1980 Stephen King novel / MON 3-22-21 / Comedian Jimmy who joked of his schnozzola / Flowing musically / Prank interviewer who referred to Buzz Aldrin as Buzz Lightyear / Old Italian money / Tree in the birch family / Energy-efficient illumination sources / Long-bodied jazz instrument for short

Monday, March 22, 2021

Constructor: Daniel Grinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal easy Monday)

THEME: "FIRESTARTER" (58A: 1980 Stephen King novel ... or a hint to the beginnings of 17-, 29- and 45-Across) — themers all start with things that start fires: 

Theme answers:
  • MATCHBOX CAR (17A: Collectible toy vehicle
  • FLINT, MICHIGAN (29A: Birthplace of General Motors)
  • TINDER PROFILE (45A: Certain online dating bio)
Word of the Day: LEDS (27A: Energy-efficient illumination sources, for short) —

light-emitting diode (LED) is a  semiconductor light source that emits light when current flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor recombine with electron holes, releasing energy in the form of photons. The color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photons) is determined by the energy required for electrons to cross the band gap of the semiconductor. White light is obtained by using multiple semiconductors or a layer of light-emitting phosphor on the semiconductor device.

Appearing as practical electronic components in 1962, the earliest LEDs emitted low-intensity infrared(IR) light. Infrared LEDs are used in remote-control circuits, such as those used with a wide variety of consumer electronics. The first visible-light LEDs were of low intensity and limited to red. Modern LEDs are available across the visibleultraviolet (UV), and infrared wavelengths, with high light output. (wikipedia)

• • •

Yes, those all start fires, and they all start answers, so there you are: theme. It works just fine. Would've been nice if you could've steered the themers away from the fire-starting meaning a little bit more. Hard to do with TINDER, so TINDER PROFILE seems like the best you can do there, even though the app is named that for fire-related reasons, for sure. It's metaphorical, obviously, but still. This is the logo:

So I'm not mad at that answer; in fact, it's probably the most interesting of the bunch. FLINT, MICHIGAN is also probably the best you're gonna do for FLINT. But the MATCH answer ... feels like you coulda steered harder away from the literal "match"-ness there. Matchbox is in fact "given its name because the original die-cast Matchbox toys were sold in boxes similar to those in which matches were sold" (wikipedia). So even though we're in the realm of cars there, the whole "box" part brings us back to the literal fire-starting match, when you could've gone with other meanings of MATCH: MATCH POINTS, MATCHMAKERS, MATCH DOT COM (if you wanna continue the whole dating-site angle). Yes, I am being picky, none of this matters, really, but I always think that the ideal expression of this type of theme has theme answers where the relevant words in each case steer hard away from the revealer meaning. So if the theme is fire, you put 'em in non-fire theme answers if you can. But again ... this is fine. What's not fine is the clue about Frosty's eyes, because, look, the song goes "with a corncob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal," not COALS. It's a general noun, not a countable noun. The only time I accept COALS is as a general term for pieces of coal that are already glowing hot. If I see the phrase "the COALS," I assume those suckers are definitely red, and in a heap, not discrete and positioned on a talking snowman's face. The dry cold stuff ... that's coal. Maybe pieces of coal. But COALS ... feels wrong. Definitely not Frosty canon.

I was flying through this until TRIP WIRE (36D: Security alarm trigger) and SYNTAXES (37D: They establish order in language classes); with the former, I just couldn't fathom what followed TRIP (I don't think of "wires" as being part of regular, non-elaborate, non-spy-movie alarms), and with SYNTAXES ... I just don't think that's a word I've ever seen or thought of in the plural before. I had SY-T- to start and wanted SYST-something. Also somehow couldn't get UPTO (48A: No more than), which crossed those two long Downs, and so slowed me up even further. That section alone took this from Very Easy Monday to Normal Easy Monday. That is all. The end. Good day / night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:09 AM  

Typical Monday fare but with two of the most unusual "Ps of C" I've seen on any day: COALS and SYNTAXES.

Shackfu 12:13 AM  

Coals? Really? I agree 100% with Rex!

jae 1:16 AM  

Easy-medium. Solid, smooth with some fun theme answers, liked it a bunch!

AMARO was a WOE.

Colin 3:15 AM  

What exactly does WOE stand for? I see it all the time on this blog, and I think I've deduced that it means you need every cross to get, but I can't figure out what it stands for. Google is no help.

Frantic Sloth 4:53 AM  

Pretty good theme and fill, but agree wholeheartedly with Rex (and @Joaquin 1209am) on COALS and SYNTAXES.

Seems like it would be a good Mondee workout for the beginner solver and that's what counts.


Cristi 5:07 AM  

Filled SYNTAXES and then erased it cuz I felt like I was just making stuff up...and stumbled over TRIPWIRE. But if that’s why it’s there, then fair enough. Smooth sailing until the SW.

