Animator Klasky who co-created "Rugrats" / FRI 3-26-21 / Phil Silvers character of 1950s TV / Amazon comedy drama set in a New Jersey country club in the 1980s / Group with a member-centric acronym / River through the Carolinas

Friday, March 26, 2021

Constructor: Daniel Larsen

Relative difficulty: Medium 

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: TENUTO (41D: "Hold it," in music) —
in a manner so as to hold a tone or chord firmly to its full value used as a direction in music (
• • •

It's not that this is bad. It's that I can't believe that with all the submissions they're allegedly getting, this is the best that's out there. There are a couple wonderful answers, but the rest of it hums along at a "merely OK" level. A Friday puzzle should pop All Over the Place, and maybe it's just my professorial profession, but THESIS STATEMENT does not set off any fireworks—a long, grid-spanning entry that is honestly a little dreary. I did TAKE A DEEP BREATH before writing this, but that somehow hasn't improved my feeling about the overall quality, which, again, is fine, in the sense of adequate, but only just. Things were unpromising enough after the first minute or two that I stopped to take a screenshot so that I could have a record of why the puzzle felt mediocre early on:

I guess SECRET FILES is fine, but then when it's used as a cross-reference for crosswordese surveillance orgs. (CIA, NSA), I start thinking it is less than fine. As you can see in the screenshot, lots is happening, none of it particularly interesting. But the marquee answers were still to come, and I will admit that when I got those two long Acrosses under SECRET FILES (i.e. STAY-AT-HOME DAD and "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA!?"), I thought "OK, cool, we're back in business!" But then nothing much happened for the entire rest of the solve. Somehow SERGEANT BILKO didn't really excite me. Is the "date" at the DESERT OASIS supposed to be a fruit? (62A: Place for a hot date?). When I solved it, I thought it was a calendar date, like ... the day you happened to be at the oasis (?) ... and the fruit angle is better, but not better enough to improve the puzzle much. This just gave me a case of the blahs, which is the last place I want to be on a Friday (well, maybe not The Last place, but you get the idea). 

There were some real off-putting moments in this one, for me, both of them comic book-related. First of all, the STAN LEE clue made me "ugh" and sigh and roll my eyes and etc. (1D: Provenance of many superheroes). First, the answer promises to be something exciting like SPIDER BITE or COSMIC RADIATION but is instead just the guy who co-created a bunch of superheroes. And second, let's talk about that "co-" in co-created. I hate that the general public persists in forgetting Jack Kirby. Lee was so good at self-promotion that he has come to be seen as the sole creator of all those early Marvel heroes, but he was not the *sole* creator of any of them. There is no Thor or Fantastic Four or X-Men or Iron Man without Jack Kirby, whose dynamic art *defined* the early Marvel era and influenced generations of cartoonists after him, up to the present. He also co-created Captain America (with Joe Simon). Steve Ditko was the co-creator of "Spider-Man." I know Lee has the more favorable crossword name, but stop giving him more credit than he deserves. And speaking of comic-book heroes, what in the world are you doing with that Bat-Man clue on EAR!? (59D: Distinctive part of a Batman costume). Seriously, the one ear? Singular? "Part" = EARS. You would never say or think "Look at the single EAR on that Bat-Man costume, no, don't look at the other EAR!? I said EAR, singular! Why can't you follow instructions!?" Probably.

My arm is Very sore this morning, so I'm going to go take it easy today, and celebrate my vaccine heroism with hot coffee now and a cocktail tonight. It was so delightful to see all the eager 50-somethings at the vaccination site yesterday. Humans of disparate backgrounds can collaborate on worthwhile endeavors if they try. Take care, see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. ABBA is a "member-centric acronym" because the letters stand for the names of the four members of the group: Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid.

P.P.S. "RED OAKS" is a good show. Worth your time, especially if the only Paul Reiser work you've ever seen is "Mad About You." He's fantastic.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 6:46 AM  

Magnificent cross of THESIS STATEMENT and WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA.

Smitty 6:56 AM  

Good write up today Rex

Conrad 7:05 AM  

This puzzle combined the old (SERGEANT BILKO) with the very old (AGORAS). But aside from "skewing old," which bothers me a lot less than it bothers Rex, I liked it. Proper Friday level of difficulty. My only real hang-up was that my member-centric group was Aarp. Given the cross-references with 1A, 29A and 35D, I was a little surprised that 60D (ELI) wasn't cross-referenced to 19A (YALE).

amyyanni 7:09 AM  

What Smitty wrote. Always love waking on Friday morning and looking forward to the Friday puzzle. Sgt Bilko tickled me more than Rex. Hope everyone gets their shots asap.

bocamp 7:13 AM  

Thank you @Daniel for an excellent Fri. offering. On my wavelength all the way. :)

Very easy solve. 1/2 Fri. avg.

Unusual for me to get first traction in the NE. Got LEGO, SADFACE, EDITS, AREAS, and was off and running. Only a slight holdup in the SE with REDOAKS crossing OUT.

Love Theme from STELMO's Fire ~ David Foster

Enjoyed watching Phil Silvers as SERGEANT BILKO back in the day.

yd 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

pabloinnh 7:23 AM  

Thanks goodness for SERGEANTBILKO, I was wandering around looking for a solid toehold and there he was. Things proceeded smoothly enough from there and I finally opened the SECRETFILES somewhere near the end and finished up a pleasant ride.

Learned the co=creator of Rug Rats, nice, I had been wondering about that. Hello to REDOAKS, which is another Amazon offering new to me. DESERTOASIS has a green-painty feel to me and my inner teenager paused to snicker at VOLUPTUARY, a word I have not seen in a very long time. And hello to old friend PEEDEE, was hoping it would be you when I read the clue, and it was.

My granddaughter hit me with a well-timed WHATSTHEBIGIDEA when she was two, so that one made me smile then and now.

In short, I liked this one a lot. Thanks for the fun, DL. Dee-Lightful.

Alan 7:23 AM  

FWIW I got a rejection email yesterday claiming they’re getting over 200 submissions per week. A LOT of people have taken up constructing during the pandemic, it seems!

kitshef 7:30 AM  

I have no doubt there will be people who loved this puzzle.

