British pharma giant informally / WED 3-3-21 / Energy source in Minecraft / Gossip fodder slangily / Body part whose name comes from Latin for little mouse / Academic musts for short / Chef José founder of World Central Kitchen

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Constructor: Ann Shan

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: YEAR OF THE OX (53A: 2021 in the Chinese zodiac, with a hint to 17-, 27- and 40-Across) — first words of themers are all bovine categories to which an ox might belong:

Theme answers:
  • STEER CLEAR (17A: Avoids, with "of")
  • BULL MARKET (27A: Good time on Wall Street)
  • CATTLE CALL (40A: Open audition, informally)
Word of the Day: Ox 

• • •

I thought the grid was pretty good. There are some weakish and dull parts, but the largeish corners allow for some interesting stuff to bloom. I especially love the heavy "Popeye" imagery in the NW (the ANCHOR on his bulging MUSCLE) as well as the heavy FDR imagery in the SE (with the president waxing ELOQUENT in his FIRESIDE CHAT). I wonder if the GLAXO / TEDX crossing is going to wipe anybody out. I totally blanked on GLAXO, and even now, I know it only as part of the larger conglomerate name GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK). I have no idea how well known TEDX is (49A: Lecture series focused on "ideas worth spreading"). Ted Talks are well known, and have appeared as an answer and in clues. But the "X" part ... not sure. It's such a hilariously gratuitous-seeming "X," and yet, since it's actually out there in the middle of the grid, between two themers, holding everything together, it is really rather essential. It's certainly one of the more interesting moments in the whole puzzle. So, though the grid has its share of repeaters like AREOLAs and TIARAS (there's a show idea for you) and AGORAS and ALTA EER TINED etc., there's more than enough zing here to make it interesting.

I am ambivalent about the theme. On the one hand, it's timely, and YEAROFTHEOX is a great answer all on its own. I just ... and it's very possible this is a 'me' problem ... found the relationship of "ox" to the other bovine words a little haphazard. The only time I ever think of "ox" is in the plural (OXEN) and only (literally only) ever as a yoked plowing team. So it's very clear that my understanding of what exactly an "ox" is is not definitionally sound. Is an ox a steer?

Yes, a specific kind of ox, it seems, but not being at all familiar with the minutiae of bovine classification, I just had to go with the idea that "steer" and "ox" *felt* related. Somewhat similar experience with "bull" (specifically uncastrated) and "cattle" (the most general category—just any bovine held as property and raised for use). I guess if you take the absolutely most general definition of "ox" ("a domestic bovine animal"), then all the other words involved in the theme are also "domestic bovine animals," so sure, it works. The associations are all so shifting and overlapping, though, that the revealer, while it gave joy as an answer on its own, didn't exactly snap every other element of the theme clearly into place. Also, I know this wouldn't be as timely, but CATTLE CALL feels like the better revealer. It's what the ends of the other themers literally are (when read aloud). Also, "cattle" is the most general of the terms. I'm trying to think about what's best from a *puzzle* standpoint. But it's fine to want to highlight YEAROFTHEOX this way (with revealer status), so I'm not mad. The puzzle is 2021-specific, but solid enough that I suspect it will AGE WELL (8D: Not look bad after all this time).

  • 30D: Crowded places on Black Friday (MALLS) — are they, though? between cyber-shopping and pandemics, this clue felt spookily dated
  • 1A: Body part whose name comes from the Latin for "little mouse" (MUSCLE) — dang that is a hard clue. Harder still because "body part" makes it sound like, well, a specific part, as opposed to one of hundreds of such "parts" that you have in your body.
  • 4D: Pizzeria tool (CHEESE GRATER) — just thinking about the pizza I'm going to have for lunch today ... that's all, moving on ...
  • 35D: Energy source in Minecraft (RED STONE) — LOL, no idea. My nephew (still a teenager) is a*longtime* Minecraft ... I dunno, engineer? Is that the term? Like, very highly accomplished, goes to conferences, runs teams, etc. I don't claim to know anything about it, but I know that his level of involvement is deep and his understanding sophisticated. The only REDSTONE I know is the late billionaire media magnate Sumner REDSTONE. I'll take this RED STONE any day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Ferdinand 5:59 AM  


From Brittanica:

Steer, also called bullock, young neutered male cattle primarily raised for beef. In the terminology used to describe the sex and age of cattle, the male is first a bull calf and if left intact becomes a bull; if castrated he becomes a steer and about two or three years grows to an ox.

Lewis 6:00 AM  

I love when a puzzle draws answers from so many fields that I get the feeling throughout the solve that I don’t know what’s coming next. That happened today, not to mention learning the origin of the word MUSCLE, the GALILEO sobriquet, plus running across three lovely people-related adjectives: SAGE, WRY, ELOQUENT.

As Ann alludes to in her notes in Wordplay and XwordInfo, in the past few years, many seasoned constructors have offered to mentor those starting out, in their published comments on their puzzles and in Facebook’s Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory, and other places. This has produced abundant fruit – many new faces in the NYT and elsewhere. What a boon to our beloved pastime now and in the future!

Ann, you exhibited a high level of skill in this debut offering (congratulations!), and I had a great time solving it. Thank you, and I’ll be eagerly looking for your name up the road!

Anonymous 6:02 AM  

I don't know about Merriam or Webster, but every farmer I know thinks a steer is a castrated bovine meat animal and an ox is a castrated bovine work animal. Steers are young, but only because they generally aren't left to get old. Sometimes they do get old, but then they turn into pets.

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Not familiar with Minecraft. The only Redstone I know is the rocket that launched Alan Shepard into space in Project Mercury.

Z 6:21 AM  

It’s kind of eerie when Rex writes my reaction so well. The theme is fine, I just can’t get overly excited by bovine synonyms. There’s nothing bad about it and it’s timely but doesn’t really do a lot for me. But as an easy themeless this is nice, well constructed. Some decent answers, a little crunch (embarrassed by how long it took me to come up with GALILEO - I was stuck in the 20th century), so a fine Wednesday.

