Relative of a cor anglais / WED 2-17-21 / Turnblad role for Divine in Hairspray / 2013 title role for Scarlett Johansson / Never-ending offerings at Olive Garden

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Constructor: David Harris and Evan Kalish

Relative difficulty: Easy (unless you've never heard of one or the other of the actresses up top, in which case probably much harder)


THEME: MONKEY [in the] MIDDLE (43A: With the circled letters and 46-Across, playground keep-away game) — circled squares containing "I N T H E" form a lob arc from one side of the grid (MONKEY) to the other (MIDDLE). Those circled squares represent the arc of a ball (presumably) that's being kept away from the titular "monkey in the middle," who is represented by the letters "APE" in DIAPERS (APES can be found in (sorta) the middle of four other themers). APES is also the revealer (65A: Animals found in 16-, 20-, 35-, 51- and 58-Across):

Theme answers:
  • RHEA PERLMAN (16A: Portrayer of Carla Tortelli on "Cheers")
  • AMANDA PEET (20A: "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" co-star)
  • DIAPERS (35A: Huggies, e.g.)
  • BANANA PEEL (51A: Cause of a comedic slip)
  • ON A PEDESTAL (58A: Where idols might be placed)
Word of the Day: AMANDA PEET (20A) —
Amanda Peet (born January 11, 1972) is an American actress. After studying at Columbia University, Peet began her acting career with small parts on television, and made her film debut in Animal Room (1995). Her featured role in the comedy The Whole Nine Yards (2000) brought her wider recognition, and she has since appeared in a variety of films, including Something's Gotta Give (2003), Identity (2003), Syriana (2005), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), 2012 (2009), and The Way, Way Back (2013). On television, Peet has starred in Jack & Jill (1999–2001), Togetherness(2015–2016), Brockmire (2016–2020), and the second season of Dirty John in 2020. (wikipedia)
• • •

Had to look up the game after I was done because I couldn't remember what it was. Didn't play it as a kid, as I recall, though "keep-away" is familiar enough. MONKEY in the MIDDLE sounds like a more formally organized version of "keep-away" which seems like a more spontaneous (and possibly cruel) "game" where the "monkey" is an unwilling participant. Couldn't figure out why DIAPERS were "in the middle" (is the monkey a baby??) but then saw APE there in the exact MIDDLE. Seeing the APE in DIAPERS (!) was a real aha moment. It was only afterward that I noticed both the APES "hiding" in the theme answers and (well after that) the revealer. Never saw the revealer. The puzzle was so easy, I just filled it in from crosses, not even noticing it. Feels very redundant and anti-climactic. I mean, yes, I did not see the other APES at first, it's true, but I did *find* them when I went looking, and that was at least mildly entertaining. And then the extra APES ... I mean, I get it, you feel like you *should* have more theme material in the puzzle, but none of those APES have a ball going over their heads and, most crucially, none of those APES are actually "in the (exact) middle" of their answers. They're in there, but off to one side or the other. So in order to fulfill some assumed obligation to cram the grid with theme material, we get imperfectly executed theme (no ball overhead, no "middle" placement). The APE in DIAPERS, great. All the rest of it, all the stuff not involving the nice visual gag "in the middle," is excessive window dressing. Too much. Mars the elegance of the concept.


As for difficulty, there wasn't much. RHEA PERLMAN is pretty famous from all those years on "Cheers" (and all those Emmys (4)). AMANDA PEET, while well known, at least to me, is a far less familiar name (or at least I think she will be, to most NYTXW solvers), and so it's possible she caused some difficulty. Unknown proper nouns often do. But no other spot in the grid should've caused much trouble. I had a few minor hesitations, that's all. Not sure what is going on with the clue for AMANDA PEET—I have never heard of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and it's not even mentioned in the first paragraph of her wikipedia bio. For me, her iconic role is as the owner of the minor-league Morristown Frackers in "Brockmire":


Five things:
  • 14A: Greeting in an inbox (E-CARD) — had the "E-" and then ... so many places to go from there. I choice "-VITE" ... [incorrect buzzer!]
  • 43D: Order from Tony Soprano, e.g. (MOB HIT) — kinda tired of the puzzle's obsession with mob violence. ICE as "murder," HITMAN, HITLIST, etc. I get it, it's a significant part of the tv / movie landscape blah blah blah, but I'm finding murder and violence in my grid more and more unpleasant these days. Same way I've lost patience for flippant, wacky clues about alcoholics (another NYTXW obsession). "The Sopranos" is a great show. "The Godfather" is a great movie. It's just that romanticizing the mob (and particularly mob violence) is, in general, one of my less favorite aspects of popular culture.
  • 3D: Had drinks before going out, informally (PRE-GAMED) — I had PREG- and thought, "wow, that is a dark clue for PREGNANT, what the—!?"
  • 45D: Sharp rejection ("NO NO NO!") — Is it "sharp," though? It's repeated, that's for sure. Had the first "No!" and then went looking for a four-letter word like "DEAL" or "DICE" or something. But it's just a bunch of "NO"s.
  • 12D: "Never-ending" offerings at Olive Garden (PASTAS) — pretty sure it's "Never-Ending Pasta Bowls," hang on ... (checking) ... yep. There's even a "Never-Ending Pasta Pass" (for Olive Garden superfans, I guess). But nowhere is there PASTAS with an "S." If you're going to use advertising language, get the wording right. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. did enjoy the BEER clue, gotta say (49D: The missing letters in _UDW_IS__)

P.P.S. so sorry I posted this late (9:40am). I was done at 6am but for some reason walked away from my desk and never came back to hit "Post." This is probably the latest posting date for the blog in ~14 years. My apologies for failing you.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

103 comments:

bocamp 9:47 AM  

Thank you, @David & @Evan for your Wednes. "off"ering. Lots to think about here.