As for me, it’s as though the constructor has been reading the blog notes, and built a puzzle specifically designed to irritate me.

Two of the long answers are the damnable “quotation” clues, and one of them crosses another quote clue.

Not one but two music notation terms. Surprisingly, one of them (forte) was one of the very few I know. Unsurprisingly, the other one (TENUTO) was one of the very many I’ve never heard of.


35D clued by referencing 1A. Don’t make me look around needlessly. It’s like a book index where you look up “warm honey” and it says “see honey, warm”. Then you go to “honey, warm” and it says p. 28.

Really niche PPP. ARLENE Klasky, RED OAKS.

Mike G 7:50 AM  

Anyone else get stuck with GOT FAT?

Hungry Mother 7:52 AM  

I knew BILKO, so the bottom of the puzzle filled itself in. I got the long ones pretty quickly in general.

Texas Momma 7:57 AM  

Today is the first time I’ve completed a Friday with no mistakes and no cheating. I’m even more pleased to find it wasn’t rated as easy by Rex. By the way 39:42. Hooray for me.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

Don't drink a cocktail. Might have immunosuppressant properties.

Lewis 8:08 AM  

First thing I thought of when I saw the corners of the grid was those corner stickers that affix photos to albums.

Daniel is a technician; his grids are cleanly filled. In past notes of his, he says the area he needs to work most on is cluing. And in the past, his clues were mainly direct in his weekend puzzles, when more wordplay and guile is called for. Today’s puzzle shows nice gains on that front. Lovely clues for TEES, MOAT, DEAL IN, and especially STAY AT HOME DAD. So maybe those corner stickers are prescient, Daniel, maybe this puzzle should go in your album of notable puzzles.

Something I love about Will Shortz – he recognizes diamonds in the rough, and sees them through over time to where they become polished and special. He plays the long game as well as focusing on the immediate, and we see it bearing fruit with Daniel.

I loved the upper stack in this grid – terrific answers! – as well as HOOPS crossing SPORT. For a Friday, I romped through the grid, which still had enough bite to made me exit feeling proud. Thank you, Daniel, for a most enjoyable journey!

Barbara S. 8:08 AM  

I thought this was absolutely fine. I got off to a slow start. No idea about any of the top three marquees, and I couldn’t figure any of the early downs until I got to 10D and plunked in EDITS. Then got SAD FACE beside it and started working on the smaller acrosses at the ends of those answers, GOT FAR, SALE and CIA. The puzzle very slowly OPENed up from there. The first marquee I got was STAYATHOMEDAD, which I liked as an answer, and I thought the clue was cute (Pop around a lot?). On the other side of the grid I got HEN pretty early and then plopped in “Eton” for the Whiffenpoofs, but I decided almost immediately that I wanted WHYS for “Reasons”, so “Eton” had to skedaddle in favor of YALE. And so it went, kinda slow and steady. I was hampered in the south by my strange inability to spell SERGEANT. I always want that word to start with SEA or even SA, and then it’s all downhill from there. The very last letter filled in was the H at the end of 21A (Like sauces in French cuisine, typically). I had RIC_ and oddly couldn’t see RICH. I was thinking of something more specifically French, I guess. And without that H, I also couldn’t fathom I MIGHT for “We’ll see”. IMIG_T looked like “I’M-something” but I’M IG_T was not resolving into anything. But all was well in the end, and I came in bang-on my usual Friday time.

Today’s excerpt is by ERICA JONG, born Mar. 26, 1942.

Stop this nonsense of running from one man to the next. Stand on my own two feet for once. Why was that so terrifying? The other options were worse weren’t they? A lifetime of Freudian interpretations or a lifetime of Laingian interpretations! What a choice! I might as well join forces with a religious fanatic, a Scientology freak, or a doctrinaire Marxist. Any system was a straitjacket if you insisted on adhering to it so totally and humorlessly. I didn’t believe in systems. Everything human was imperfect and ultimately absurd. What did I believe in then? In humor. In laughing at systems, at people, at one’s self. In laughing even at one’s own need to laugh all the time. In seeing life as contradictory, many-sided, various, funny, tragic, and with moments of outrageous beauty. In seeing life as a fruitcake, including delicious plums and bad peanuts, but meant to be devoured hungrily all the same because you couldn’t feast on the plums without also sometimes being poisoned by the peanuts.
(From Fear of Flying)

bocamp 8:14 AM  

@Texas Momma 7:57 AM 👍

Peace ~ Empathy ~ AMITY ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Z 8:18 AM  

@Trxas Momma - 🎉🍾🎉🍾🎉🍾🎉

Birchbark 8:25 AM  

Thanks @Rex for providing the name-centric ABBA names = Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid. I like them better now, especially Benny.

No e-mail unanswered: The delete button is a more elegant PATH to INBOX zero. Some items in my INBOX say "Do not reply": what callous desperado ignores the sender's wishes here? "Not I," said the STAY AT HOME DAD (pending office reopening in September).

PlebE --> PROLE slowed things down in the East.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

That's it--I'm done--So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

Another terrific puzzle trashed with faint (hardly any, actually) praise by Rex for not one good reason. Second one in a week. Do I need to start my days this way? I do not. I am so outa here.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

As a stay at home dad that answer delighted me

George Dies (HP Labs) 8:44 AM  

I fully expected a link to Maria Muldaur’s excellent “Midnight at the Oasis”

RooMonster 8:46 AM  

Hey All !
Holy smokes, the ole brain is working this morning! Everything was just popping into my mind, with nary a "what the what is that?" Set a Personal Best today of 13:14, which is Super-Duper fast for me. Only two writeovers, and amazingly they didn't hold me up for long, madeit-GOTFAR, acne-CYST. Technically had EDNA in, but took out, only to discover it was correct. Is there a term for that? Maybe call it a Dang? As in, "Dang, it was correct!"

Interesting corner blocks, which are technically cheater-squares. But they add to the neatness of the puz. Had a fun time with this, regardless what Rex said. 😁

COVID shot update: Had no effect from Second Shot. YAY ME! I guess the drinking of plenty of water was the key. Only had 147 bathroom trips...