Looking at that TED-X/GLAXO cross I can’t help but notice that we have an OX rising there.

@joaquin &@barney - I added late replies yesterday if you care.

OffTheGrid 6:24 AM  

The "X" did get me but I don't care and now I know. This is a superb crossword puzzle. Loved it!

Jim Lemire 6:38 AM  

Well, one letter did me 27A/D I had a “P” instead of a “B”. As far as knew it worked for both the across and down answers and for the theme. pASTE and pULL MARKET. Of course, in hind sight, BULL MARKET is the answer, but at the time pULL MARKET seemed like it could be a thing. What do I know about Wall St? And pASTE is better than BASTE as an answer for “Wallop”. And, oxen certainly pull.
Oh wel.

Anonymous 6:43 AM  

Is areola a bit of crosswordese? My fiancee is an eye doctor and that stumped her. She was sure it was stroma, which fit initially.

SouthsideJohnny 6:43 AM  

Enjoyed the variety of topics making an appearance in today’s puzzle. What’s up with Rex parsing every syllable of every theme entry on a daily basis ? I discerned YEAR OF THE OX and just started to think of things that look like cows (STEER, for example) - what’s up with all the “is this or that a true bovine” nonsense?

I also thought it was cool that most of the trivia seemed to at least come from this century for a change (Minecraft, Ted talks, Glaxo, Lorde . . .) - and very light on foreign words, phrases, places and world capitals (with the unfortunate exception of FOIE GRAS - woke alert: I believe it is extremely cruel what is done to those poor geese/ducks to fatten them up for human consumption).

Speaking of parsing every syllable - is it no longer true that a grade of C is thought to be “average” so a grade of C-PLUS would be an “above average” grade ? That would leave D well positioned to claim the title of “poor grade” and C-Minus appropriately slotted to assume the mantle of “mediocre grade”. I’m surprised that one got past Rex (his being in academia and all that) - maybe he’s just so used to grade inflation by now that he’s indifferent.

Karl Grouch 6:51 AM  

I found this unambitious, at best.

A Burr Steers here, a Sandra Bullock there and this could have been considerably (Cal)fresher.

Think out of the ox!

oceanjeremy 6:55 AM  

I very much enjoyed this puzzle. I’m familiar with both TEDx and GlaxoKlineSmith, so that little spot in the puzzle was a happy dance — I got TEDX which gave me GLAXO with nothing other than ___XO. For some reason I liked the Xs from GLAXO and YEAR OF THE OX being in adjacent clues.

I, too, felt that CATTLE and STEER did not *click* with the revealer so ... satisfyingly. But I can’t see any way of reworking the puzzle to fix that. And my poet’s ear is relishing the dense musicality of “STEERS CLEAR” this morning. Makes me want to read aloud some Gerard Manley Hopkins or something.

But alas I must sit down at work early this morning, as I need to make a call to a client in a time zone where it will soon be past business hours. Poetry will have to wait...

Anonymous 7:01 AM  

Wasn't AREOLA the last Oldsmobile model?

Tom T 7:04 AM  

I don't see the need for the deep dive into what makes a steer a steer and a bull a bull and cattle, cattle. Since the clues merely says, " (53A: 2021 in the Chinese zodiac, with a hint to 17-, 27- and 40-Across)," OX works perfectly well as a "hint" to STEER and BULL and CATTLE.

A fun and, for me, easier than average Wednesday.

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

33A is an incorrect clue: there are cold deserts (notably Antarctica)

kitshef 7:23 AM  

FIRESIDE CHAT and CHEESE GRATER are fantastic, long, non-themers. SCENARIO and ELOQUENT are pretty awesome, too.

I’m sure a million others will point this out, but the clue for DESERT is simply wrong. The two largest deserts are the Antarctic and the Arctic.

Felt like a hardish Monday puzzle. For sure should have been switched with yesterday’s.

lOry before DODO. The former I remember strongly from Alice; the latter, not at all.

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Hey Rex: REDSTONE is more commonly known as the NASA rocket (made by Chrysler) that was used in the MERCURY program, a precursor to the ATLAS booster rocket.

Jess 7:37 AM  

Definitely enjoyed it! I found the whole puzzle to be quite easy breezy except for the northwest corner, which destroyed me. I had ANCHOR and that was it, and for some reason, I can never remember ALTA, making it hard for me to solve that section. Loved the northeast!

Michaluk 7:41 AM  

I found this puzzle to be bulls. . .

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

Baste = Wallop? Really? I very much wanted to write "paste" (as in "I'll paste you one") but that would have made it "pull market" and the puzzle wasn't doing that kind of pun.

amyyanni 7:51 AM  

Good, solid Wednesday. Love FDR and FIRESIDE CHAT. My mom was 10 when he was elected and a 23 yr old wife & mom when he died. She was a fan and taught me a lot about him.

Barney 8:03 AM  

@Z - Hey. Thanks. I also replied to your comment (similarly, assuming it gets posted and if you're interested, probably spent too much time on the topic anyway, thanks for following up!).

Moxer 8:03 AM  

Rex, I rarely encounter a factual error or spelling error in your ever delightful commentaries. However, the correct spelling of the third name in GSK is “Kline.” The company, founded in Philadelphia, was Smith, Kline and French. Thanks for always brightening my mornings.

bocamp 8:09 AM  

Thank you @Ann for a very crunchy Weds. puzzle! :)

Med. solve. Cluing seemed tougher, tho.

No foothold in the NW at all, except for "tined"; hit and miss the rest of the way. I watch Ted Talks frequently, and knew of "TEDx," but wasn't clear on what the "x" stood for. Didn't know "Glaxo", and couldn't think of anything else that would fit there other than an "x". Bit of luck on that one.

independently organized TED event

"In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share
a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDx[name], where x = independently organized TED event." (

"Cattle Call" ~ Eddy Arnold

The cattle are prowlin'
The coyotes are howlin'
Way out where the doggies roam.
Where spurs are a jinglin'
And the cowboy is singin'
His lonesome "cattle call".

yd 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

Isn’t FDR the President who put over 100,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps ? I’m not up for banning people from puzzles but if that’s your jam then FDR would be a good start.