JOHN X 5:14 AM  

JOHN X here:

My goodness gracious.

Between Thursday and today I have seen and received more love from good looking bosomy women than any man ever deserved.


Z 5:55 AM  

SYNTAXES symmetrically placed with LAS VEGAS FTW.

@Colin - WOE = What (or Who) On Earth. It is the politer expression of a WTF.

Three themers and the revealer. I like it. Sometimes less is more. Just about a perfect Monday “you, too, can solve crosswords” puzzle. Well, except for Jimmy Durante. When google images are mostly B&W you are just a wee bit dated as an entry. I’d complain about the revealer being a 40 year old novel, but I have a sense that King’s oeuvre is still fairly popular with the youngs (although my youngs all leaned more towards Chuck Palahniuk).

I liked the FLINT, MICHIGAN clue. We tend to think of Detroit as “The Motor City,” but “the Big 3” all have their strongest ties elsewhere, Dearborn for Ford and Highland Park for Chrysler. Highland Park is strange artifact of Detroit’s growth. Both it and Hamtramck are cities completely surrounded by Detroit.

LOL moment this morning was looking at the 10/28/2012 write up (because of a late comment last night) and seeing Rye, NY was the basis for a theme answer. No mention of the marina, the roller coaster, or Z’s Placebo & Tentacle Pub, though.

Flying Pediatrician 5:58 AM  

The USNAVY does love its uniforms! My current sea bag includes the following: Mess Dress Blue, Mess Dress White, Service Dress Blue, Service Dress White, Summer White, Khaki Working Uniform, Utility Uniform, Flight Suit, and PT Uniform. My first trip to the uniform shop in Newport, RI was the most money I’d ever spent at one time!

Lewis 6:39 AM  

@Z -- Great catch of SYNTAXES and LAS VEGAS!

Lewis 6:50 AM  

Happily, LEGATO is in the grid, as that is how this lovely flowing solve felt, and, speaking of music – WARBLE, SEQUINS, INCUBI! Words like this bring music to the solve, IMO, make it sing.

And I, who struggle mightily to come up with themes for puzzles I make, always wow and nod with respect when I come across a theme that’s never been done before. Interestingly, my research shows that FIRESTARTER has been theme-related six times, but never like this. So props to Daniel for originality here.

A solve including music and wowness – on a Monday! Bravo, Daniel, and thank you!

SouthsideJohnny 6:54 AM  

Jimmy Durante - that will definitely attract the younger crowd. Wasn’t he an “old timer” already even back when someone like Lyndon Johnson was President ? Interesting Monday with AMARO, AMI, LIRE, EAU, LEGATO, ET TU - so Shortz’s foreign word fetish is making its presence felt without being overbearing, which is appropriate for this day of the week.

kitshef 7:14 AM  

Theme felt a little wobbly with TINDER in there, but I guess it works metaphorically.

There are far too many musical instructions. I think I’m up to about three I can guess at, all from crosswords, but there seem to be dozens more than don’t appear often enough to stick.

AMARO on a Monday? And crossing a foreign word, to boot.

Banner day for @Roo

amyyanni 7:14 AM  

Liked this a lot. Sequiny for Monday. Agree on nixing coals and syntaxes. Mr. King deserves the homage.

mathgent 7:19 AM  

Only two red plus signs in the margins and they were a stretch. LEGATO and INCUBI.

LaurieG in CT 7:23 AM  

What On Earth

bocamp 7:33 AM  

Thank you @Daniel; nice Mon. puz to start the week. Got my FIRE STARTEd. :)

Medium solve.

Got a fake FIREplace, but it's comforting and throws out some nice heat on cold mornings.

Light My FIRE ~ Jose Feliciano

yd pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Son Volt 7:37 AM  

I liked this one - tight theme, cool revealer and the overall fill was fine. I’ve had AMARO and know a Sicilian named AMARO but I could see how the crossing with AMI could be considered late week fare. The COALS plural is odd - but liked that DURANTE who sang the Frosty song is in the puzzle. Maybe SYNTAXI?

Enjoyable solve on a beautiful Monday morning.

Spatenau 7:49 AM  

@Flying Pediatrician, I would've assumed that you get your uniforms for free when you're in the armed forces. I'm shocked.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Pseudo-pangram. All except Z in the grid but Z was a clue.

oceanjeremy 8:07 AM  

Agreed with Rex on COALS. I definitely raised an eyebrow at that. Seems akin to saying Jesus fed the 5,000 with bread and fishes.