Two F's

Nancy 8:47 AM  

A dermatologist's concern" is ACNE, RASH or CYST.
You want to write an answer now, but wisely you resist.
No need to guess and make a mess, it's best to wait till later
When "Pop around a lot" produces 12 Across's Pater.

Ah, yes, that "Y" from STAY AT HOME DAD (wonderful clue/answer, btw) made CYST really easy. If I'd had to guess earlier (and, happily, you never do) I would have guessed RASH. Easier letters to work with. But I did think of CYST up front. How about you?

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. Lively fill and good cluing, combined with just enough challenge, makes it a good puzzle for a HEDONIST. Which I certainly am, though not a "voluptuary". Really not the same thing, Daniel, but a clue that was still perfectly fair and didn't give me any problem.

Rube 8:47 AM  

So this was easy but not unenjoyable. Gimmes SERGEANTBILKO and PEEDEE (altho Santee could have been right) meant the entire bottom half was almost instantaneously .
filled in.
But it is EAR that is irksome. It is a terrible clue and many are saying that but we shouldn't simply complain about the clue per se. It's that there are so many better choices...easier ones, harder ones, more obscure ones. This is where I don't understand what the editor is doing. Oh well.

Blackhat 8:55 AM  

Flew through the top half and 1/4 of bottom in record time, then the PPP ruined what I thought was going to be a fun puzzle.
Only 1 PPP in top 1/2. 9 in lower half including a 15 letter name for a sitcom character who was famous 20 years before I was born. UGH!!
Started out like the King of Crosswords...ended as a DNF whiner.

Flying Pediatrician 8:55 AM  

I didn’t know “INBOX ZERO” was a thing! It makes my neurosis sound more normal. Any time I don’t have INBOX ZERO, I get twitchy. Love it.

Have intermittently played STAY AT HOME DAD during the pandy. Impossible job. I could never do it well! Huge shout-OUT to stay at home parents.

GILL I. 8:59 AM  

Ok..yes: I am woman EAR me roar. Did the other EAR get the SACRE bleu?
Second Ok....When I can get a 15 across answer off of one little letter, I do an Erica Jong's life as a fruitcake dance. My friend AGORA gave me TAKE A DEEP BREATH. I did.
I actually enjoyed this because I always seem to enjoy a Friday I can solve without having to do too much laundry.
I had a little trouble with that stud alternatives at 28D. I kept thinking of the muffin man....turns out it was HOOPS. Wrong definition.
Why can't I spell LEGO? I keep thinking it needs an eggo....
Favorite answer? HEDONIST... Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street." My mind wanders, once again.

Shot number 2 today at noon.....Stay tuned.

Z 9:05 AM  

That initial screenshot looks a whole whole lot like my grid (on paper the way Gof intended) looked. My first secure answer was SALE and so I ended working mostly counterclockwise. This gave me I MIGHT crossing — IG IDEA and had me wondering where the missing N went.
I had most of the downs when I put in the last couple of letters of HEDONIST and then looked at the clue the first time and took a double take before realizing that the suffix makes it work. Spent precious nanoseconds considering whether or not Z’s Placebo and Tentacle Pub needs to hire an effete VOLUPTUARY (pick your favorite definition of “effete”). I then wasted more precious nanoseconds wondering if there is ever an odd TENOR? And would he sing Over the Rainbow well?

This has a generally fair level of PPP at 18 of 66, but SERGEANT BILKO is very much an “Under 60 need not apply” near grid-spanner. Other than that initial E always looking vaguely wrong to me, that was a gimme here, but not from ever having seen more than a clip or two. I do a fair number of puzzles and the NYTX is the only one that so regularly caters to the 60+, even 70+ crowd. Nostalgia is fine but I still like looking forward. Again, perfectly crossworthy but also Pop Culture that has lost its bubbly effervescence and tastes a little flat now.

CIA/NSA clues - feature or annoying bug needing to be squished? I’m team fly swatter.

I liked “Heart of...” to clue a middle grid spanner. Spent too much of my life haggling over grading rubrics that included the phrase “clear and concise THESIS STATEMENT” to avoid groaning over the answer. Z: If you have the same phrase for 3rd grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade then you don’t actually know what a “clear and concise THESIS STATEMENT” is and if we can’t explain the difference how is the student supposed to know?
{Why, yes, the State mandated rubric did have the exact same “standard” for elementary, middle school, and high school students. And you wonder why good educators rail against “standardized testing)

Liked this more than Rex, but “diamond in the rough” is a fair assessment.

LindsayZ 9:07 AM  

I was proud that my very first answer was STAY-AT-HOME DAD and that I guessed it immediately. I think I'm going to pay more attention to which wordplay clues I get immediately vs taking a bit to see if there's a pattern (certain creators, topic, style, etc(.

Frantic Sloth 9:09 AM  

Didn't we just have TAKEADEEPBREATH in a grid recently? No matter - lots of white squares! Yay!

Lots of longs, mostly* dreck-free, and finished in less than half the time of last week's Fridee offering.
Feelin' pretty smart right about now, so thank you....wait. I just saw the constructor's pic on of those teenaged phenoms.
Never mind. Not feeling so smart now. 🙄

*remember @Roo's Rool!

PPP seems rather low, too. Hate it when I have nothing to grouse about. 😕


Birchbark 9:12 AM  

@Nancy (8:47) exactly describes my "itch, raSh, CYST" bobblings, though mine were stumbling and prosaic to her jazzy poetry.

Mothra 9:15 AM  

Plunked down STAY AT HOME DAD based solely on the clue, first entry of the puzzle...yay me!!

Richard Stanford 9:21 AM  

That’s where I started as well. I knew that AtEAS was wrong but had the damndest time figuring it out especially since the pronunciation locked into my brain somehow and none of the crosses were
Obviously Wrong.

Nancy 9:24 AM  

@Barbara S -- ETON, not YALE for The Whiffenpoofs???!!! Only a Canadian could make such a mistake, methinks! But help is on the way. Your "Whippenpoof Song"-deprived life is about to come to an end. I have listened to all the various YouTube Yale Choruses singing it and have chosen this class's version especially for you.

It's usually performed as a comedy song, but whenever they get to the line "Damned from here to eternity" I always cry. Every single time. I find this song immensely moving and I have no idea why.