Hungry Mother 8:15 AM  

Yeah, the X was my second choice, so DNF leading to a WTF.

Mac 8:18 AM  

Who knew Feynman and Galileo were the same number of letters?

Frantic Sloth 8:27 AM  

Yep. Hated TEDX. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

This one was clear sailing until that point. Tight theme that didn't do a lot for me until its revealer, YEAROFTHEOX. Maybe not an "aha", but definitely a pleasant surprise - especially since I was dreading another "stock" kerfuffle down the road.
Nope. Yum!

This review brought to you by TEDX.
TEDX - When your Build-a-Bear absolutely positively has to be there overnight.
TEDX - For the gender-neutral plush toy in your life.
TEDX - When you need to travel incognito to Cancun.

🙄 I'll stop now.


TJS 8:41 AM  

Did Rex say the plural of "ox" is "oxe" ?

What's with "tea" ? Anybody ?

Joaquin 8:42 AM  

I’ve got no beef with this puzzle but - holy cow! - it was easy for a Wednesday. I wasn’t buffaloed by any of it.

CEFCP* 8:42 AM  

DESERT and CPLUS have triggered the pedants.

*close enough for crossword puzzle

Barbara S. 8:49 AM  

Good, solid puzzle, which I wrecked by having a seemingly unfindable typo at the YeP/eRGE crossing. Bollocks! I was interested in Rex’s definitional exploration of domestic cattle types (and @Ferdinand’s continuation at 5:59) as I’ve always been shaky on those exact meanings.

Today, out of step with the puzzle's choice of animal, I offer an ode to the terrier in the [RCA] Victor logo. This is a poem penned by James Merrill, who was born on Mar. 3, 1926.

The Victor Dog

For Elizabeth Bishop

Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez,
The little white dog on the Victor label
Listens long and hard as he is able.
It's all in a day's work, whatever plays.

From judgment, it would seem, he has refrained.
He even listens earnestly to Bloch,
Then builds a church upon our acid rock.
He's man's--no--he's the Leiermann's best friend,

Or would be if hearing and listening were the same.
Does he hear? I fancy he rather smells
Those lemon-gold arpeggios in Ravel's
"Les jets d'eau du palais de ceux qui s'aiment."

He ponders the Schumann Concerto's tall willow hit
By lightning, and stays put. When he surmises
Through one of Bach's eternal boxwood mazes
The oboe pungent as a bitch in heat,

Or when the calypso decants its raw bay rum
Or the moon in Wozzeck reddens ripe for murder,
He doesn't sneeze or howl; just listens harder.
Adamant needles bear down on him from

Whirling of outer space, too black, too near--
But he was taught as a puppy not to flinch,
Much less to imitate his bête noire Blanche
Who barked, fat foolish creature, at King Lear.

Still others fought in the road's filth over Jezebel,
Slavered on hearths of horned and pelted barons.
His forebears lacked, to say the least, forebearance.
Can nature change in him? Nothing's impossible.

The last chord fades. The night is cold and fine.
His master's voice rasps through the grooves' bare groves.
Obediently, in silence like the grave's
He sleeps there on the still-warm gramophone

Only to dream he is at the première of a Handel
Opera long thought lost--Il Cane Minore.
Its allegorical subject is his story!
A little dog revolving round a spindle

Gives rise to harmonies beyond belief,
A cast of stars . . . . Is there in Victor's heart
No honey for the vanquished? Art is art.
The life it asks of us is a dog's life.

Information about the poet, the poem and the dog

Joe Welling 8:49 AM  

I was surprised OFL didn't find fault with the STEER themer for a different reason: the others are all figurative uses of the bovine-related word, while in this one "STEER" (meaning navigate)is a homonym unrelated, even figuratively, to the male cow word. Inconsistent themes is sort of a theme with him.

albatross shell 8:51 AM  

When I filled in YEAR OF THE, I thought there are no two letter animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Finishing the corner had a laugh on me.

As Rex pointed out there are a pile of plurals of convenience (POCs). Ms. Shan seems to put in some work to avoid double POCs, failing only in a theme answer: ERS STEERS. PAS CPLUS ANDRES GRAS are used to avoid others. (Opinions on what the BIRDS SAYEST cross is may vary.) So my question: was it worth the effort? I tilt toward yes but I find it difficult to judge whether it is more because PAS and ANDRES would be lousy plurals or because having plurals in the other answers would be way too many. Then there's the question of should I care at all. I seem to be drifting to Anoa Bob's camp all the time. Maybe not in enjoying the puzzle, but in appreciating the polish.

Two stockyard themes in a row. Well partially. TEDX GLAXO cross and learning Feinstein's spelling of her first name has to carry the excitement of yesterday's DECOCT MENTEE and NOM.
They were both very good representatives of their day of the week. Good trouble.

JOHN X 8:53 AM  

Here's some delightful REDSTONE information that you can use to pick up chicks:

The REDSTONE rocket was actually a ballistic missile that was adapted as a booster for the first two U.S. manned spaceflights. Project Mercury was the "quick and dirty" answer to getting an American into space before the Soviets, even though the astronaut-occupant didn't go into orbit and didn't really do anything either. The REDSTONE was chosen because it catastrophically exploded less than than other available boosters.

The more advanced manned rocket program was going on at Edwards AFB, with rocket-planes culminating in the X-15, in which test pilots officially reached outer space and then did controlled landings on Rogers dry lake bed. The Edwards test pilots ridiculed Project Mercury because the lead pilot was a chimpanzee. They pointed out that if you put a chimpanzee at the controls of an X-15 you would get an expensive hole in the desert and no more chimp.

The original seven Mercury astronauts became overnight national heroes upon their introduction at a press conference in 1959, despite the fact that they had done absolutely nothing. The 1959 press conference is amazing because virtually everyone on stage is chain smoking cigarettes.

kitshef 8:57 AM  

@TJS 8:41. "Spill the tea" is a slang term for "gossip". FWIW, I have never heard this in real life and know it only from the NYT crossword.