Also agreed on TRIP WIRE. An alarm system doesn't include a TRIP WIRE – that's in a trap. Let me consult Merriam-Webster... OK, it says "a low-placed concealed wire used especially in warfare to trip an enemy or trespasser and usually to trigger an alarm or explosive device when moved." So alarm can work, but M-W's "especially in warfare" underscores my general feeling that a TRIP WIRE involves violence and potential loss of life or limb (not, say, protecting a suburban home). TRIP WIRE feels like an improvised "alarm," not part of an "alarm system."

Another nit to pick: PERKS. This should be clued "Begins to listen (up)" or something similar. Because "Corner offices and prime parking spots" are perquisites, and the abbreviation is PERq.

I know, I know: PERKS is still generally accepted as a shortened "perquisites," and is used more often even in print by established publications. And I know, grammar should be descriptive (reflecting actual use of a living language) rather than prescriptive. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

I also have to admit that both PERK(S) and "perquisite" have a "qu" in their etymological ancestry: PERK(S) comes from the Old North French perquer, which means "to perch on a tree;" and "perquisite" comes from the Medieval Latin perquisitum, which means "thing gained, profit."

I will still, stubbornly (and perhaps inaccurately), insist that "perquisite" be abbreviated as PERq.

Otherwise, a Perfectly Fine Monday.

RooMonster 8:17 AM  

Hey All !
You mean because of the three sets of F's? Then, yes. At least someone is giving them their props! 🤪

No Z? Dang, another hater. (Kidding, Daniel.)

Liked this puz. Had to work early today, so printed puz out, and solved in pen. I always try for no writeovers when I do puz on paper. So close today! LIRa-LIRE.

I see my town made the puz today, LASVEGAS. Home of the Golden Knights. Go Knights Go! Living here is different than vacationing here. I'll be here 14 years next month. Dang, that was a fast 14.

Speaking of Banner days, 23 weejects for the @M&A to peruse. That includes both Across and Down centers of four each. Not nitting, just pointing out.

Anyway, good puz, nice theme, PREREQ pretty neat. Good puz for both beginners and seasoned solvers. NW and NE corners with JAB/JAMBS and SAX/SEX. Also ETS/ETTU. Just weird things one sees. I call it the @Lewis Syndrome. 😁

Seven F's

Birchbark 8:19 AM  

Honor thy SNORER -- "There's meaning in thy snores." -- Shakespeare, "The Tempest."

Also, shouldn't it be INCUBODE?

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

Boarding a plane, there was a Navy man wearing his dress whites. My seat mate said she was glad she didn't do his laundry. My remark, "Oh, but we do."

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

AMARO is often not bitter at all, but rather sweet. Shakespeare put 'ET TU" in Caesar's mouth. We're not actually sure what Caesar said (maybe 'et tu'?), but Suetonius and Plutarch have it in Greek, καὶ σύ, τέκνον; 'even you, my child?', albeit well over a hundred years after Caesar's death.

GILL I. 8:51 AM  

Well INCUBI wants to TRY ONE on the Succubi SNORER and perform some EROTIC PERKS. She FREAKED out and began singing a LEGATO with her SAX. Thanks to the TRIP WIRE, she BIT OFF his ARM and the wannabe PLAY DATE was left without his PERKS.
Monday with some WARBLE to it and made my JAMBS JAB with wandering silliness.

Barbara S. 8:54 AM  

I liked this. It was a satisfying solve.

I know my mind is often not where it should be, but this puzzle definitely had a blue tinge. It’s the NE corner that set me off: LAS VEGAS beside PLAY DATE beside SEX. Drop your eyes and see EROTIC. Look to the upper middle and see INCUBI. The SAX has the sexiest sound of any musical instrument, IMO. And then there’s the theme: FIRESTARTER! @bocamp even posted “Come on, Baby, light my fire”! It’s irresistible!

There were some odd plurals, as has been mentioned, and just a tremendous number of plurals, I thought. I count 16: 14 ending in S, plus INCUBI and LIRE.

Here’s Henri Fuseli’s take on INCUBus.

For today’s quotation, we’re staying in the land of poetry: this one is by BILLY COLLINS, born Mar. 22, 1941.


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

I was pleased that the theme clue easily correlated with the other theme clues.
Very apt for a Monday.

alicat 8:55 AM  

Went through this like a house on fire.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

It's hard to believe Rex failed to notice the code 'NRA' inserted multiple times in this puzzle to rally all the white supremacists who read the NY Times and do its crossword puzzle. And yet there it was, hidden in plain sight in the 2nd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 12th and 14th rows. Coincidence? I don't think so!!

Hungry Mother 9:15 AM  

Pretty usual. Late getting to it due to a tough SB. I used the theme to get the reveal quickly. Nice breather after the weekend grids.

Nancy 9:30 AM  

Some very nice un-Mondayish fill -- but it didn't lead to an especially un-Mondayish solving experience. I liked seeing TRIPWIRE, SYNTAXES, INCUBI and even SEQUINS in the grid, but I galloped through the puzzle anyway with no problems. I knew what the revealer would be after seeing only MATCH and FLINT and thought the theme was pretty good, actually. I also appreciate the lack of junk -- both proper names and crosswordese -- and commend Daniel for avoiding them.