Easy+ solve. On my wavelength all the way – even the negative stuff, sad to say. :( Lots of good stuff to offset the negative vibes, tho. :)

Got the NW right off. Nice to see "ephemera", which is an important concept in my metaphysics. Liked its juxtaposition with "pregaming", "mixing" in the devil-may-care underpinnings of "Après moi, le déluge", which itself is juxtaposed with the capitalistic "Park Place". Marx would've got a "kick" out of that corner! 🤔

Also in the NW, "sea" crossing "déluge", "keg" crossing "pregamed", and "Pepsi" for those so inclined. Lots of liquid, which circles back to the "here today gone tomorrow" of "ephemera" – the fleeting vagaries of life.

Used a "mimeo"graph machine to run copies of the daily watchlist for our ship. Cut the stencils on an Olympia typewriter.

Stay safe everyone! 🙏
___


yd -1 / td -3

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Unknown 9:48 AM  

As a Brit who does the NYTXW, this puzzle's main hiccup was that 'the game' here is called PIGGIE in the middle, so that slowed me down.

Frantic Sloth 9:48 AM  


What a sweet simian solve this was! MONKEYs and APEs IN THE MIDDLE and all very symmetrical. I didn't even mind the revealer in the middle because:

a. It worked!
b. The bonus Easter Egg APES theme revealed at the bottom.

And despite all this primo theming and constructioneering, the fill did not suffer IMHO.
MOBHIT, anyone?

And this is another debut (for David Harris)! Kudos to both of you - you make a good team!

Gotta BEMOAN the one thing that really bugged me: Why use the plural "idols" for APEDESTAL? Either pluralize PEDESTAL or make it one idol. You don't go sprinkling idols onto a pedestal all willy-nilly. Someone's gonna get hurt and what a mess. And anyone who attains idol status should not have to share a pedestal - even with other idols. Who needs a bunch of miffed idols hanging around? C'mon!


🧠🧠
🎉🎉🎉🎉

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Yesterday there was Nip and today NWA. Who edits this puzzle The Proud Boys ?

newbie 9:52 AM  

Oh good! We were worried.

Saw MAN in PERLMAN and AMANDA and thought maybe they were apes, too, but that didn't follow through the other theme answers. Liked that the apes left their banana peels in there.

Nancy 9:53 AM  

APES? That's it? Not exactly a difficult combo of letters to use. And to accomplish this we get two TV actresses; a dinosaur sidekick; the NWA, whatever that is; and the Spice Girls? Another trivia-stuffed puzzle in a trivia-stuffed week-- will it never end?

What an odd word for having drinks before going out. I guess I've PREGAMED my entire life; I just didn't know it. You, too, @GILL?

Re 56D: This song is sung in "The Sound of Music" in defiance of a bunch of Nazis sitting in the audience as the Von Trapp family performs while plotting their escape from Austria. For my money it's the best and most important song in the show. Many people have come to think it's the Austrian national anthem, but it's not. It was written by Oscar Hammerstein -- and it's the last song he wrote before his tragic and untimely death. For anyone who hasn't heard it, you should watch the clip.

RooMonster 9:55 AM  

Hey All!
Rex sleeping in, apparently. ☺️

No mention of racism with NWA?? I guess if you call yourselves N's, then it's OK.

One other nit, which I'm surprised Rex didn't mention, very segmented grid. Small passages to every section. We do have longer Downs, though. Odd.

OK, one other nit, ☺️, I count 6 cheater squares.

I do have to thank Rex for the explanation of why OF THE was arced like it is. Ah, throwing something to keep it away from the MONKEY. Got it. Neat that BANANA PEEL has an APE in the MIDDLE. Too bad couldn't have other related APE themers.

But still enjoyed puz, even if it sounds like I didn't! I'm HIP, IM COOL. Har.

Two F's
RooMonster
DarrinV

Ok ik 9:56 AM  

When I could see a blog post from you today, I was worried if you were ok. Phew!

kitshef 9:59 AM  

You don’t meet a lot of ERMAs or EDNAs any more. I wonder when they will come back? Thirty years ago, EMMA was almost disappearing, but look at it now.

Joaquin 10:06 AM  

The words NIP and BEANER have Rex retreating to his safe space. Yet NWA gets no mention at all.

I have no problem with any of them being in a crossword, but Rex's inconsistency is stunning.

OffTheGrid 10:06 AM  

Although no comments appear as I write this, I'm probably not the first, or the first to point out that APES are not MONKEYs. Having one word, in this case "APE", in five answers seems incredibly lame. What's the point? PREGAMED is atrocious. Clue for MAY should have read "Incorrect can alternative". Kinda surprised @Rex liked this so much. At best it's a nothing burger and at worst, garbage.

Z 10:08 AM  

This just didn’t do it for me. Between the PPP count and the generational whiplash I just found this generally off-putting and then there’s the whole APES aren’t MONKEYs thing. Oh, and nothing says “good morning” quite like bullying disguised as fun.

PPP (that’s Pop Culture, Product Names, and other Proper Nouns) comes in at a hefty 30 of 78 for 39%. This happened to be in my Wheelhouse (Monday easy for me), But Boy Howdy is some of this stuff niche. Okay, Cheers was huge. But Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? I had to look it up. Given all the big names involved this must have been really bad to last only one season 14 years ago. I guess Brockmire is too fresh. Still, that clue is fresher than ERMA Bombeck and The Spice Girls. TBF, there is some decent balance to the PPP with ANA Navarro and Sam Bee, but they are crammed in one little corner while the 90’s play Mario Kart just about everywhere else.