Oh, and thanks, Barbara, for the Erica Jong passage. "Fear of Flying" was probably my favorite novel of the entire decade. It's brilliant, and I loved it despite its scatological excesses, not because of them. I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it -- although, who knows?, it might seem a little dated now. It was a novel very much of its era.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Spent 10 minutes trying to spell Sergeant. Was sure it started Sar.. Then realized the slang is Sarge. No wonder.

herrdr 9:29 AM  

TV Bilko...
"Doberman, your laundry's back. They wouldn't accept it.

Norrin2 9:38 AM  

Actually, giving Stan Lee co-creator credit is pretty generous. It was mostly Kirby, Ditko, Colan and others who created these characters. Lee made them come alive and should be honored for that.

Chris 9:40 AM  

Hand up @Mike G for GOTFAT.
Can't believe y'all complain about YALU and are OK with PEEDEE. They were both gimmees for me, but the latter b/c I grew up in NC. I expected squawking.

Nice puzzle, BTW. Liked the long acrosses. Seemed like it was playing a little hard, but ended up just below average time.

Frantic Sloth 9:44 AM  

@Texas Momma 757am Well done, you! Good time, too! 👍🥂👏

Sir Hillary 9:48 AM  

Too much green paint -- SECRETFILES, DEALIN, GOTFAR, DESERTOASIS (is there another kind?) -- but otherwise this was decent enough. I like the symmetrical frustrated-to-calm arc of WHATSTHEBIGIDEA and TAKEADEEPBREATH, as well as the clues for EAT, STAYATHOMEDAD and DEERE. The only true junk I can see is TRIS -- pretty good for a 66-worder.

Gotta admit though, I can't find much more to say about it. Decent enough.

I solved from the bottom up -- a little scary that SERGEANTBILKO was my foothold, as the show ended 5 years before I was born, and yet I've never heard of REDOAKS.

Rex's STANLEE anger is funny, but I have to assume he's right.

Carola 10:28 AM  

@Lewis, thanks for pointing out that terrific cross of THESIS STATEMENT and "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?"! Exactly! In my comments to students, I usually phrased it more along the lines of "Be specific" :)

This one was a Friday frolic for me, although I have to admit to a mental SPLAT at wondering, "Why would you go on a date at a DESERT OASIS?" Maybe if you were meeting Sherif Ali (hi, @GILL I.). I got a kick out of STAN LEE, and loved seeing "Voluptuary" in the clues.

@Nancy, big smile for your verse!

ZGR 10:51 AM  

Oasis clue so stupid and hilarious. First puzzle clue to make me laugh in a while.

jae 10:53 AM  

Easy. Pretty smooth with a bit of sparkle. ARLENE (as clued) and REDOAKS were WOES. I just read the reviews of REDOAKS and it MIGHT be worth a look.

Watched and enjoyed BILKO as a kid and liked the puzzle.

...After I wrote the above last night we watched the pilot episode of REDOAKS. @Rex is right, its a good show and Richard Kind is also fantastic.

TJS 11:08 AM  

Oh God, I think my 13 year old lap top is dead. I have solved the last two days on my phone and it is just as horrible an experience as I always thought it would be. As a result, I have no thoughts on the puzzle quality. This is sheer hell. What's an HDDO failure ?

egsforbreakfast 11:22 AM  

This puzzle made me long for the days of being a STAY AT work DAD. WHATSTHEBIGIDEA? According to SACRE TEES, it’s that the world we see consists of shadows of the true objects.

This played a bit tough, but fair and enjoyable for me. Thanks Daniel Larsen.

Whatsername 11:23 AM  

Have to agree with @Frantic today, nothing really to grouse about. Darn it. Loved the long crosses and big center down and they were all fair, Not a dirty trick in the bunch and low percentage of PPPs overall. New to me: PROLE, TENUTO, TRIS for triceps, and RED OAKS but SERGEANT BILKO was old hat. One of television’s earliest wise guys.

@Roo (8:46) Getting my second shot next week. Thanks for the tip about the agua consumption. Only 147 pit stops? I’ll plan my schedule accordingly.

RPM 11:29 AM  

Easier than average for me even though I had to work from the bottom up.

I thought that Rex might take note of the absence of bad fill in this puzzle given his regular ridicule of same. Every word in the puzzle is a real word or phrase.

bigsteve46 11:29 AM  

Re: TJS (11:08 A.M.) How about buying the newspaper?

Michael Page 11:30 AM  

Bravo for the shout out to Kirby. 20 years ago, virtually all mentions were of the Kirby/Lee duo. Then it morphed to Stan Lee alone. I expect a major cause was Lee’s easter-eggish cameos in all the Marvel films. Agree with most posters that it was a perfectly decent puzzle.

Ethan Taliesin 11:30 AM  

Forte (pronounced "fort") is a word of French derivation and means a strong point, as opposed to a foible. Both people and swords have their fortes and foibles. On a sword, the forte is where the blade is the strongest and closer to the hilt; its foible, where the blade is weakest is closer to the tip. This is a word I rarely use because so many people mispronounce it. I also don't want to start mispronouncing myself it because I'll come across as ignorant to people who know better.

LOUD in music is also spelled forte but pronounced for-tay and derived from Italian. Piano actually means "soft," and the modern piano was originally called fortepiano when it was first developed. Loud and soft.

Decent puzzle. The bottom area was the thorniest, but I emerged quickly and without a scratch. Did not know the PEEDEE river--and apparently my trusty computer spellchecker
doesn't either

kitshef 11:31 AM  

@Nancy, @Birchbark - my first dermatological though was mole, followed almost immediately by the more general skin. So far, we have
I bet there are others.

Newboy 11:39 AM  

Got excited by CITED supporting today’s THESIS STATEMENT, but otherwise it seemed Tuesdayish.

Anoa Bob 11:41 AM  

CAULKED (38D) reminded of the time I got a text from a poker playing friend saying that he would be late because he was doing some CAULKing working on his boat. He has one of those fancy-smancy cell phones that transposes his spoken message into written text. It usually is pretty good at doing this but apparently the phone "misheard" CAULK and the text came through as "I'll be late. Working on my boat and still have my hands full of CocK(!)". We still get a chuckle over that one.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH is an excellent example of using body/muscle control to bring about an emotional/psychological change. To make it even more effective at calming and soothing a furrowed brow, I recommend doing at least three, slow DEEP BREATHs using diaphragmatic BREATHing.. This was very helpful for me in dealing with nicotine cravings and finally quitting smoking (after many unsuccessful attempts).