I haven't read FIRESTARTER. I don't read any Stephen King: he takes great pleasure in scaring readers to death, whereas I take great pleasure in not being scared to death.

Isn't the US NAVY absolutely the most devastatingly-dressed branch of the armed services? I can never decide if I love their dress-whites or their dress-blues best. Your feedback, ladies? Oh, and please don't anyone scold me about how politically incorrect I'm being. I don't like militarism or our huge defense budget either. But war is war and handsome is handsome and I just can't help myself. Remember Robert Redford in his dress whites ["The Way We Were"]? Devastating!

Anonymous 9:33 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Why not, instead, “Anthracite and Bituminous”?

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Old way to brew coffee?

Tim 9:42 AM  

Where is Loren Muse Smith? One begins to worry.

Ryan 10:10 AM  

@Lewis -- love your comments. Substance + generosity = a nice, needed antidote to Rex when he's on one of his tears. Not today, certainly, but I think I'm still vicariously smarting on behalf of yesterday's debut constructor! I love lovably grouchy Rex, but when the "lovably" drops out I'm glad there's Lewis and the like-minded and -hearted to restore a bit of humanity to the blog. You'll go to heaven.

Joaquin 10:11 AM  

@Anonymous (9:33) - I'm not sure what bringing coals to Newcastle or walking on hot coals have to do with "Classic eyes for Frosty", which was the basis of my comment regarding the POC. Or are you just being obtuse?

alicat 10:17 AM  

The cardinals darting about our garden have set the oak tree on FIRE with their fine Dress Reds.

Ryan 10:23 AM  

I’d meant to nest my comment (10:10) here, @Lewis. In short, keep being you!

burtonkd 10:26 AM  

@Barbara S - you forgot Tinder, the app for connecting people for the sole purpose of sex.

Musician complaint: Saw "flowing", and could only come up with con moto, or "with motion"; motion being implied by flowing. Legato means smooth and connected - it could be flowing or dead still. Knowing the close enough for xword tendency in music clues, skipped it, filled it in with crosses and didn't see it again until coming here.

I like PREREQ AND PER(q)KS in the same puzzle.

Maybe the Evadelude Dudes could get a singing gig at the Placebo and Tentacles?

My favorite TRIPWIRE trope is the room full of a laser array.

KRMunson 10:33 AM  

Well played, sir.

pabloinnh 10:40 AM  

Thought this was a fine example of NYTXC 101. Mostly fillins, but enough crunch to be interesting and raise it above the local paper crossword standard.

Someone stole the C from my CAMARO to make an answer, and we did have COALS and SYNTAXES, but at least we didn't get a discussion of COALOPODES and SYNTOPODES, thank goodness.

Nice job, DG, you Done Good.

@Barbara S-Thanks for a great Billy Collins. He's one of my favorites.

Lewis 10:42 AM  

My five favorite clues from last week
(in order of appearance):

1. Salk and Pepper, in brief (3)
2. Shortening, for short (4)
3. Score at the half? (6)
4. Places to bear witness? (4)
5. Animal that produces eggs once a year (6)(5)


bocamp 10:44 AM  

@Barbara S. (8:54 AM) 👍

Side EYES for COALS, here, too, but no harm, no foul. ☃️

Who has been putting out their COALS on my floor

td pg - 13

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

RooMonster 10:47 AM  

@Tim 9:42
She was here a couple of days ago. She's busy with life, school, and whatnot. Always a nice sight when she pops in.

We had a busy weekend here in LAS VEGAS. March Madness. On Wednesday, there were hardly any taxis or Ubers around. As a Limo driver, we were going like crazy. I think the city forgot how to be busy! Slowly but surely post-Covid-ness is happening. Stay positive! (I'll just be happy to ditch the mask!)

RooMonster Mad Guy

Anonymous 10:48 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Z 10:48 AM  

@Tim - She posted just a few days ago. I imagine being a teacher in the time of COVID is keeping her especially busy.

@Ryan - Uh - I see you are on a smart phone. Scroll to the bottom and click on “web version” and you will see that your “mistake” is irrelevant to many comment readers.

Malsdemare 10:51 AM  

@Barbara S. My favorite Billy Collins is 'Forgetfulness."

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Thank you for the lovely reminder.

Any puzzle that elicits Billy Collins poetry is aces in my book.

Anoa Bob 10:51 AM  

Took me a few minutes to settle down after seeing the parade of POCs in this one. By the time I got to that last two-POCs-with-one-S in the lower right hand corner I was totally ired, frothing at the mouth and cursing so vehemently that the computer monitor screen became covered with a fine spray of spittle. Not to worry, I always keep a washcloth handy for the monitor screen and some deep breathing along with Kargyraa chanting soothed my rage.