What should have helped but just irked were entries like BFF and PRE-GAMED and that BEER clue. The constructors aren’t that old, but in this puzzle these entries have a real “dad saying I’M COOL” vibe. You can’t start off with a 1975 ad campaign and then try to look all current and with it with PRE-GAMED. I don’t know about you, but this just creates a mental picture for me of the clue writer wearing khaki shorts and sandals with black socks while playing shuffleboard with the teenage grandkids.

So this puzzle already was bugging me and then we don’t actually get MONKEYs IN THE MIDDLE. Seriously? You’re going to stick APEs IN THE MIDDLE and hope the NYTX solving crowd doesn’t notice? Har.

And finally, you know, the whole bullying thing. If you see MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE or any other variation of Keep Away going on it’s a good time to be the adult and redirect the kids to a game that doesn’t involve taunting.

To recap, too much PPP (most of it stale), bad science, all wrapped around a “game” based on taunting and bullying. Blrrgh.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

The “monkey” was a willing participant when we kids played half a century ago. When the monkey managed to steal a toss, whoever threw it became the monkey. All three players were in on that challenge. Keep-away was the exclusionary, “nyah-nyah” game.

Serenity Now 10:18 AM  

Samantha Bee, Obamas, Ana Navarro and nary a Republican to get upset over. Nice work team !

Frantic Sloth 10:19 AM  


Oh, Rex - you're starting to lose your memory...how cute is that??!!
Not surprised you didn't know "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" though. It was on for one season about 15 years ago. We really liked it and were very disappointed when it was cancelled. For anyone interested, the Wiki. And the IMDb.

NONONO didn't bother me as a "sharp rejection" - it helps to imagine crescendo.

🤣🤣🤣 And now it's gonna take some time to post the comments because if the delay.

Dribbling in now...Lookin' like the "MONKEYS are not APES" kerfuffle will rival EGOT's sordid history.

Then again, maybe NWA will "win" the day...

@Anon 1009am 👍 We neighborhood kids played it quite often. Then everyone figures out the secret and loses interest. 🤷‍♀️

Sir Hillary 10:19 AM  

NONONO, not a fan. Was hoping Mike would give this a "Sharp rejection", but he didn't HATEON it. IMCOOL with that, but this one put me in need of ANAP.

The circled INTHE letters represent...what? The arc of something being tossed over the hapless MONKEY in the MIDDLE? Um, OK.

APE embedded in BANANAPEEL in a puzzle with a MONKEY theme. There's a joke to be had there somewhere.

KEG crossing PREGAMED = I have a headache just thinking about it.

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" was Aaron Sorkin's first TV creation after "The West Wing", and it flopped. I watched, but it was hard for me to care about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at an SNL-like show when the White House had been the previous backdrop for the same.

johnk 10:27 AM  

Never heard of this game, but as a fellow primate, I know the difference between APES and MONKEYs, and between them and YOU. If HATEON were actually a phrase I or anyone would use, I would do so here.

Hungry Mother 10:28 AM  

Easy one today. The theme filled itself in as I traversed the grid. More names than I want, as usual. I keep waiting for my late mother-in-law’s middle name to show up. Anyone?

pmdm 10:29 AM  

If I could replicate Z's comment and turn the volume way up,I would. Sure, those familiar with the entries should be happy. But alas I, even though the puzzle was not too hard, am not happy. Not that I want puzzles that are aimed at me. I just want them to not be aimed away from me.

Perhaps I am getting too grumpy.

Barbara S. 10:31 AM  

@Rex, @Rex, poor lamb, you didn’t fail us – you just proved yourself human. And don’t we all – a dozen times a day. It was kind of sad, though, not to find all you charming people chattering away when I first checked the blog. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Rex was in the middle of a massive power outage brought on by snowstorms. I’m very glad for him and for us that that isn’t the case.

Not a thrilling theme, I didn’t think, but a fine (although PPP-laden) Wednesday puzzle. It’s hard for some, I know, when two of five themers (the first two, in this case) are people's names. I knew both of these performers but their names were not top of mind and it took a few crosses to bring them into focus. Probably many solvers won't know Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but I was fond of that show and sorry when it was cancelled after one season. I saw MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE pretty fast, but didn’t notice any common ground in the themers while solving – it took the revealer to disclose the APES.

I had a bit of a slow-down halfway along the west coast. “Can alternative” I found really opaque, and BEMOAN and FREUD took a while – that “slip” clue for FREUD was a WOE much longer than it should have been. I don’t think I’ve ever heard PREGAMED (and I wish my introduction to the word had been indefinitely postponed). I’m not on social media and I think my brain automatically shuts down whenever I see a social media clue, which didn’t help with BFF or ADD ME.

“APRÈS moi, le déluge”! Mon Dieu, that’s right up there on the arrogance scale with “L’État, c’est moi”. Louis XV apparently uttered the deluge statement, which basically means I’m it and who cares if everything goes to hell after I’m gone. His great-grandfather and predecessor, Louis XIV, had, of course, said the l'état thing. They don’t call them autocratic for nothing.

Today’s excerpt is brought to you by MO YAN, born Feb. 17, 1955.