Looks like G took leave today and we just get the SPOT (43A).

I am a BAD SPORT when I lose but I make up for it by being a good SPORT when I win.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

that hot date? a street car name Desire, of course. so DESiRe....? stop? station? square? ugh.

Unknown 11:49 AM  

Yes! Lol

mathgent 11:57 AM  

Excellent puzzle. Crunchy and sparkly and low on threes.

Daniel Larsen hasn't been around lately that I recall. He started as a teen in 2017 and has had ten puzzles published here. Lewis says that his cluing has improved over this time. The cluing here is fine but Shortz often juices it up.

ArtO 12:05 PM  

I found this the easiest Friday ever (I often can't finish) as I just breezed through. Rex's writeup is about as awful as it gets. Totally stupid.

Nancy 12:17 PM  

Re @kitshef's list (11:31): "I bet there are others."

Well, if you don't run off to the plastic surgeon at the first sign of a problem, there's:


And if you're not too finicky about your plurals or lack thereof, there's:


Hanedawg 12:19 PM  

Paul Reiser is a late 1970s SUNY Binghamton alum. Just wondering if Rex is aware.

John Hoffman 12:26 PM  

New to me: PROLE. Now I see that Prole is short for proletariat.

Son Volt 12:26 PM  

Liked this one for the most part. Agree with Rex that it wasn’t as elegant as some of the better Friday’s but I had fun. EVEN TENOR across the center gave it some balance. Don’t mind the emoticon clue. Didn’t know YALE but it was easy enough to back into. Was never a Phil Silvers fan.

+1 on recommending RED OAKS.

Overall an enjoyable Friday.

GILL I. 12:27 PM  

@Anoa B....11:41. Thanks for the coffee flying out of my nose.

Barbara S. 12:27 PM  

@Nancy (9:24)
Thanks for The Whiffenpoof Song. I appreciate your careful curation of the available renditions! When they got to "we are poor little lambs who have lost our way", I had a pretty good shot at singing along to the end. I knew most of those words. So, the song, at least the second half of it, is very familiar to me, but completely divorced from its Yalian context and I have no idea how I know it. I think I filled in "Eton" because Whiffenpoof sounded so British to me -- like something out of Lewis Carroll. I looked at Wikipedia and I love the long, proud, zany tradition of the singing group.

I loved your "Dermatologist's Concern" poem and how it's tailored to this puzzle. But, @Nancy -- there's something amazing! Great minds do think alike. This is a little puffball I wrote the last time "Roti" appeared in a puzzle.

Roti and naan, roti and naan
Two yummy flatbreads made in a pan
I can’t tell which one
So I wait till I can
And then I pop in either roti or naan.

Isn't that a hoot?!

@kitshef (11:31)
I'd add "wart" to your list and I'm tempted to add "hive" but I guess there's never just one.

GILL I. 12:38 PM  

OK, @Nancy...since you started this thing...did anyone ever go to the dermatologist for a WART? I do all the time. I get them on my fingers. My brother told me I had to stop kissing frogs. He, on the other hand, got boils. Yep. Living in Cuba we got all sorts of killer deals.
I really do, need to get a life....

Mikey from El Prado 12:56 PM  

A loser that loses it is either a sore loser or a poor sport. BAD SPORT? To me that’s dog fighting. Or polo. Or MMA. Or corn hole.

chance2travel 1:37 PM  

Liked the cluing for STAY AT HOME DAD; wasn't a fan of the clue for WHATS THE BIG IDEA. In my experience you say that *after* you say Whoa, there!, but not interchangeably.

Ended on a Natick at 52A and 44D with ARLEN- crossing PE-DEE. Was pretty sure the E would be best for the person's name, but it looked unlikely to complete the river name. At least it was the last square so I could have run the letters if it hadn't worked.

Nancy 1:52 PM  

Love your verse, Barbara! Can't believe I missed it the first time.

To everyone contributing to the list of dermatologist's 4-letter concerns: Is there a possible crossword that could be built around this theme?? Hmmmmmm.

old timer 1:56 PM  

My thought of the day had nothing to do with the crossword. It was, "Boy do I hate the equinoxes." Like many of you, I own a house in an older city where the lots, and the houses, are laid out on a grid with streets running due N-S or E-W. The result is, in the back of our house where the TV is, Jeopardy and other early evening TV shows are almost unwatchable due to the late afternoon sunsets, and in mid-morning, where I do the puzzle in our living room, I have to pull a seldom used shade down to see my newspaper and solve the puzzle. Or, worse, try to sit in my chair and read my iPhone. I look forward to May, when the sun will be coming in at an angle.

I thought the puzzle was OK, but for the reasons OFL put forth, far from stellar. I may be a bit biased because none of the big acrosses at the top leapt to mind. At the bottom, COPTO and PEEDEE went right on, and soon SERGEANT BILKO reported for duty. His show made me smile every time even though I was too young to really get the humor. I did like STAYATHOMEDAD, having helped raise three daughters and picked up many a stray LEGO, after painfully stepping on one barefoot.

My major writeover was confidently writing in WHATS THE BIG rush instead of IDEA.

Kudos to all the women who posted early. Of course our @Z is a gem, but I noticed today how much I appreciate the posts from @Barbara @Nancy and the other distaffers -- sadly not including our Muse today.

old timer 2:01 PM  

I should add that my best friend in law school was a Yalie. He described the Whiffenpoofs as a drinking club that likes to sing. Which was actually how the group started, back when Mory's was an old-fashioned saloon.

Chris 2:02 PM  

Is 'What's the big idea' really synonamous with "Whoa, there!" ?
Diffrent tone entirely

Chip Hilton 2:22 PM  

Is Daniel Larsen a graduate of that other school in New Haven*? YALE and ELI in the same puzzle. Speaking of the Elm City, greetings to the VPOTUS as she visits today.

Fun puzzle, solved bottoms up with appropriate Friday resistance. Thanks, Daniel, and Boole Boola.