Still have my heavy wool peacoat that was issued during basic training back in '64. Like Spatenau @7:49 AM, I thought "How neat, they are giving us our uniforms". Later I found out they had automatically deducted $ from our monthly pay. And, yes, those dress white uniforms were tough to keep clean. But if they were not spotless, super white and with creases well-pressed, we would not pass inspection and would not get to go ashore for liberty call. And there were no sweeter words to a sailor's ear than "Liberty Call"!

One of the biggest aha moments ever for me was learning that during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep both males and females experience genital sexual arousal. Aha! That must be the source of the legends/myths of INCUBI (8D) and Succubi, demons who come to us for sex during our sleep. How else to explain waking up in a state of EROTIC arousal?

Malsdemare 10:55 AM  

@Nancy, I forgot (uh oh) to mention that being scared is right up my (dark and stormy) alley. Right now I’m reading “What Rose Forgot,” (seems to be a theme for me today) and it has me quite terrified. Nevada Barr is one of my go-to escapist authors; she usually locates her thrillers in National Parks (she was a ranger before she became a hot novelist) but this one is stand-alone. I’m enthralled.

I rather liked the puzzle though I blew through it in no time.

OffTheGrid 11:12 AM  

Scariest book I ever read was "Harvest Home" by Thomas Tryon. He also wrote "The Other", and more. He was an actor too, possibly best known for playing the cardinal in "The Cardinal" (1963).

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

two definitions (the wiki)
syntax: "In linguistics, syntax (/ˈsɪntæks/)[1][2] is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences (sentence structure) in a given language, usually including word order. "

grammar: "In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek γραμματική grammatikí) of a natural language is its set of structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clauses, phrases, and words."

flip a coin?

Carola 11:31 AM  

What a fine Monday puzzle - a solid theme embellished with SEQUINS, a LEGTO WARBLE, and the fun of the nods to the in-the-loins kind of FIRE.

@spatenau 7:49 - I was surprised to learn that, too - from a recent NPR report on a study revealing that women in the military pay much more than men for uniforms.

egsforbreakfast 11:37 AM  

Surprised that @Lewis didn’t mention that “sate” and “bonk” appear backwards (ETAS and KNOB) near the LASVEGAS PLAYDATE SEX orgy going on in the NE.

Good Monday puz to (FIRE) START the week. Thanks Daniel Grinberg.

Nancy 11:39 AM  

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

Indeed, it's not!

What great lines! What a marvelous poem! Such wit and such poignancy both. Such blazing originality of thought and expression. Thanks, @Mals (10:51) for introducing me to it. It's so wonderful that I'll certainly try to commit it to memory. But because I am Exhibit A in the great pantheon of Billy Collins' forgetful people, I shall almost certainly fail :)

(I do remember, however, that the "L" river is the LETHE.)

Ellen S 11:43 AM  

@Nancy 9:30, I am a venerable anti-war activist. That said, I’m more interested in what’s inside the uniform than the uniform itself. So I’m kinda soft on Marines. Not these modern ones they have that are tall and skinny; I don’t know what they’re good for. But the previous generation were shorter and more muscular. There was an episode of, I think Dragnet, called “You Can’t Kill a Marine.” The Marine in question picks up a homocidal hitch-hiker who tries to kill him by stabbing him repeatedly in the back, to no avail.

Returning to uniforms, I cut across the State Capitol grounds early one Memorial Day. A bunch of I suppose National Guard were setting up chairs for a ceremony later in the morning, but they were wearing desert camo fatigues so who knows, Anyway, I came back from my errand later, while the ceremony was in progress, chairs occupied by dignitaries, and all these chair-setting-up chaps were standing around the perimeter, still in their camo. I figured maybe that’s my tax dollars saving money by not providing dress uniforms. Not exactly the part of the military budget I had in mind for cutting. But I thought it was a poor way to honor the many who had fallen in battle defending the rich.

Whatsername 11:46 AM  

I liked this breezy, fresh Monday. Yes it was very easy but that’s what Mondays are for. Maybe I’m just in a good mood because I’m again hearing the birds WARBLE and flowers are blooming but this puzzle pleased me.

A quick DROP of FLINT MICHIGAN in 18A immediately made me think of @Z. I’ve owned a number of General Motors vehicles and only one stinker among them. A late 70s full-size Pontiac equipped with a compact model transmission which of course failed in the early going and cost about $500 to replace. Turned out a lot of people were in the same boat and GM ended up with a massive class action suit on their hands. I eventually got most of my money back but it took nearly 10 years and a lot of persistence.