Nancy 9:02 AM  

You start me off at 1A with a clue that provokes huge curiosity (What body part?? What body part???) and I'm already a happy camper. Next, you give me a tricky clue at 1D that makes me think of an assignment like WATCH or KP rather than a physical structure like MAST. And that's because you clued it as "Naval post" and not as "Ship's post". Now I'm beaming (pun intended) and we haven't even gotten to the wonderful fill.

Loved SCENARIO and how it's clued; ditto STEERS CLEAR; ditto AGE WELL. Although an aside about the latter: I'm one of those "after all this time" people, and is that the best you can say about me, that I'm "not looking bad"? Would it really hurt you to say that I look good? :)

TEA is slang for gossip fodder?? I've never heard that. Speaking of your mixed metaphors, do you dish the TEA?

This is the second puzzle in a row that I find to be just about flawless. Grown-up fill, chewy long answers, no compromises. Really nice job, Ann!

Joaquin 9:13 AM  

@Z - Thanks for the heads-up about your late posting. We pretty much agree on the analogy but seem to disagree on where Rex fits in on it. My *opinion* on Rex is just a guess (as I assume is yours). Oh well. On to more vital stuff.

Like the starving butcher, I've got no OX to grind.

Cookie and Gerry 9:16 AM  

Did someone say terrier?

Ben Bernstein 9:17 AM  

Felt like a really fun Wednesday to me. I don’t mind the ambiguous 1a. That goes in my “learned something new” quiver for today.

Too much over thinking of the ox vs steer etc... it was well done and well crafter. I like the theme for a Wednesday. Crafty and simple, yet fun and enjoyable.

Well done Ann Shan

RooMonster 9:34 AM  

Hey All !
One-letter DNF, you guessed it, at that X of TEDX/GLAXO. Had a S there. In hindsight, I have heard of GLAXO, but TEDX is a new one. Are we just putting an X on the end of every word now? Is X the new plural? "Those birdx in the treex are quite lovely" Just sayin.

Interesting grid, in the fact of the long Downs (12's) next to two other longer Downs (8's). Crossing a themer, also. Tough to get clean fill. Nice job, Ann Shan. (Neat rhyming name.)

Side story about rhyming names, my mother once told me she wished she gave my sister and me rhyming names. My last name (the V of DarrinV) is the same as a popular ski resort in CO, my mom said it'd been neat if I was Dale, and my sister Gale. Har.

Anyway, YUP, thought this a good puz. One of the 10 per year Rex liked. 😆 I complain about Rex hating every puz, then he ends up liking this one. Unpredictably at its finest!

Couple writeovers, corOnA-AREOLA, ___cutTER-CHEESEGRATER, YeP-YUP, and-TOO.

So ACUTE puz. Har.

Two F's

Eldreth 9:34 AM  

Cheese graters are not really pizzeria tools. Pizzerias use slicer grating attachments to grate cheese in quantity - not cheese graters per say.

Nancy 9:37 AM  

@Barbara S (8:49) --

The "Victor Dog" Answers James Merrill

I'm just a little pooch who liked to listen to the phonograph.
I'm not quite sure I really rate this high-falutin' epitaph.
My taste in music only ran to Ella and Der Bingle.
I don't deserve an elegy; you coulda penned a jingle.

tea73 9:41 AM  

Except for the TEDX / GLAXO crossing (which cost me) I found this dead easy. Did not even see half the clues. It does help that I've been taking Chinese Ink Painting classes for several years so we spent a week or two if February painting the OX.

The DESERT clue reminds me that my older son wrote his first research paper, with a bibliography! in third grade on yes (anon 7:13) cold DESERTS.

I did have to back into MUSCLE. Who knew. That's trivia that it's amusing to learn.

GILL I. 9:48 AM  

@Rex...Me thinks you over think some thinks!
This was a nice Wed. I learned about the little MUSCLE mouse, that MODAL is a word and TEA is some sort of gossip fodder...(Is the fodder from Tetley?)....
YEAR OF THE OX is great. I'm a RAT. I wonder if DIANNE Feinstein, sitting just below, is an OX? I might look that one up.....
@SouthsideJ 6:43....Gavage - the method used for force-feeding geese - is banned in a lot of countries now.
In Spain, there is this farm that serves an incredible FOIE GRAS and it's done humanely. They let the geese eat all the olives, acorns and figs found on the farm. When it's time for slaughter, they use a flashlight to stun them into falling asleep then they make a very swift and painless (so I'm told) knife cut to the throat. What's good for the goose is good for the gander and everybody lived happily ever after.
Isn't AREOLA the colored part of the teat? Or am I mixing my apples with oranges?
Nice job Ann...I really liked your puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Not exactly a moo-cow easy-E puz, at our house. Only 72 words, so lotsa longballs to figure out. Took extra nanoseconds, especially in the NW, even tho first entry in quick-like was ANCHOR. And then things were good and smoooth until TEDX/GLAXO/ANDRES popped up, under that big "+" sign.

Nice timely moo-cow theme, btw. M&A predicted early on that it was a year of the cow theme reveal. Close, almost.

staff weeject pick: YUP. And primo weeject stacks, in the NE & SW. honrable mention to OX.

Thanx for the fun rodeo, Ms. Shan darlin. And congratz on yer real fine debut.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Whatsername 10:03 AM  

Nice Wednesday and really nice debut from Ms. Shan. The expression of TEA as something other than a drink was new to me. According to the Urban Dictionary, the usage originated from “the custom in the South of women who gather in the afternoon to drink tea and gossip.” Bless their hearts.

Why anyone would intentionally eat FOIE GRAS is an ENIGMA to me. It’s unnecessarily cruel to the poor creatures and I try to STEER CLEAR of goose innards in general. They don’t AGE WELL.