“My little donkey, if I hadn't shown up, your fate would have been sealed. Love has saved you. Is there anything else that could erase the innate fears of a donkey and send him to rescue you from certain death? No. That is the only one. With a call to arms, I, Ximen Donkey, charged down the ridge and headed straight for the wolf that was tailing my beloved. My hooves kicked up sand and dust as I raced down from my commanding position; no wolf, not even a tiger, could have avoided the spearhead aimed at it. It saw me too late to move out of the way, and I thudded into it, sending it head over heels. Then I turned around and said to my donkey, "Do not fear my dear, I am here!”
(From Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out)

Carola 10:33 AM  

Very cute. I loved the arc of the ball and the fact that there really was a MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE (loosely speaking), not to mention the other APES in the grid. Liked ICY x I'M COOL and ALPS x ABYSS. Help from previous puzzles: ANA, YOSHI, ABU, NWA. No idea: RHEA PERLMAN.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

Gotta say, not being able to read your blog immediately after finishing the puzzle dampened my enjoyment of the puzzle more than I would have expected. Didn't realize how much I enjoy finishing the puzzle, thinking about it for a minute or two, and then coming over here to see you agree with me or I can conduct a virtual, one-sided argument with you in my head (I was expecting some Erma/Enda complaining! I sure did some!). Not a complaint at all--you're as regular as bad news, and everybody makes mistakes--but a good opportunity to thank you for all the conversations you never knew you were having with me.

GHarris 10:34 AM  

In the Bronx, in medieval times, monkey was sometimes a cruel taunt (usually involving some poor schnook’s hat) or a voluntary game with the tossing of a ball. Never knew coral had polyps or the expression for pre- drinking. Still, the crosses were doable and I was able to work it all out.

egsforbreakfast 10:37 AM  

I personally think that 45D, NONONO should have been clued “Cynthia Lennon?”

With PEPSI, IKEA, bUDWeISeR, Olive Garden, this was a product placement tribute. Although I didn’t notice any Apple products.

I think that FREUD, BANANA and PEDESTAL have the makings of a suggestive trio, but DAMN, I’m not going there without a lot more PREGAMing.

I always care about a good concept more than I do about fill, and I thought this one was quite good. Thank you David Harris and Evan Kalisz.

mathgent 10:37 AM  

I liked the clue for BEER. (Checking the grid.). That's it.

Are there BELTWAYS in cIties other than DC?

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

never heard of MONKEY in the MIDDLE as a 'name' for just 'keep away'. anyone know when that name came into common use?

JC66 10:42 AM  

Nobody told @Rex that MONKEY is a racial slur.*











*Oh, wait...context matters.

Lewis 10:43 AM  

@rex -- No apology necessary!

I love love love the visual of that arc of circles going over the APE at dead center, representing the object being tossed over and thus kept away from it. That’s worth the price of admission.

I also like EDGE on the edge, ABYSS at dead bottom, seeing for the first time that BEER is in “Budweiser” (not to mention it echoing yesterday’s puzzle), and the seven NYT puzzle debuts, all worth mentioning: AMANDA PEET, HATE ON, MOB HIT, ON A PEDESTAL, PRE-GAMED, RHEA PERLMAN. Speaking of debuts, congratulations David! Evan, excellent work here, and I love your goofy picture on Xword Info. Thank you both.

FYI, in case you’re wondering what the difference is between monkeys and apes, here’s one: Almost all monkeys have tails, while apes do not. You’re welcome.

Puzzleguy 10:46 AM  

As I wrote yesterday a “Brit” is a person from Britain. A “Nip” is a person from Nippon. Get it?

pabloinnh 10:47 AM  

Agree with Anon 10:19's assessment of MITM. Frustration personified to be the monkey, but it was all voluntary and we took turns. Reminded me of playing what we called "hotbox" which simulated a baseball rundown. Being tagged out may be too traumatic for today's tastes, though.

Good thing OFL remembered to post--I was going into some serous early withdrawal. He's right about AMANDAPEEL, at least for me, but I did give myself big props for coming up with RHEAPERLMAN as I hadn't thought about her in years. And there was YOSHI again, apparently back from wherever he was exiled to.

I think we had the Memory Lane discussion of MIMEOS not long ago. Where were the word processors and printers when I needed them? Kids today have no idea and so on and on and on. At least I'm finally familiar with what INBETA means.

Fun enough Wednesday DH and EK. Only one RBI, which is not many, but at least you got a little baseball in there. The truck has left Fenway, so spring is on the way.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Rex: apology accepted.

jae 10:51 AM  

Easy. Never heard of the playground game but it really didn’t make a difference, I put in PEPSI and just kept going. Kinda liked it?

Brockmire is scathingly funny and about baseball. You can stream on Youtube TV, Sling TV, and Hulu.

A 10:53 AM  

Never heard of MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE, but I remember keep away. I suppose it is potentially cruel, but aren't most children's games? Depends on the kids, or the parents, really. And now I know where the name of the old TV show Malcolm IN THE MIDDLE came from. Hah!

Today I was the one who knew too much, and too little. The crosses threw me a lifeline so I was able to resolve the issues.

Anyone else get misdirected to plop in OBOi because English horn was en français? Knew too much for my own good. Thanks, IKEA!

Studio what? Spice Girl names? Knew too little. DAMN I'M COOL helped a lot, though.

Isn't it "never ending PASTA bowl? Yes, just checked. I was looking for a rebus for a minute. Who just cracked that clue - not YOU! That one was weird. Who's on first?

Michael, I'm pretty sure that Sharp rejection is a cameo. MOB HIT? NO NO NO!

@Nancy Sound of Music was a favorite of my parents and we learned all of the songs. That one gets me every time. Thanks!