There’s no question that LED bulbs are energy efficient according to this comparison test.

mathgent 11:48 AM  

Thanks to Barbara (8:54) and Malsdemare (10:51) for the Billy Collins poems. I just looked him up. He was Poet Laureate in 2003. Amazon has several of his books. Please recommend one or two.

TJS 12:13 PM  

Yes. Thanks for the Billy Collins intro. I had never heard of him or come across his work but I will be looking for more. Fascinating style.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

@mathgent - When it comes to books, I always try to buy the good ones.

Masked and Anonymous 12:38 PM  

LAX SAX SEX FIX. Well, there's yer staff weeject pick rodeo. Nice OD of weeject stacks in the NE & SW & N & S, btw.

Actually, sorta more like FIRESTARTERstarters, for the theme mcguffin. Hot stuff.

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {Comedian Jimmy who joked of his "schnozzola"} = DURANTE. This was a free set of seven puzgrid square fills, at our house. Younger folks could perhaps check out the "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" flick … Jimmy Durant has a cool dyin scene, near the front end of the story. He literally kicks a bucket, as he reveals the plot mcguffin, then suddenly jerks out his legs as he dies. Classic stuff.

missed opportunity: Coulda maybe have had JAM crossin JAMBS, right ought the chute. A near epic Ow de Speration flirt with destiny.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Grinberg.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Carola 12:48 PM  

@malsdemere 10:51 - That was the poem that introduced me to Billy Collins years ago. I'm not trying to be funny in saying that I'd forgotten how wonderful it is in its quiet, humorous, and devastating way. Thank you for posting it.

Flying Pediatrician 1:12 PM  

Enlisted Sailors get a uniform allowance (though it’s not enough to cover the full cost). Officers get a tiny initial credit at commissioning. Special duty gear (flight gear, e.g.) is issued at no cost, but the rest is paid out-of-pocket. I’m happy to do it, though, because my wife says the Dress Blues keep our marriage alive! Haha ...

Lion 1:15 PM  


oceanjeremy 1:23 PM  


CT2Napa 1:32 PM  

@mathgent -- order books from your local indie bookstore -- Napa Bookmine if you are in Napa

Howie 1:50 PM  

Nice going, Rex, to post the cartoon of "frosty the Snowman" with DURANTE singing the song.

Barbara S. 1:52 PM  

I’m glad Billy Collins is finding new audiences. I have to confess that before last week I’d never read any of his work (although I was aware of his name from my bookstore days). I wondered, though, if he’d seem like old hat on the blog because he’d been poet laureate and maybe was generally well-known in the U.S.

@Malsdemare (10:51)
Thanks so much for giving us “Forgetfulness”. It was high on my short list of possible poems to post. In fact, I don’t think I read a Collins poem that didn’t make that list.

I opted for “Litany” because the concept of “meta” sometimes comes up in discussion here, and I thought this was a meta-poem par excellence. It’s in dialogue with itself, with another poem (by the Belgian poet Jacques Crickillon), with the conventions of poetry (notably imagery and metaphor), and, most hilariously, it’s having a good old chat with each of us, its readers. I thought this was wittily and engagingly done. And I was very struck by the way he changes tone, from serious in the first stanza, to funny through the middle, and (heart-stoppingly) back to serious in the last three lines.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your great response and hats off to all the new Collins fans.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

The coals in the expression colas to Newcastle ere precisely the objects that the kids use as eyes in Frosty the snowman. Coals is, once again not a plural of convenience as you asserted, nor an incorrect or even uncommon usage as Rex asserts.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

@oceanjeremey 8:07 AM, fishes refers to more than one species. So, Jesus could very well have provided loaves and fishes.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

@Colin 3:15 AM

I think WOE stands for WHAT ON EARTH? Thing is AMARO has become a lot better known in the US than it used to be.

A 2:42 PM  

Happy World Water Day!

EAU de vie, or “wet bars?”

Nice Monday puzzle, no PREREQs needed. Always like seeing my SAAB in the grid. Shift into reverse and there’s MR. A with his GILA, too.

Sparks in the theme and some of the fill - SEQUINS, LEDS, ATOMs, and the combustible COALS and ALDER.

SPLatzed in LPS with a fleeting thought that CDS could fit, but we ended up with both formats after all.

It did get a bit tiresome putting in all those S’s. SYNTAXES was a LOL moment, thinking of Anoa Bob. (Come to think of it, shouldn’t that be SYNTAcES? But what’s FIc?) BFFS is the worst, though. Don’t care for BFF to start with, but Best Friend ForeverS?

You know unsavory men came up with INCUBI as a way to discredit the victims of their secret molestations. “What, me, have SEX with your sister? That’s INANE! I went UP TO the PUB with the LADS. She must have been visited by an EROTIC demon in her sleep. Now DROP it ERE you raise my IRE!

Nice work, Mr. Grinberg, thanks for the grins.