Must TEAR myself away now and GIRD myself to get my first Moderna vaccine this morning. Hoping for the best case SCENARIO. It’s a beautiful sunny day to get out of the house, so I’m thankful for that.

Michael G. Benoit 10:09 AM  

TEDx is a thing. I was able to find this on Google pretty easily.

Yes, "TED Talks" is a better known phrase. Should TEDX be reserved for Thursday or Friday?

Barbara S. 10:13 AM  

@Nancy (9:37)
HAH! Excellent bit of doggerel. You're a bit like the kid with the pin at the birthday party with the balloon artist. Perhaps henceforth your verse should always be published beside Merrill's?

Carola 10:14 AM  

A "ditto" from me to all the praise for the theme and the wealth of other interesting entries. I also liked the SEA beneath the MAST x ANCHOR and enjoyed scanning the grid for other animals: besides the English CAT and French CHAT, I noticed a couple of lurking RATs and a well-camouflaged SOLE, as well as the DODO that lives on at least in grids.

@Barbara S - That was delightful!

@John X - I enjoyed your post. Interesting about which group had the right stuff, and the smoking at the conference is a riot.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

ah, was hoping to elucidate REDSTONE, but others got here earlier. it was earlier used as a satellite booster, after the Vanguard rockets immolated on the launch pad.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Loved AGORAS crossing MALLS. Did not like the clue for GALILEO: he could be said to have fathered classical physics but definitely not modern.

jae 10:20 AM  

Medium. Very smooth with an unexpected reveal. Fun Wed., liked it a bunch.

A fine debut and Jeff gave it POW.

burtonkd 10:31 AM  

Wanted wHEEl_slicER or cuttER for CHEESEGRATER. Seems more pizzeria specific.

I was thinking the same as Rex on MALLS. My wife had a $50 gift card for Macy's that is obviously in a use it or lose it SCENARIO. Not that I ever loved malls or department stores, but it was very sad to witness the end of an era, and the quality of the items has fallen off so much from what I remember in the past.

I have run across that same confusion about exactly what constitutes an OX. I thought it was an animal separate from the cattle herds in the US, and wondered how Caribbean restaurants obtained such an ample stock of OXtails.

I had heard of TEDX as part of the Big TED empire.

pabloinnh 10:31 AM  

Had I heard of GLAXO? Yes, probably, it sounds familiar, etc. etc. Had I heard of TEDX? No. Ted Talks, sure, but was unaware of TEDX, or even Teds I-IX. Otherwise no problems with this one, the animals all connect with CATTLE, and the rest of the fill is plenty solid.

My one side eye was UNTIRING, which I would not use to describe the Energizer Bunny. Indefatigable is a fine word and should not be replaced with a contrivance, even if it does appear in MW. Reminded me of a line in a hymn in our hymnal which goes, in part, "led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters..'" which I can't sing without giggling.

Today's fun fact--the Chateau Champlain Hotel in Montreal, which is tall and narrow and has arched windows all the way up and down, is often referred to as the CHEESEGRATER. Waiting for the day when we can get back to Montreal, or at least Canada.

Nice stuff, AS. Looking for more from you like this.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

another CHEESE GRATER building, in London and subject of an "Engineering Catastrophes" episode.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

As a life long carnivore who has no intention of quitting meat eating it would be hypocritical of me to judge people who eat foie gras and veal so I’m not gonna. We’re all going to be cancelled by future generations anyway. 😂

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

this is a better write up, if only because it has a full-ish photo of the building:

TJS 10:42 AM  

Thanks @kitshef. Cant remember "tea" ever clued that way in any puzzle, but there's a lot of things I can't remember these days. Probably for the best.

A 10:44 AM  

Happy Ongoing Lunar New Year! YEAR OF THE OX theme, with the ARIES bonus. Supporting cast ANCHORed by SIRE, ACREAGE, cowPIES, SAGEbrush, and DESERT.

STEERS CLEAR of the dreaded duplication! This puzzle not only has no dupes, it thumbs its nose at them: CATTLE CALL crosses CATNAP, and the AGE in AGE WELL and ACREAGE were symmetrical. Ok, technically one AGE should be EGA. I don’t care, it counts in my book of WRY nose-thumbing.

Too many ELOQUENT sounding entries to name; I’ll just praise the high RATIO.

Some nicely imaginative cluing throughout - I was hooked at the clue for 1A, “Body part whose name comes from the Latin for ‘little mouse’.” I didn’t get it, so I had to let it simmer on the back burner while I went on with the meal. CHEESE GRATER, SAGE, FOIE GRAS, BASTE, PIES and green TEA. (The ROTTED bit at the bottom was worrisome.) When MUSCLE finally came out of hiding, at first it seemed charming but it’s also a bit, um, creepy, in an “Alien” kind of way. Shutting my eyes now, @Nancy!

More fun clues showed up for UNTIRING, GAVEL, and perked up little old SEA and LIE.

MODAL was unfamiliar (in the statistics sense), RASE, GLAXO and REDSTONE all completely new but easy to corral.

Kudos to Ms. Shan - come back soon!

burtonkd 10:47 AM  

Not sure where I heard this, but liked the designation of Trumps tweets as "144 character Dumpster-fireside chat"

@GILL I - I was thinking of the (dated humor) confusion when a woman says to an ogling ass, "Hey, my AREOLAS are up here.

sixtyni yogini 10:54 AM  

Very easy in my case. No snags. Fast.
good puzzle.
May the Year of the Ox be happier and healthier then the Year of the Rat (plague year coincidentally.)

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

to continue in the vein of @GILL I. and burtonkd:

back in olden times, bras made of nylon not much thicker than pantyhose gave rise to the admonition, "hey, she's got her high beams on!!" saying that today is enough to get you fired or recalled. and it is said the olden times were prudish?

