said "one" and I gave up.

oriordan 5:11 PM  


Loved the puzzle; thought most of the themers were excellent.


Ok, maybe trying too hard ;-)

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

likely, more than you'd ever want to know (the wiki)

"Treasury bonds (T-bonds, also called a long bond) have the longest maturity at thirty years. They have a coupon payment every six months like T-notes.[9]

The U.S. federal government suspended issuing 30-year Treasury bonds for four years from February 18, 2002 to February 9, 2006.[10] As the U.S. government used budget surpluses to pay down federal debt in the late 1990s,[11] the 10-year Treasury note began to replace the 30-year Treasury bond as the general, most-followed metric of the U.S. bond market. However, because of demand from pension funds and large, long-term institutional investors, along with a need to diversify the Treasury's liabilities—and also because the flatter yield curve meant that the opportunity cost of selling long-dated debt had dropped—the 30-year Treasury bond was re-introduced in February 2006 and is now issued quarterly.[12] In 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump administration was considering issuance of 50-year and even 100-year Treasury bonds.[13] "

pabloinnh 5:49 PM  

@ One stuff--

Upon further reflection, he could have said "one and done", or "none".

lilyturquoise 5:53 PM  

It’s not strange because they’re gay! They’re range bedfellows, they’re cowboys so they’re out on the “range”. The st words don’t really factor into the answers, like the “range bedfellows” aren’t strange and the “ale mates” aren’t stale

GILL I. 7:02 PM  

Coming back to read all the comments after a much needed nap. Watching the Impeachment trial has made me sad and incredulous in so many ways. THEN...@Barbara S made me laugh with RETCH PANTS. Yep....I know the feeling. @Carola and posting the kitty filter. Just look at the face of the judge. He did't even crack a smile! @A...."The joys, the sorrows will be over soon." Good lord...I hope so....and of course my amiga, @Frantic and making me dance to "Going to the Chapel." I'm already married but I might do some mighty praying for some justice....

GILL I. 7:07 PM  

I think I meant to say flabbergasted. I've warned everyone that I tend the massacre this language.

TTrimble 8:50 PM  

-0 for today. Happily, nothing too crazy in today's batch.

I'm annoyingly very close on two other recent days. I may give up soon.

D 9:02 PM  

Love the Marmot pic!

Masked and Anonymous 9:32 PM  

This puz had some dejavuosity vibes with the NYTPuz on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, btw.

I'm beginnin to think this might sorta be an Old Theme Favorites Week.


bocamp 9:36 PM  

@TTrimble 8:50 PM 👍


Peace ~ Health ~ Hope ~ Equality for all ~ Teamwork 🕊

foodcello 10:55 PM  

It... was a joke?

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