*Proud graduate of Southern Connecticut State University here.

Jean 2:28 PM  


Unknown 3:10 PM  

"I hate that the general public persists in forgetting Jack Kirby."

Yeah, me too, that's right up there with global warming, voter suppression and anti-vaxxers.

GILL I. 3:15 PM  

Well I just got my second COVID shot and the only side-effect I have is a craving for a chicken sandwich.

pmdm 3:35 PM  

Two weeks until immunity. Hooray. And while I watied for my wife to get her second shot, I completely finished the puzzle. Double hooray. Came here and observed a Medium rating. Triple boo.

Over on XWordInfo, today's photo disdplays a rather young person. I am aware that there exists many "nostalgia" TV stations these days that center of "nostagic" TV shows and movies. I am also very much aware that most of my favorites composers died long before I was born. So I wonder how much of the puzzle is skewed to older solvers as a result of editorial decision or the decisions of the constructors. Not something to lose sleep over.

Barbara S. 3:39 PM  

@Nancy (1:52 PM)
Don't upbraid yourself -- I didn't post my "roti and naan" verse at the time and probably wouldn't have except that your poem today was so close in theme!

Another skin ailment might be BITE.

@old timer (1:56 PM)
That was sweet. And "distaffers" got a smile. I haven't heard that usage for an age.

Masked and Anonymous 3:56 PM  

Real late gettin to the puz, today. Was busy sprucin up the old place, and previewin some DVDs, as my bro-in-law and I are resumin our FriNite Flick Schlockfest get-togethers here tonight, now that we've both had all our shots.
I am torn between two DVD selections, for our first weird-fest in over a year: "Shockwave" and "Mutant Chronicles". "Shockwave" seems to have a better beginnin, but "Mutant" has Ron Perlman (Hellboy dude) in it. But, I digress...

Puz was real good, and a might on the easy side.
staff weeject pick [of a limited number of choices]: ELI (Zabar). A new ELI, to M&A. Lost precious nanoseconds, gettin restauranteured.

My folks always watched SERGEANTBILKO every week. So, a slight nostalgia fix, there … as well as a nice gimme, at our house.

Got THESIS early, but took longer to get the STATEMENT hunk. That THESIS part sure helped with the long stack, up top, tho.
fave entries: HEDONIST & BADSPORT. Seem to sorta go together, somehow.

Thanx for the TEN-U-TO come, Mr. Larsen. Will be anxiously awaitin yer next puz, for that promised bonanza.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Brian 4:30 PM  


alicat 4:42 PM  

Nancy, among the many excellent traits you share with Pooh Bear, the one that always makes me smile is your delightful poems and Pooh's little songs. I wonder if you, like Pooh, hum?

Z 4:51 PM  

For some reason my skin is crawling... I think I got a blister in the sun.

@Chris9:40 - I guess we exhausted our PEEDEE grousing the last time it appeared, but I do recall loud bemoanings. I now live in the French Broad River watershed and only know of the Great PEEDEE River because it appeared at least once before and its appearance drew much WOE gnashing.

@Chris 2:02 - Imagine the effete voluptuary at Z’s Placebo & Tentacle Pub getting that text from @Anoa Bib’s pal. They might reply “Whoa, there!” or they might respond “WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA.”

It’s been quite the week. Scheduled for vaccine 1 next Wednesday. W00T W00T.

alicat 4:59 PM  

Pooh just asked me to invite Nancy and Barbara to have tea and “a little something “ with him, and then recite poems.

kitshef 5:18 PM  

Might a dermatologist treat a corn? Or would that be a podiatry thing?

Tom T 5:33 PM  

Thanks to quick answers on a grid spanning down (THESIS STATEMENT) and a nearly grid spanning across (SERGEANT BILKO), this turned out to be my first Friday puzzle completed in under 30 minutes.

Have an older brother who was a Yalie in the 60's and is a Whiffenpoof. I'd describe the group and the undergrad singing groups at Yale as serious musicians who like to have fun.

Anonymous 5:43 PM  


not to pile (that affliction not cured by a derm, naturally) on too, too much. but given the continuing news on the Covid front, "Mutant" is clearly the winner in the timeliness category. :)

Anoa Bob 5:46 PM  

I thought a CYST was inside the body, i.e., below the skin and would be treated by someone other than a dermatologist. This is from the American Academy of Dermatology ( "A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin, hair, and nails." I read through the list of conditions the AAD says are treated by dermatologists and CYST was not one of them.

And does "Whoa" rhyme with Anoa (ah NOH ah)?

Barbara S. 6:12 PM  

@alicat (4:59 PM)
Lovely invitation. Tell Pooh I'm there. But remind him that, as his creator wrote,

"I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!"

P.S. I like your Maud Lewis cats.

Eniale 6:31 PM  

Yay for DL! This may be the only Friday puz I've completed all by myself. I solve on paper; please don't inquire as to my time!

jonkotaco 6:42 PM  

Never heard of SERGEANT BILKO. Got Naticked on the cross with ELI Zabar (??????). Is that common knowledge? I've been living in NYC for 15 years, including a couple years on the UES, and have never heard of EAT or the Vinegar Factory. That's right - Eli Zabar is not even the founder of Zabars. He's one of the sons and doesn't warrant even a scant Wikipedia blurb.

Otherwise thought the puzzle was fine.

A 7:02 PM  

Happy Get back to playing in live orchestra Days!

Too much going on in real physical life, so I won’t go on and on here about nothing much. You’re welcome!

I was intrigued by the Yale song. (I started with Eton, as well, @Barbara S.) Thanks for the link, @Nancy, I found it touching, as well. It’s based on a poem of Kipling, Gentlemen-Rankers, which explains the sense of tragedy. At the bottom of the page is a link to background notes which are very interesting.

@Z, all TENORS are odd. Looked for a good one singing Over the Rainbow and stumbled on this Over the Rainbow by Melody Gardot and cellist Stephan Braun, who is playing his cello like a guitar.

Thanks, Mr. Larsen, great stuff!

burtonkd 7:29 PM  

Eli has his eponymous place on the UES. How this would be known outside the Rye radius is beyond me.