Frank Lynch 11:17 AM  

Last weekend we cooked beef neck bones in the Instant Pot, a mere 45 minutes. So much less expensive than their trendier counterpart, oxtails.

albatross shell 11:18 AM  

Speaking of cheese graters, after my teeth cleaning yesterday, I went shopping for a parmesian cheese grater. The kitchen mall stores have disappeared and the remaining mall department stores had none.
The one I had was a rummage sale find that was for parmesian cheese. It produced translucent narrow short shavings (cheese shaver?). Not having an instruction book or a company name, I managed to crack the plastic getting the cheese into the thing the first time. Brute force error. It took over a year but it finally broke off. Long enough to get addicted to the shavings. Guess I'll look online.

Most sources I checked on TEA claim it originated in Black drag culture and was originally spill the T whee T is truth. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil being a primary force in the popularization. Not British as I thought likely nor Southern as entitled above. Maybe it was Southern Black Culture, so Southern could still be correct. But pre-1990 references seem lacking. I believe I have heard it in songs, TV, movies as well as NYT crosswords.

puzzlehoarder 11:18 AM  

I have Wednesday off so I'm making a rare appearance on an early week puzzle. My time was below what I consider to be average for a Tuesday. The short solve was a bit of a surprise. MODAL and TEDX required all of the crosses and that made the puzzle feel harder. That just goes to show how much easy material the puzzle had.

MUSCLE was given a very misleading clue. The clue for TEA could have been a head scratcher but I never read it while solving.

FWIW the clue for ANDRES is a debut for that name. I've never heard of him but once you have the rest of the letters the D becomes a forgone conclusion. This also nailed down TEDX, a very new term receiving only it's second appearance in the NYTXW.

Today's clue for MODAL has appeared only once before with this specific meaning. My Webster's final definition for that word is "6: of or relating to a statistical mode" nothing about it's frequency. Being familiar with GLAXO was a big help in the south central area.

What? 11:34 AM  


albatross shell 11:36 AM  

MODAL as in MODAL music, and my Dead Beatles and Stones rolled up into one: The Holy Modal Rounders. The musical backbone of the Fugs until they got thrown out for being irresponsible. At least as the legend goes. Hand up for @GILL I on AEROLAS. Good one @Burtonkd too.

CDilly52 11:37 AM  

@Jim L 6:38 am: I’m with you on the P/B issue. However, knowing that BULL MARKET was absolutely correct, I removed my pASTE for it to become BASTE. Never ever heard that used to mean trounce, but I have heard pASTE. . . often. Live and learn (if I’m lucky).

egsforbreakfast 11:41 AM  

The comments about CHEESEGRATER buildings made me remember 30 years ago in Hong Kong when a local told me that the Connaught Center building, which has hundreds and hundreds of uniformly arranged circular windows, but also was owned by the British colonialist firm Jardine Matteson, was known as the Building of a Thousand A**holes.

On a more serious note, thank you @ Barbara S. and thank you even more, @Nancy for your riposte. Mentally anyway, you’re aging great.

So much to look forward to in the YEAROFTHEOXEYEDAISY. Especially looking forward to more puzzles like this. Great debut for Ann Shan. If your played professional baseball for Seattle and wrote poems, we might get the Rhyme of the Ann Shan Mariner.

CDilly52 11:43 AM  

Delightful. The breadth of topics, freshness of answers, theme that works albeit an tad weak as @Rex pointed out, but with answers from GALILEO to Popeye, how can you go wrong? Two exceptional early week puzzles. On a roll?

mathgent 11:43 AM  

I liked it. The themers were a pleasing bovine bonanza. STEERSCLEAR is nice.

I posted late yesterday in response to ESME making a welcome return to the puzzle. I asked if there were any Salinger aficionados who knew another character in The Nine Stories, the one who said "I see that you are looking at my feet."

What? 11:46 AM  

I’m surprise nobody’s picked up on this yet. Goose liver 22A, 9D, is not foie gras. In French, foie is liver and gras is fat. Pate de foie gras is a paste of goose liver made excessively fat by force feeding. The definition is just incorrect.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

@What? 11:46 AM

So what you’re saying is the answer isn’t goose liver, the correct answer is goose liver. Got it.

Northwest Runner 12:27 PM  

I guess Galileo has been called the father of modern physics. I was surprised to learn that though since modern physics is currently pretty well understood to involve discoveries and theories of the past 100 years or so.

old timer 12:46 PM  

My first thought: MUSCLE, from the Latin Musculus (little mouse). If I owned an OED I would want to find out how our MUSCLES got that strange name. The rest of the puzzle was pretty Tuesdayish, I thought. I really admired FIRESIDE CHATS.

MODAL I got on crosses, but I do know what a MODE is in statistics -- it is the number that comes up the most frequently in an ordered list of numerical findings, and in some respects it is more useful than the mean (average). Means can be thrown off by the tendency for abnormally high results to skew results. If what you want is the most common result, the MODE is your friend.

MODAL, in music, refers to the different musical octaves you get by adding or subtracting sharps or flats. You can easily discover the MODES by playing just the white keys on a piano. CDEFGABC is your standard mode in Western music. Start with G, you get Mixolydian. Each of the MODEs you discover has a name. A lot of older folk music is MODAL. The tunes have flats in different places, giving a different flavor to the music.

Which brings me to the Holy MODAL Rounders, one of the finest groups to come out of the Folk Music Revival. Every tune on their first album was an absolute gem. Highly reccomended. They were the precursors of the Fugs, but not every Fugs tune is charming.

Brit Solves NYT 12:48 PM  

I liked the puzzle overall, but RASE is frustrating. No, that is definitely NOT the British spelling, that is a mistake: the spelling here is RAZE (note the word ends in -AZE not -IZE, that means we don't just automatically change the 'Z' to an 'S'). Look in all the main dictionaries and if it's there at all, RASE is purely listed as a variant. Submit a crossword in the UK with RASE in it to five publications and you'll get five rejections.

Point being: wish they'd check these things with a British person! These sort of "in Britain" clues are quite often wrong or very outdated.

STATS Rock 12:57 PM  

MODAL is one of the measures of central tendency in a set of data (the others being "mean" and "median"). Assume our data set is 1,2,3,4,4,5,6. The mean is the numerical average (about 3.6), the median is the "middle number" in the set when listed in numerical order (4), and the MODE is the most frequent value (think of the first two letters standing for "most often", which is also 4 in this example).