Tori Sandifer 10:57 AM  

The neverending items I'm aware of at Olive Garden are the Soups, Salads and Breadsticks from whatever commercial I saw a thousand times. I also don't think MAO's jacket is his most distinctive feature. If we'd said "former world leader" I may have gotten it quicker, but I ended up stuck there for a while

Karl Grouch 10:57 AM  

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3s4G5l5nwI_lYKpq-GrBfF2dstRnBQcn

Masked and Anonymous 10:58 AM  

NONONO.
M&A felt like a monkey in the middle of nowhere, during much of this rodeo. @sanfranman: yep. The puzs are definitely harder than they used to be. [Bring it, @Shortzmeister.]
Problems at our house:

1. Nobody hereabouts has ever heard of this MONKEY [I-N-T-H-E] MIDDLE game. Is DIAPER-wear required, to play?

2. Lotsa name-like and misc. stuff that was mysterious: APRES French phrase. PREGAMED. ANA Navarro. HATEON. YOSHI. AMANDA PEET (as TV-show-clued, anyway). MEL + any letter you pick. ADDME (social media term of mystery, tho it makes some sense). NWA rap info. Cor anglais relatives. Ektorp sofas. Never-endin PASTAS. Samantha Bee, full frontal or otherwise.

2.5. Name-drops M&A did know: RHEAPERLMAN. ABU. ERMA. FREUD. MAO. HER. OBAMAS. IAN.

3. APEs ain't MONKEYs. Definitely closely related, I'd grant. Was sorta cool, that RHEAPERLMAN and AMANDAPEET got to put their inner APEs on public display, tho. Also, HYENAS are always welcome for a good laugh.

Clue that single-handedly saved the puz, for m&e: {The missing letters in _UDW_IS__} = BEER. It's kinda like the BEER is pleadin "ADD ME!" or somesuch. [This is M&A APE-ing enthusiasm for this puz.]

staff weeject pick: NWA. Better clue: {Hesitant air kiss sound??}. Primo weeject stacks, in the NE & SW, btw.

Thanx for gangin up on all us monkeys, DH & EK dudes. And for chippin in one puzgrid U apiece. Also, congratz to DH for his feisty half-debut. BANANAPEEL was of course the puztheme high lite.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


**gruntz**

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

The biggest mass murderer in the course of human history is a puzzle answer two days in a row and no one has a problem with this ? Well, that’s progress.

kitshef 11:02 AM  

@mathgent - Baltimore right next door has a beltway. Several Maryland counties like PG and Howard are commonly referred to as "between the beltways".

TJS 11:04 AM  

I cannot believe how concerned I was when there was no Wednesday Rex report. As much as I criticise him, I was genuinely worried that something had gone bad in his world. Life is crazy...or maybe it's just me.

Oh, and the puzzle sucked for a Wednesday.

newbie 11:06 AM  

Beer. Keg. Pregamed.

Nancy - the expression started as drinking before going to the game, as in college football game, and expanded to include before going to parties, bars, anywhere.

Basically, now it's drinking before drinking. Bad habit that leads to binge drinking if one isn't careful. Otoh, it saves money, so became especially popular during recessions. (Had a kid in college during the first one.)

Closely related to tailgating - the grilling and drinking in the parking lot before, and sometimes during, the game kind - not the following too close and causing an accident kind.

Pregamers graduated, had families and some of them could even afford RVs.

Thus, pregamers became tailgaters.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Mao killed more than Hitler? or any of those ancients pharaohs, and sundry despots?

newbie 11:17 AM  

Oh yes, one more thing - in most cities tailgating and, therefore, pregaming, has practically become a subculture. In colleges, pregaming is part of the main culture.

A 11:21 AM  

Hey, how about that - I actually only knew too little! Correct spelling for OBOi is hautbois. Actually the knowledge was there just hiding. More coffee!

crayonbeam 11:21 AM  

seeing NWA in the puzzle made up for a lot of other clue crimes lately. i liked the double revealer and fast is always fun.

ChuckD 11:24 AM  

I liked this one fine. It was fairly easy for a Wednesday - but an enjoyable solve nonetheless. Grid was a little heavy with nouns and trivia but in my wheelhouse. Don’t have an issue with monkeys - apes especially if you adhere to the theory that not all clues need to be true and go with the vernacular.

PRE GAMED is a little fratboyish - but I did like the BEER clue. Have never been to an Olive Garden.

This was a cool puzzle.

Anon 11:25 AM  

May is not an alternative for can.

gpm 11:25 AM  

I don't see your point. NWA is... the name of the group. Are the editors supposed to change it to "N-word-W-A" in some sort of attempt to avoid being offensive that is so misguided it is... actually more offensive?

GILL I. 11:28 AM  

Well...I'll be a Monkey's Uncle. Where to begin? OK...I'll start with PRE GAMED. @Nancy, I don't think I've ever uttered those words in my entire drinking career. With my gang, it was always a "one for the road," maybe a "Let's have a drinky poo before we head out," ...."cocktails anyone?" but PREGAMED???? not in this house.
AMANDA who? I only know a Blake. Then we get to Olive Garden. I've been there once and all I remember is that you get as much salad and bread as you want. THEN....the creme de la creme.....MONKEY MIDDLE.... Never, ever, heard of that game. Gee, do I live in a cave?. THEN....I look up NWA because I wouldn't know that one if it spit anise in my face. Gee again....talk about "Tude.".....
So not knowing things is on me....and for a reason that only God knows, I managed to finish....Then I did my usual look at it after you finish and tell me what you think thing. Well, it's pretty clever. Yep....it is even when you don't know things. It's symmetrical and the little monkeys/apes have a cute little BANANA PEEL smile. So, I don't give it the MIDDLE finger....I give it a MILD ICY POLYP. Do those hurt?