Speaking of NYC, the 4 letter list of dermatological maladies is starting to sound like an iconic subway ad.

Puzzle so easy for a Friday EVENaTENOR has a chance.

In case you missed this excellent "Rite of Spring" link from Joe Dipinto:

I'm all for giving credit to less sung heroes, but it seems like bad form to speak ill of the recently deceased.

TTrimble 7:30 PM  

@Anoa Bob

I can tell you've never watched Dr. Pimple Popper. She removes CYSTs by the score, particularly epidermoid cysts. Cysts are simply sacs that may form and be filled with various substances, virtually anywhere in the body, but when they form near the surface of the skin, they may be appropriately removed by a dermatologist.

Here is a link. Not for the faint of heart (looking at you, @Nancy: if an octopus makes you squeamish, I'm pretty sure you're not gonna like this).

Z 7:33 PM  

@jonkotaco - My first reaction was lELI Zabar is in the puzzle?” I’m guessing the clue writer decided SERGEANT BILKO was so obvious that nobody would even notice the ELI clue. I do wonder if E-I can be anything other than ELI. EpI is not going to be a person and EdI or EfI seem like weird variants. But, yeah, a classic natick for the under 50 crowd.

So are we still sharing Over the Rainbow favs?

pabloinnh 7:38 PM  

dear @A, re "all TENORS are odd.".

This is simply not true. I am a TENOR, and I am not odd. Some of my best friends are TENORS, and yes, some of them are odd, but not all of them. Most of them, almost certainly, but not all of them, and not I.

Thanks for your consideration of this, and please convey this information to @Z, if this was his original observation.

bocamp 7:55 PM  

@Eniale 6:31 PM 👍

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Julie 8:34 PM  

I agree with Anoa Bob that dermatologists do not treat cysts, unless maybe it's cystic acne, but even then they don't operate on the cyst or anything. That clue/answer has always bothered me.

Joe Dipinto 9:06 PM  

So there's this sax player practicing "Over The Rainbow" and he gets through the first 16 bars, but he can't remember the bridge. "Damn, how does the next part go?!" he wails. So he starts the song over and everything goes smoothly but once again he gets stuck after the first 16. He slams his horn against the wall in total frustration. "This is ridiculous, I know I know this! I've heard it and played it a zillion times! How the hell does it go?" So he starts from the beginning again, and– wouldn't know?–after the first 16 bars...nothing. He screams in frustration and starts throwing furniture around the room, when suddenly he trips on the rug and falls headlong out the window, eight stories to the street below.

As he's he laying there, limbs broken and in excruciating pain, he hears the sound of the ambulance coming. "Na-nuh-na-nuh-na-nuh-na-nuh-na-nuh..."

(Works better if you tell it live.)

oceanjeremy 9:29 PM  

Ahh, finally finding the time to comment on Rex's blog! I knew I'd have to when I turned the radio on this morning and WFMU was playing ABBA.

It's been a heck of a week. Preparing to move (into the dream apartment!) and then Wednesday the car decided not to start anymore. Battery's fine, fully charged, lights and stereo and power windows all work and nothing dims when I try to start. Doesn't click or try to turn over — just stops. Behaves just like when I try to start in drive or reverse — just does nothing. I digress.

Believe me I've been dutifully completing each crossword as per usual, maintaining my (checks notes) current 71-day streak. OK there have been three cheats in those 71 days. But today wasn't one of them!

I solved today's puzzle more than ten minutes faster than my Friday average, only a few minutes slower than my record for a Friday. I also finished with zero errors — and even zero typos! But boy, was I frustrated when I finished.

I was almost done in by the PPP cluster£#¢₭ in the southeast. I raced through everything else and my feelings about the puzzle flitted back and forth somewhere between "This is not bad" and "This is enjoyable" until I got to the intersections of BILKO, ELI, RED OAKS and EDNA. I was familiar with exactly zero of these answers (though I confess SERGEANT BILKO rang some primordial bell of recognition once it began to come into view, and I still do not know where or how I've ever come across this name). Luckily (for me), I was a competitive classical singer as a kid so TENUTO was a gimme. Even with that I only scraped by errorlessly because of lucky guesses. And that's not a good feeling to come away from a puzzle with. And since that was how the puzzle left me, that is how the puzzle has been framed in my mind all day long.

Going back over it now, let's see:

STAY AT HOME DAD was a gimme. Why? The cluing "Pop around a lot?" was every bit as familiar to me as the aforementioned PPP was not. Because exactly five weeks ago, on Friday February 5th, we had NEW DAD clued as "Pop up a lot, perhaps?" Different constructors, but five weeks is not a long time between clues this specifically similar. I liked it, but is it maybe a bit... too soon?
HEDONIST: I solved last night after my fiancée fell asleep, and she solved this morning while I was summoning the willpower to exit the bed. "Oh, you're in the puzzle!" she said. I guessed, "Voluptuary?" And she said "Voluptuary!" I replied that I prefer the term bon vivant.
SACRE: This was eery. Just Wednesday I was in a weird mood and decided I'd listen to every recording I could find online of the short-lived-but-seminal DC post-hardcore band Rites of Spring. Then to encounter Le SACRE du Printemps in the puzzle... and then to turn on the radio this morning to hear ABBA... Something's going on.
• I imagine if one were crossing the desert and found a date palm at a DESERT OASIS, then plucked the fruit of said palm, it would indeed be a hot date.
• As a dues-paying anarchosyndicalist, I was happy to see PROLE in the puzzle. The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Solidarity.

Overall I found the puzzle very straightforward and almost like a Slightly Hard Wednesday (until the PPP morass). I think I'm mostly disappointed that the only resistance I encountered came not from clever cluing and mental effort but from boring old PPP. The marquee answers lacked oomph as far as I'm concerned, but I've only been a Serious Solver for about ten months or so. So what the hell do I know?

oceanjeremy 9:32 PM  

Footnote! My replies to the commentariat et al:

@Rex: Congrats on the vaccination! My first dose appointment is April 11th.

@Texas Momma: Congrats on the Friday Finish!! My first no-cheat / no-error Friday was about six months ago. I got this one in just over 15 minutes. It gets easier! :)

@Nancy: Love your poem.