Joe Dipinto 2:42 PM  

@burtonkd – good observation on legato. It's really just technique: playing or singing notes connectedly, as opposed to staccato or with audible separations in between. "Flowing" conveys more of an interpretive aspect of the passage's character. To me, anyway.

Love the poetry choices today. Billy Collins grew up in Queens, I see. A homeboy.

tea73 3:04 PM  

My son is a Naval officer and I think half the reason he signed up was because he loves dressing up. Apparently so far he's had very little occasion to wear the cute uniforms.

Nice straightforward Monday puzzles I'm enjoying the Billy Collins fest. Here's my contribution.

The Lanyard
By Billy Collins
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

GILL I. 3:07 PM  

@Flying Pediatrician 1:12. Our son..a proud Marine, had to pay for everything. He had to pay for his first issued dress blues which were required. He served for 20 years; five tours of duty and he still keeps his uniform spankin clean.- proudly hanging up in his closet.
@Ellen S.....You're right...."You Can't Kill a Marine." Unfortunately, you also can't erase some horrific memories.

Just Asking 3:12 PM  

Woe as in sorrow or distress

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

"Coals to Newcastle" really should be "Coal to Newcastle". The "S" is an error that unfortunately survived.

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

Anonymous 3:34,
Really? Got a citation? Because I've never heard or read coal to Newcastle. Heck, google coal to Newcastle and it fixed your "correction" to coals to Newcastle. Try it. Or don't. I don't give a fig. But the expression is carrying coals to Newcastle. Rex was full of it by claiming the small dry pieces of fuel cant be called coals, and Joaquin was equally mistaken for calling it a plural of convenience.
This isn't even close call by the way. Some expressions do have variants. This aint one of em, you know the one where a google search reveals two competing versions. Your usage coal to Newcastle , for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist at all.

Lyn 4:10 PM  

Great clue!

Z 4:35 PM  

@Anon1:52 & 3:58 - If only the clue had used the Newcastle phrase instead of Frosty. Rex even provided video proof that The Frosty Canon™️ is specifically COAL not COALS, with bouncing top hat no less. Also, as @Anoa Bob will explain through a link to his explanation, PoC is a term about using plurals to make a word fit. The only reason we have COALS instead of COAL is to make the symmetry work.
BTW - The phrase is British and, as I’ve said before, they don’t speak English over there. If you take a peek at Merriam-Websters handy dandy usage examples you might notice that on this side of the pond COALS seems to be reserved for what you find in a grill or fire pit. As for “selling coal to Newcastle,” I think you will find evidence for this non-British variant. Just another example of us revolutionaries having to correct the queen’s English.

The more important question (since Z’s Placebo and Tentacle Pub will be solar powered) is whether or not a Frosty meets @Barbara S’s non-alcoholic beverage requirements. Although... Frosty is probably trademark so we will just have to have a Frozty on the menu.

RooMonster 4:58 PM  

When I was in the Army, the initial issue of uniforms (I forget how many [maybe 6 total outfits?])(but it included t-shirts, socks, undies, pants, uniform shirts, 1 pair of boots, hats, Dress Greens) were free. If you wanted more, or even a new pair of boots, then you had to buy them (after Basic.)

My experience was, you fly into the closest big airport (St. Louis, my case, Basic at Ft. Leonard Wood), they bus you to the Holdover section, which is pre-Basic Training, where they cut your hair off to just a buzz, then get your uniforms (they measure you like a tailor, and shout back to the ones by the pants, etc., and that's the sizes you get), then get your immunization shots. I got four at one time! Two sets of two, as you keep stepping one after the other person. Then a couple days later, you go on a cattle truck (which looks exactly as it sounds), and off you go to your Basic Training unit.

Then the Sergeant steps on the cattle truck, yelling and screaming to "get your ass off here and assemble!" Then you have to put your dog tags on the chain, while extremely nervous, with shaky hands, constantly being yelled at. Fun stuff.


Frantic Sloth 5:02 PM  

@tea73 304pm And so now Mrs. Sloth and I are sobbing and laughing...mostly sobbing. Thank you. Thank everyone for the trip through that marvelous mind of Billy Collins.

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

Pish posh. Absolute rubbish. Rex makes the general claim that coals is not a legitimate plural. He is of course mistaken. That he is correct in a separate assertion that the word coal is used in the song Frosty the Snowman in no way makes his other claim correct.
Why you failed to mention the greater part of Rex ‘s strident rant is, sadly, not a mystery to any long-time reader of this blog.

pabloinnh 5:14 PM  


Thanks so much for a wonderful Billy Collins. I'll put my socks back on now, if I can find them, I seem to be a little misty eyed.

Barbara S. 5:25 PM  

@tea73 (3:04 PM)
That touched the heart -- thanks.