@Nancy... Thanks for the Edelweiss...RIP Christopher Plummer. I wanted to marry him when I was bout 5.
@Barbara S. the day you stop giving us an excerpt will be a sad one. Thanks for sharing some of these gems with us.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

anon 11:15....It’s not a definitive answer but he’s certainly in the mix. From the Washington Post : Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world? Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.

Whatsername 11:48 AM  

My favorite thing was the clue for BEER. Too bad we didn’t have it in yesterday’s puzzle. It would have fit in nicely. The theme seemed very simplistic, just the word APE hidden in the answers, then APES as a revealer. Alrighty then. It won’t go on my favorites list but it’s a Wednesday and I finished so there’s that. Congratulations to David Harris on his NYT debut.

The name of the game here was a total mystery to me. I’m either too old or too unCOOL to ever have played it.

Is that really what people call having cocktails? I always thought PREGAME drinking was called tailgating but then I don’t get out much. Especially these days.

newbie 11:50 AM  

Well, now you know...we ❤ you, Rex.

A day without Rex is like a day without sunshine. Sunshine? That might be going a bit too far, although he has been sunnier lately.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

It's only gotten a couple of comments but I am greatly bothered by the fact that the hidden animals referred to in the revealer are all the same. What is THAT!!?? Was this puzzle stolen from the place mat at Chuck E. Cheese? Here's another great theme idea. Can you count the number of "T"'s in the puzzle?

jberg 12:07 PM  

Hey, my favorite airline, NWA! I scrimped and saved their frequent flyer miles and they gave me a free trip to Amsterdam and Paris. (I had to pay for the train ride in between, though). I was sorry to see them go.

I looked at 1A, siad "Oh, no, it can't be PEPSI..." But it was, confirmed by EPisodes at 2D. Well, that one didn't last long, thanks to KEG, and of course EPHEMERA is a much better answer.

I did know the two actresses, but just barely. I was doing a puzzle a couple weeks ago that referred to "Actor Perlman," and had to look it up. It turned out to be Ron, but my search had turned up RHEA along the way. I've been to the Bullfinch Tavern a few times, but never watched the show.

Oops, minor emergency here, gotta go.

webwinger 12:07 PM  

This was fun. Primary theme gimmick worked perfectly IMO; other APEs did all cross word divisions, making them in at least one sense middling. Fill and clueing overall I’d rate as above average. @RP seemed to have to try hard to find sufficient nits to pick today. If there had been a female constructor, I suspect his review would have been strongly positive.

BTW, I’m doing the WSJ puzzle on a regular basis recently. It’s mostly been fine, but I would not rate it better than the NYT on average.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

@11:30

yes, the Great Leap Forward ended up with some tens of millions dead. HOWEVER, that was not the avowed purpose of the GLF, and there is much research on the effects of weather and incompetence in the farm-to-factory process to account for the deaths. Hitler, and Stalin with pogroms and incompetence in WWII, directly set out to kill people. Mao is reputed to say, more or less, that losing a few million in a country over a billion didn't matter.

Hic 12:14 PM  

You pre-game because drinks at the bar cost too much.

Knitwit 12:15 PM  

I wasn’t the only one worried that something was up!! Glad you’re ok. I did go on Twitter and saw a post from you earlier in the morning so I knew you would get to the blog! Oh, I did like this on. Hated keep away/ Monkey in the middle as a kid!

t 12:29 PM  

Almost DNF because of the actresses up top. Phooey to this puzzle!

Avi Miller 12:35 PM  

Glad you're OK! Today's puzzle was a personal best for me, which makes up for Monday's super slow time.

SFR 12:55 PM  

Same here. All those media names were challenging too.




Anonymous 1:10 PM  

3D Had pregined!

Whatsername 1:22 PM  

@Nancy (9:53) Thanks for the link. A most beautiful song from one of the most beautiful movies ever filmed.

@Z (10:08) “Generational whiplash.“ Leave it to you, ever on the cutting EDGE, to capture the perfect phrase to describe exactly what I was thinking. And as always, thanks for doing the math on the PPP’s.

Anoa Bob 1:24 PM  

Having 42 black squares gave the grid a claustrophobic feel to me. When I see that many blocks I expect that the puzzle will be mostly about the theme with little room left for anything other than perfunctory, desultory fill, you know, those lifeless three- and four letter entries.

Then EPHEMERA made an early appearance! That's the kind of stuff that gladdens this old word-nerd's heart and I thought this puzzle might break the high block count low quality fill correlation pattern. Alas, it was not to be. I did enjoy seeing ABYSS and POLYP at the end.

This is the first time I've head of MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE. I do know there's a difference between a MONKEY and an APE and I did notice that APE (I ain't no stinking MONKEY!) was IN THE MIDDLE of only one of the themers, DIAPERS, and not in the other themers. That MONKEY ≠ APE and the eccentric (not place in the center) APES gave the puzzle an overall wobbly fell to me.

At least my favorite plural of convenience (POC), the two POCs with one S, made several appearances, e.g., at the end of 12D PASTA and 28A HYENA. Those Ss add next to nothing to the puzzle's quality. They just make it easier to fill the grid.

There wasn't anything about the puzzle for me to HATE ON or shout NO NO NO about. It was an ambitious theme idea but maybe too ambitious and with too much stuff going on to pull off smoothly in a 15X15 grid.

jberg 1:28 PM  

Now, where was I...