@Frantic Sloth: TAKE A DEEP BREATH did appear in a Friday puzzle this millennium, but it was 647 weeks ago. Friday October 31st of 2008. Clued as "Easy does it!" Perhaps your memory is so fantastic that 12 years ago seems recent?

@jonkotaco: My fiancée assures me that ELI Zabar is a household name, and one I should know (as an aforementioned bon vivant, as well as a former bartender in semi-fine and fine dining establishments — some of which went on to be awarded Michelin Stars, though only after my tenure had ended). I think after this puzzle it will probably stick in my brain.

Nancy 9:45 PM  

@alicat -- Thanks for the invite. Love to come! Yes, I do hum and will hum at the tea if asked to. Why, I might even agree to sing -- that is if you and Pooh are really lucky :)

@A -- I knew the song was based on Kipling's "Gentlemen Rankers". Thanks for the interesting link. And, yes, the poem does explain the sadness that underpins the Whiffenpoof Song. Here are some lines from it that I especially like:

We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
God help us, for we knew the worst too young!

What an ear Kipling had! And btw, Kipling is one of my three favorite poets, the other two being Tennyson and Blake.

Nancy 10:11 PM  

@oceanjeremy -- You say there's nothing wrong with your car and yet it refused to start for absolutely no discernible reason? Obviously your car is *acting out* because it's jealous. And who can blame it? First you get yourself a fiancee and then you get yourself a "dream apartment." Have you ever told the car that it's your "dream car"? Have you ever gotten down on one knee and given it a ring? Your car needs some extra personal attention right now. Hop to it!

oceanjeremy 10:21 PM  

@Nancy: I grew up reading Kipling, but no poet of the English language has had — or ever will have — an ear quite like Gerard Manley Hopkins. True story: once, in my lecherous bartending days, a girl I had just met made out with me on the spot because I could recite “Pied Beauty” from memory.

My favorite poet is the relatively obscure Dino Campana, though I confess I can’t read him in his original Italian.

The car isn’t jealous! My fiancée and I own it jointly. We picked it out together! And chose the new apartment partly because it offers safer NYC parking. Bought the car seven months ago, so whatever its problem it had better be insignificant and inexpensive (or covered by warranty).

Z 10:24 PM  

@pabloinnh - I then wasted more precious nanoseconds wondering if there is ever an odd TENOR? -@Z9:05

Son Volt 10:57 PM  

@Julie 8:34p - just prior to the Covid shutdown my dermatologist removed a sebaceous cyst from my neck. There was a pretty good cut and some digging so it wasn’t a surface related thing.

TTrimble 11:12 PM  

@Julie 8:34 PM

Here. Dermatologists remove sebaceous and pilar cysts.

A 12:20 AM  

Dear @pablo, sorry If I falsely accused you, but if you are a tenor who isn't odd, you are rare! One might even say odd?

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

Norrin2 at 9:38 AM
In the early days it was Kirby, Ditko and the often overlooked Don Heck. Gene Colan, John Romita and John Buscema came a few years later.

Anonymous 12:55 AM  

Just a very typical 'for older white guys' puzzle today. Two golf clues. Whiffenpoofs? So utterly unimportant and culturally irrelevant. The SADFACE clue poses zero challenge, like it was lifted from a Highlights Magazine crossword if such a thing exists. SITH is a better Star Wars clue than average, but it's no NOLTE.

Chris Wendell 8:56 AM  

I consider LEGO misclued. They are bricks, not blocks.

Bob Mills 9:58 AM  

At least this time, the misdirects were reasonable. Finished it in less than an hour.

Sixthstone 9:59 AM  

Very late to this party, but I wanted to add a Yea vote for this puzzle. It played difficult but enjoyable for me. The tough cluing made almost nothing a gimme. I'm too young to know Sergeant Bilko off the top of my head but certainly have heard of him. Anyhow, one or two grampa answers are fine.

Shout out to Red Oaks. I really enjoyed this even though the New Jersey country club setting is so foreign to me (suburban Texas kid). It's got great performances, universal coming-of-age themes, some truly hilarious moments, and a lot of heart.

Sadly, another libationless puzzle, but I can live with HEDONIST at least.

Joaquin 3:01 PM  

@oceanjeremy - Your car needs a new (or rebuilt) flux capacitor.

jonkotaco 3:25 PM  

I guess I draw the line at "has a Wikipedia blurb" when it comes to proper nouns. Your mileage, or perhaps your fiancées, may vary.

spacecraft 10:06 AM  

Had to start at the bottom with BILKO and work up, so I had ______STATEMENT and couldn't for the life of me figure out what to stick in front of that. The whole thing seemed to get harder the farther north I went--except for EVENTENOR. Is that a thing? Could be one word, a sort of superhero for concerts: EVENTENOR! He'd have a headset to cover that EAR, though.

After rejecting ACNE, I wanted CYST, but STAY...didn't sound right. When I worked up the NE and saw ...DAD at the end, the whole schmear came into focus. Typical Friday toughness, so I guess medium is a fair RATE. I liked it. Birdie.

thefogman 10:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Burma Shave 11:57 AM  


he GOTFAR with ARLENE since they talked,
and he’ll fall ASLEEP with not ONE regret,
‘tho that HEDONIST went off half CAULKED.


thefogman 12:31 PM  

Oh DEERE! DNF because of 40D, 41D and 51A. That SE corner was a BAD SPOT. :-( (SADFACE)... WHATSTHEBIGIDEA? Does Will Shortz keep SECRETFILES of puzzles that TEE you off while they put you ASLEEP? SACRE bleu! WHYS EDITS are badly needed in many AREAS. I RATE this ONE a 5 out of 10. Over and OUT.

leftcoaster 4:15 PM  

Found this easy-medium (for a Friday) -- except for the Deep South, featured by the PEEDEE River summoned from the depths of memory.

The long acrosses in the N and S, and the THESIS STATEMENT down the middle, helped a lot in piecing it all together. TAKE A DEEP BREATH helped, too, and was glad to see the bumptious SERGEANT BILKO from the old days.

Good cluing and answers all around. Nice work, Daniel Larsen.

Diana, LIW 4:27 PM  

Once again, all those Nancy Drew books from my childhood come in handy.

Lady Di

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