@Z (4:35 PM)
Hmm. It's important we define our terms. The Urban Dictionary tells me that Frosty is "Marijuana that possesses a large quantity of THC resin crystals on the outside of the buds." Yeah, man.

Or, bearing in mind your post of last night, maybe you're thinking more along the lines of Wendy's Famous Frosty. It's been around since 1969 when Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy's in Columbus, OH. (I bet a lot of the other type of frosty was around then, too.)

But as far as the Fro@Zty is concerned, here are my requirements: exotic flavors, not too sweet -- go for flavor over sugar, interesting colors (but naturally obtained: no chemical dyes), thick enough to require a spoon. Wendy's says the ideal serving temperature for their's is 19-21 degrees F. Experimentation may be required.

Unknown 6:11 PM  

Not at all a poetry fan, but this Collins guy - WOW!

A 6:36 PM  

Barbara S, Malsdemare and tea73, thanks from another new fan for the three engaging Collins works!

@burtonkd and Joe D, I already had the G of LEGATO, so in it went, but I was raising a mental eyebrow at that one, too. Couldn’t squeeze in "Fliessender."

bocamp 6:39 PM  

@tea73 (3:04 PM) re: The Lanyard

Beautiful, and so true!


You were right about the 593; first one finished at one go. :)

td 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ TOLERANCE ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Nancy 6:58 PM  

Another really beautiful poem from Billy Collins. Thanks for that, @Tea73. Like so many others here, I found it extremely moving. This guy is really good!!!

Z 7:36 PM  

@Barbara S - 👍🏽 Açaí & Ugli flavored Frozty will be Top of the Menu. I’m sure we will have to have an Oreo flavored Frotzy for all of our constructor customers.

@Anon - Pish would have been okay, but Posh is a step too far. No roller coaster for you. ☃️☃️☃️

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

Ok!, Agreed.
BTW, you’d like Rye. A lot. It’s pretty ritzy. Close to the water (obviously) and the big town.
But do a Google search on property taxes. And to forestall any questions, no, they have misplaced a decimal point.
Good luck w your cafe.

Barbara S. 10:10 PM  

AÇAI and UGLI are inspired choices -- crossworthy and drinkworthy. May I also suggest APPLE (Bob hope) and SLOE berry. I know the latter raises the spectre of gin, but I think a SLOE Frozty will really add class to the joint.

Amy 11:46 PM  

Amaro is not a woe. It is delicious. (Plus amaro means “bitter” in Italian, appropriately enough.)

Michael Fleming 8:20 AM  

The print version clue for 37D was split between columns, so I only saw “they establish order” and assumed it was SiN TAXES. I didn’t get it until I read this blog and realized I’d missed “in language classes”. But clearly there had to be a Y in there given the cross. How did SYN cover for SiN? Sigh...

thefogman 10:26 AM  

An easy FIX for the clue to COALS is 18D: Embers. I’m not FREAKED out about it, but a PREREQ for the NYTXW editor is to not be SEW LAX about such things.

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Got the theme early on, but when I saw the revealer tied to a Stephen King novel...you had me. You didn't even need LASVEGAS, where I live, or perennial DOD Tina FEY, whom I...but that's another story.

For a Monday, I was surprised I had to guess in the NE with LEDS/LEGATO/ALIG. That name seemed so improbable, but I didn't have anything better for the crosses. Googling post-solve, I found some old-time hood named Michael ALIG; that didn't fit. But then there was a listing for an ALI G, a nom de guerre of Sacha Baron Cohen. No wonder I never heard of him. I never thought he was the least bit funny, just incredibly gross.

Did they stop making SAABs? Aww. Man, I AM old. This guy loves his double-F's: BITOFF, CLIFFS, BFFS. Side theme with Mr. King and INCUBI. Might be the only horror he hasn't specifically written about. TRIPWIRE evokes Tilly Masterson with Bond on the hill overlooking Goldfinger's plant. Poor thing.

My favorite DURANTE quote: "Eighty-eight keys defeated by TEN dainty little fingers!"

Birdie, and good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

Burma Shave 12:10 PM  


Set your PLAYDATE on FIRE:


rondo 12:57 PM  

YES, basic and perfectly acceptable. If 57d would have been SOX there coulda been a mini-theme with SAX SEX SIX SOX in the NE and SW corners, no U or Y words there.

Loved when Jimmy DURANTE literally 'kicked the bucket' in Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Hachachacha.

YES, Tina FEY. Come on baby light my FIRE.

Nice puz, no spilled INK.

leftcoaster 3:07 PM  

Some light stumbles here and there slowing down the pace, starting with AMARO. Tried PLAYtime before PLAYDATE and Aspen before ALDER. Paused over the SYNTAXES / WARBLE pair and wondered about PREREQ before getting the Q in SEQUINS.

Good theme and enjoyed the puzzle overall.

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