Martha (the other person in my avatar) tutors at a local community college; these days it is all online, and she was just starting a session when she realized that her microphone was not working. So she took over my computer while I eventually figured out the problem on hers. Now we're back in our usual rut.

@Nancy, thank you so much for that song! I've never seen the movie, for some reason. They once gave Martha and I a free weekend in their Vermont mountain resort -- they were under the impression that I was a meeting planner, because I had once planned a meeting at the Woodstock Inn -- so I learned a lot about the family by reading all the stuff they had on the walls. Maybe that deterred me from checking out the movie. I really should, especially since I play the recorder like many of them. (I don't sing, though. I don't squeak or squeal, either.)

Oh yeah, the actresses. I think I knew AMANDA PEET only because she has a funny last name. But now that I look at the grid, I'm struck at all the shared letters between here and BANANA PEEL. That's neat.

As for world leaders with eponymous jackets -- there's MAO, Nehru, and Eisenhower. All you have to do is count the letters and you've got it.

POLYP as a reef "component" did seem a little off. Reef constructor, yes.

Well, back to work!

Jess 1:34 PM  

Didn't know really any of the names, so that made the top half pretty hard for me; picked up on the "APE" part quickly, and only finished because I was able to use the APEs to make best guesses about what it could be. Nice puzzle, very well constructed.

Crimson Devil 1:48 PM  

Never heard of MONKEY game.
Good to be reminded of Cheers, and wisdom of Cliff Clavin.

EFB 2:07 PM  

SAYING "PASTAS" IS THE SAME AS SAYING "BEEFS"

HOW DID WE GET TO A POINT WHERE MENTIONING A RAPPER IS BAD AND MENTIONING MAO IS OK?

nycwestsider 2:23 PM  

I thought it was clever that Obamas was 44D and the 44th Pres. I wonder if that was intentional.

Granny the Great 3:04 PM  

I totally agree... the clue was ridiculous

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Am I going crazy or is the start of a toast, "Hear, Hear," and not "Here, here"

If I'm wrong, so be it but it seems shocking this grammatical mistake made it's way into a NYT crossword.

sanfranman59 3:15 PM  

Easy NYT Wednesday ... 18% below my 6-month median solve time ... David Harris is yet another new constructor in my solving database

Even though he's surprised me with some of his reviews over the past couple of weeks, I figured that Rex would jump all over this puzzle, but I thought it would be for a different reason. The whole APES {65A: Animals found in 16-, 20-, 35-, 51- and 58-Across} and MONKEY {43A: With the circled letters and 46-Across, playground keep-away game} IN THE MIDDLE {46A: See 43-Across} thing was easy enough to grasp, but MONKEYs and APEs are different species and really aren't all that closely related even though they're both primates. IMHO, the concept is close enough for crosswords, but it's not very tight, so I thought this would be Rex's nit.

I didn't care much for:

(a) NO NO NO {45D: Sharp rejection}
(b) having the PEPSI {1A: Option in a classic taste test} product placement thrown in my face at 1A
(c) the completely unnecessary Olive Garden commercial as the clue for PASTAS {12D: "Never-ending" offerings at Olive Garden} or
(d) the ridiculous clue for BEER {49D: The missing letters in _UDW_IS_ _}.

I'm pretty well convinced now that the puzzle is earning advertising revenue for the NYT. If so, I say, "ugh!" Don't we have enough advertising in our lives already??? The grid also seemed to be overladen with PPP. I'm pretty lukewarm about this one (at best).

Whoopi Goldberg 3:22 PM  

Ana Navarro is a Republican.

TTrimble 3:24 PM  

@Anonymous
"Hear, hear" is what I would expect to hear at the end of a toast, or at the end of a speech heard at some deliberative assembly. But I think the answer needs to be parsed as "HERE'S", as in, "Here's to the bride and groom", and not as the plural of HERE.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

Agree completely with the commenter raising the MAO issue... it's high time NYT retired this as a clue, but instead, they use it twice in three days with the second use accompanied by a way-too-precious reference to his clothing.
And not using MAO as a clue shouldn't stand as an affront to leftist ideology, as mass murder isn't an integral part of that dogma.

Another Anon 3:33 PM  

@Anon 3:10. It's not HERES plural but HERE'S as in "Here's to the bride and groom.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

Nothing to say other than I enjoyed this and wanting to sing the praises of Brockmire, a damn-near perfect and uproarious show.

Lyn 3:38 PM  

Agree. I remember "Monkey in the Middle" as part of "gym" class at PS#5. Yes, half a century ago.

Barbara S. 4:15 PM  

Unplanned tie-in through MAO between the puzzle and Mo Yan, the author I quoted today (10:31). Mo Yan is Chinese and his name is a pseudonym, which means "do not speak", advice given to him by his parents during his childhood whenever he left the house. This was in the 1960s under MAO, and all the adults knew the danger of unguarded talk in a public place, but a small boy did not. BTW, many decades and a bunch of novels and short stories later, Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.

And, hey didja notice MONKEY in the puzzle and "donkey" in the quotation? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Coincidence??? Yeah, totally.

pabloinnh 4:57 PM  

@jberg-We spent a night at the Trapp Family Lodge last year with my son, his wife, and my granddaughter. Had a real dump of heavy wet snow which ruined the x-c skiing but spent time outside at night during said snowstorm in a hot tub, which was way cool.

Also, we spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Woodstock Inn, and the rest of it in a little tent camping in Maine. The Woodstock Inn was nicer.