Nancy 1:26 PM  

Love this!

Ferguson 1:34 PM  

Seems to be the new word/expression for gossip.

Sharonak 1:43 PM  

@Anon 12:14
Thanks for the laugh. My thought on reading the post above had been sort of confusion which you clarified with a punch.

Donna 1:43 PM  

When the OED announced they were ceasing print production, I bought a copy of the entire 20-volume set which the Houston Public Library was selling as a discard. What a find! Anyhow, the OED says "the form of certain muscles having some resemblance to that of a mouse."

Joe Dipinto 2:15 PM  

@mathgent 11:43 – I don't recall that line and I don't have my copy of Nine Stories handy, but from what I do remember, I can safely rule out stories 3,4,6,7, and probably 8. I will hazard a guess that it is either the protagonist of story 1 or the protagonist of story 9.

Anoa Bob 2:29 PM  

I recall my spirit animal, the anoa, being clued in olde timey xword puzzles as a "Celebes OX" and it always got me upset to the point where I would fall upon the floor, beat my breast, gnash my teeth and sometimes even pull out a handful or two hair, whilst alarming my neighbors by screaming at the top of my lungs "No, no, no!". (Kind of like I still do these days when I see a POC infested grid.)

Let's get this straight people. An OX is a domesticated bovine, one that has been castrated to make it less aggressive and more suitable for a draft animal or for later slaughter. The anoa is the smallest of the buffalo, about the size of a deer, and much to small to pull a plow or wagon and isn't profitable to raise for meat, although it is hunted in the wild. (That and habitat degradation have made the anoa an endangered species.)

Speaking of plural of convenience (a crossword, not a grammatical, term), which of the following theme entries needs a little help in order to fit its designated slot: STEER CLEAR, BULL MARKET or CATTLE CALL? See how that works? Not exactly ELOQUENT if you ask me.

I was embarassed, chagrined even, when I learned that I had been pronouncing AGORAphobia incorrectly in psych classes for years. I had always thought it was uh-GORE-uh-pho-bee-uh when in fact it's AG-uh-or-pho-bee-uh. I still wake up in the night in a cold sweat thinking about that!

I wonder how FDR would have handled the COVID crisis if he were still in office when it came on the scene?

sanfranman59 2:48 PM  

Easy-Medium NYT Wednesday ... 13% below my Wednesday 6-month median solve time ... NYT debut constructor and also her first appearance in my solving database

I moved through this puzzle pretty steadily and ended up with a good solve time, but I didn't really care much for it. It was fun to learn of the Latin derivation for MUSCLE {1A: Body part whose name comes from the Latin for "little mouse"} and GAVEL {25D: Rapper in court} gets a creative clue, but the fill kind of went downhill from there. TEA {16A: Gossip fodder, slangily}, RASE {23A: Knock down, in Britain}, REQS {47A: Academic musts, for short}, UNTIRING {2D: Like the Energizer Bunny}, ERS {6D: Nervous speech fillers}, C PLUS {18D: Mediocre grade} (school grade clues like this are too judgy, if you ask me), SAYEST {13D: Speak, old-style} and EXED {51D: Marked, as a ballot} all fall flat for me. I don't know about ANDRES {43D: Chef José ___, founder of World Central Kitchen} or REDSTONE {35D: Energy source in Minecraft}. I recognize that that's on me, but these fall into the trivial, you either know it or you don't category that you can't really "puzzle out" except by getting the crosses and are a crossword solver's bane. DESERT {33A: Hot spot} is just a flat-out bad clue. DESERTs aren't necessarily hot.

Unless I'm missing something (entirely possible), I didn't think the theme worked very well either. In fact, I'm not sure why the revealer is clued as a revealer instead of just being another themer. I'm no bovine expert, but I think an OX is just another type of bovine (in addition to STEER, BULL and CATTLE), right? It's not really a "hint" to the other three themers, is it? I don't really know. Maybe I'm just confused by my ignorance of livestock terms. A little research tells me that CATTLE is a general term that's a plural for any type of bovine, so it doesn't really fit in the same category as the other three. An OX is also kind of a general term for different types of bovines that are used as draft animals. They're typically, though not always, castrated males. STEER specifically refers to a male bovine that's castrated before reaching sexual maturity and is usually slaughtered for beef. BULL specifically refers to an intact male bovine that's used for breeding. So, two of these are general terms and two are specific types of animals.

I don't know. Other than being bovine-related, it just doesn't seem like the themers work very well as a cohesive set. Maybe I'm just over-thinking. In any case, this puzzle clearly didn't land very well with me.

Z 2:53 PM  

@Anon7:01a.m, - 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
@What 11:34 - 7:01 was making a jibe at our recent Alero obsession.

@kitshef & @anon7:15 - Note the “especially” in definition 1. Yes, that clue would have been a wrong answer in my 7th grade physical science class, but accurate for common usage.

@Mac - I literally did a puzzle with Feynman in it immediately before doing the NYTX this morning.

@Anon6:43 - Kinda sorta. Since AREOLA is really just “colored ring” we get non-breast clues whenever it appears in the NYTX. “Stroma” would be a late week curve ball for frequent solvers. It isn’t Ono/Oreo level crosswordese, but it does have useful letters.

@Joaquin - Of course I don’t know. But it seems reasonable to think that if he wanted to be an editor he could be an editor and being an editor somewhere else would be a necessary step to even being considered for the NYTX job. Of course, maybe he’s applied for every editing job out there and just never got the job.

Barbara S. 2:59 PM  

I just sent you an email (wink).

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

In Christendom the ox has a very special meaning.
And it's why the Evangelist Luke is often symbolized as winged Ox .

The ox is a figure of sacrifice, service and strength. Luke's Gospel begins with the duties of Zechariah in the temple-- an allusion to Christ being the high priest-- where sacrificing oxen was part of the deal.
Of course the money part of the symbol for Christians is precisely its use as symbol of sacrifice. Not just Christ's passion and crucifixion but also a reminder that Christians are called to a life of duty and sacrifice.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

@Anoa I don't know how FDR would have dealt with covid (competently, probably) but I have a pretty good guess about how DJT would have handled WWII. Each state would have had to come up with its own plan to fight Hitler and Hirohito while he played golf and sent endless ranting telegrams.

Barklestork 3:53 PM  

I think “Year of the Ox” is an excellent theme and revealer, partly because it points out a significant and remarkable lapse in the English language as it’s commonly used. If you ask: What is the answer to this question, “As stallion & mare are the male and female of ‘horse’ — bull & cow are the male and female of … what?” Most people don’t know, and in fact the answer seems to be a meaning that has dropped out of the language. We used to have it and know it. Ox. It used to be a very common and useful meaning. You’d think it would still be. You might say “cattle”, but cattle is a plural or group form, that doesn’t have a singular form. The word bovine is not specific to cows and bulls. The word Oxford derives from a term for a ford across the river that was not for just castrated bulls. Why the meaning became lost to popular usage is an interesting question. Apparently we get along without it.

jberg 4:11 PM  

Yeah, I loved this. Nothing much to add, so just some random thoughts--

@Rex, only seen it in the plural? I guess it's a matter of whose ox is being gored.

Before it was GlaxoSmithKline it was Glaxo Wellcome, and before that it was Glaxo Laboratories, so it's legitimate to just use the short form. (I'm a pharmacist's kid, so got kinda familiar with drug company names).

TED-X events are a localized version of the Ted Talks. You can organize one, and apply for approval from the main organization. That lets more people put a Ted Talk on their resume, and increases the number of talks available online.

BASTE as clued is either 19th-century or a Britishism--I've certainly seen it in novels.

Whatsername 5:23 PM  

@Anoa Bob (2:29) Re AGORAphobia, I’ve been mispronouncing it too, the same as you. Thanks for the tip.

Monty Boy 5:36 PM  

I liked this one a lot. [see what @Lewis said]


Things I learned:
1A. Where Mighty Mouse got his MUSCLEs.
27D. BASTE has more meanings than in sewing and cooking.
23A. How a Brit will RASE a building.
47A, REQS means something in academia?

Has anyone seen ACUTE OGRE?
Is the puzzle one JAZZ short of a pangram?
Did I hear a MOOED CATTLECALL the from yesterday? Or MOOD from the day before?

At 76, I don’t AGEWELL nor am I UNTIRING. To the contrary, I’m retired and I am rarely ATWORK (I teach only one engineering class). The only thing I like about remote classes is the short commute to school. In non-Covid years, I dislike DERIDE to school (about an hour each way). As one who weighs about as much as an ANCHOR, I’m one who STEEERSCLEAR of DESsERT (or I try TOO).


Jofried 5:39 PM  

Well that was fun! Set my record for fastest Wednesday ever at 6 minutes flat. Yes, I know, Rex probably did it twice as fast but for me it was a glorious solve. My only issues were ones others have mentioned—never heard BASTE used that way and couldn’t believe the answer was DESERT when the world’s largest desert is in Antarctica.

Daniel de Kadt 6:08 PM  

Lovely puzzle until I hit the NW. Completely stumped for a long time, partly due to CHEESEGRATER for which I confidently had WHEELEDROTER, and RASE which, from a speaker of British English, is a very archaic spelling.

G. Weissman 6:09 PM  

When has BASTE ever been used to mean WALLOP? I wonder if there is not a confusion here between LAMBASTE — to criticize harshly — and BASTE — to pour melted fat or juice over meat while cooking. Shouldn’t a crossword puzzle get that right?

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

Basically, as used, yes. To avoid being titillating (I guess?) it’s always clued as something that’s a colored ring or ring of color. Which is technically correct, but no one who isn’t doing crosswords is using the word that way.

Unknown 7:28 PM  

Record time on this one. The trivia was rather easy and revealers pretty straightforward.

Lewis 9:12 PM  

@mathgent -- I don't know if you got your Salinger answer yet, but it is Seymour from A Perfect Day For Banafish.

What? 9:29 PM  

It’s a question of the general versus specific. Yes foie gras is a goose liver but you can’t go into a restaurant and order goose liver and expect pate foie gras. They are different.

Emeril 10:34 PM  


Also, you can’t go into a restaurant and order goose liver and expect to get goose liver. I've never seen it on the menu of any restaurant I've eaten at.

Joe Dipinto 10:41 PM  

@Lewis, (@mathgent) – Aha, the protagonist of story 1. Makes sense –isn't he lounging on the beach when we first encounter him?

Charles Flaster 11:31 PM  

Loved the OX theme.
Only writeover—BASTE for pASTE.
Thanks AS

Diana, LIW 9:44 PM  

@Foggy - from yesterday. Great alternative clues on 50A ha ha!

Lady Di

thefogman 10:26 AM  

I thought it was ACUTE gimmick, but LORDE almighty there was just TOO much junk fill. I give it a SEA or a CPLUS.
PS - Cheeers Diana, LIW!

spacecraft 11:11 AM  

Nice one, with only a few clunkers (looking at you, EXED). More open than the usual midweek grid. Today is the par-3 tourney at Augusta, tomorrow begins the real deal. I'm pumped! Primo DOD in TERI. BASTE belongs either in the kitchen or the sewing room, never heard it as clued. Still, a birdie. As I said, I'm pumped!

Burma Shave 2:02 PM  


When he's ATWORK to SIRE he keeps other STEERSCLEAR,
to LOVE CATTLE he won't tire, that BULL's 'OX OFTHE YEAR'.


leftcoaster 4:33 PM  

Good puzzle, fun to do.

Had a one-square error: An S instead of an E in the LORDE / RASE crossing.

Otherwise enjoyed it.

rondo 5:55 PM  

This puz was fine. Met the REQS.

Diana, LIW 6:43 PM  

time to get my little mice out the door for a walk and some exercise.

Diana, Lady in Waiting

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