Bruce Fieggen 5:13 PM  

Your point being...

kitshef 5:17 PM  

Genghis Khan can't match Mao's total, but as a percentage of the people in the world killed he is unmatched (sorry Cain). And GK's were deliberate, malicious killings, rather than the unintended effects of bureaucracy.

Thane of 13th 5:30 PM  

And would you say a Nig is someone from Nigeria? Try looking at things from a perspective other than your own once in a while.

stephanie 5:51 PM  

dang, surprised to see so much hate for pregaming. maybe it's a regional thing? (boston here) i'm 37 and my partner is 46 and we've been pregaming for ages. (well, at least in The Before Times when we actually went out.) our group of friends is heavy with djs and club promoter types and it's common lingo...we always had people over "to pregame" or "for pregame." (hey, bars are expensive, and who wants to walk into a crowded club sober?) *shrug*

also will echo a couple others in that monkey in the middle was a common playground game in which all three participants did so willingly. then when the monkey grabbed the ball, they were no longer the monkey, and so on and so forth. i liked the layout of the answers, cute, fun, appropriate. (in stark contrast to that lips puzzle, lol!)

the only clue i didn't like was the olive garden - everyone knows the OG has "endless salad and breadsticks" so i had "salads" there for awhile even though i didn't entirely like the plural version of it, then finally begrudgingly changed it to pastas.

i'm a relative noob at the crossword and this, while enjoyable, imho was too easy for a wednesday. i was kind of bummed when i didn't get to spend much time on it. perhaps it was just because for once i knew the proper nouns, which is normally my undoing.

anyway, i think this is my first time commenting but i just wanted to say thanks for this blog. i love that i can always come here for all those puzzles in which i solve the thing but can't figure out why or what the theme means. thank you for all the enjoyable and satisfying facepalm moments! (and/or commiseration!)

Anonymous 5:56 PM  

I’m glad /.relieved you’re okay.
I wondered if you had an internet issue or worse you were seriously indisposed.
Better later than never.

LarryR 6:00 PM  

Is it just me, or is EPA in the solve every day lately?!?
C’mon. Shortz shorts variety! Ironic that EPA is become a form of pollution.

A 6:01 PM  

@Barbara S. I did, I did! Notice your donkey MONKEY connection, that is - because I had _ONKEY and wrote dONKEY. Because MONKEY doesn't rhyme with ONKEY. NO NO NO! Unless YOU had a KEG of BEER with your PASTAS.

Northwest Runner 6:47 PM  

I have to pile on with the monkeys are not apes crowd. Editor should never have accepted this.

GILL I. 6:49 PM  

@Unknown 5:51...Well dang....How about pregaming right here on this here blog. Give yourself a little avatar or whatever you want so that we can jump right to your interesting comments.....!!!! What do you say?

Barbara S. 7:03 PM  

@A
LOL -- you're talkin' crazy, girl!

Z 7:23 PM  

The MAO discussion is confusing me because it seems centered around the Great Leap Forward and not the Cultural Revolution. If memory serves, most of the deaths from the first were from famine. Granted, governmental incompetence makes MAO culpable, but not in the same way he was culpable for the deaths during the Cultural Revolution. An imperfect metaphor would be the difference between negligent homicide and 1st degree murder.

PRE-GAMing is not the same as tail-gating. @newbie is close, but I think @Hic nailed it, You PRE-GAME because drinks at the bar cost too much. You might argue that tail-gating comes from the same ethos, but if you’ve ever seen the investment in tail-gating equipment some guys (it always seems to be guys) make you would know that $10 hot dogs are not an issue.

Joe Dipinto 7:36 PM  

Orecchiette papardelle bucatini

Lumachine vermicelli rigatoni

Cavatelli cavatappi casarecce cannelloni capellini

bocamp 8:04 PM  

@Unknown 5:51 PM

Great post! and, welcome to the commentariat! 😊

@jae

Croce's 585 👍


Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Joe Dipinto 8:04 PM  

Which reminds me: Giovanni hasn't been here lately.

RooMonster 8:11 PM  

@Joe Dipinto 7:36
Geshundeit.

Roo

Whoopi Goldberg 10:02 PM  

@Bruce Fieggen - If you are going to post it’s always a good idea to read all the comments first. See @Sereniy Now 10:18

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

I have an idea. We can ban Mao, Beaner, Nip, Chink, etc. Or we can be grownups

Bruce Fieggen 12:10 AM  

Thought I did read all the comments. Must have missed that little one. Wish people would reply to comments rather than just placing them randomly where we have to search for the context.

Joe Dipinto 12:14 AM  

Danke schön, @Roo 8:11.

Whoopi Goldberg 3:39 AM  

@Bruce Fieggen - You seem to be new to blog posting. I hope you find the following helpful.

There is no “reply” to a comment option on an iPad or a PC. That option only exists on a cell phone. Your 5:13 comment did not appear as a reply on any device other than a cell. It came across as a non sequitor towards the end of a series of 98 comments.

Bruce Fieggen 8:27 AM  

Thanks for the education, Whoopi. Wish I could use the excuse of being new to blog posting. You’d think I would have learned this after three years.
One question: How did you know my comment was directed at you?

ShamanAlchemist 9:41 AM  

Hello Whoopi and Bruce, FWIW, this is being posted using the “reply” button on my iPad, below Bruce’s post. Isn’t that curious? Not a blogger, don’t know how that works, but here I am. Hope this helps

Whoopi Goldberg 10:31 AM  

@Bruce - I accessed the blog on my cell.

stephanie 12:11 PM  

i am using the reply feature as well, on a windows PC. odd. threaded comments definitely make things easier, and i'm not sure why so many sites/apps/etc these days took the long way around to come back to them.

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