Chow down on in modern slang / TUE 3-2-21 / James Bond genre informally / Some Russian vodka informally / Vitamin that could also be a bingo call

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: x or y? — familiar two-word phrases where second word is synonym of (or in one case simply is) "choice"; wacky clue, which is phrased as a "choice" (___ or ___?), reframes the meaning of the words involved in the answer:

Theme answers:
  • DRAFT CHOICE (17A: Lager or I.P.A.?)
  • SPLIT DECISION (23A: Hot fudge or caramel sauce?)
  • ICE PICK (39A: Neat or on the rocks?)
  • SHOT SELECTION (50A: Jägermeister or Fireball?)
  • STOCK OPTION (61A: Chicken broth or beef bouillon?)
Word of the Day: OX-EYE (34A: Kind of daisy) —
Leucanthemum vulgare, commonly known as the ox-eye daisyoxeye daisydog daisymarguerite(FrenchMarguerite commune, "common marguerite") and other common names,[2] is a widespread flowering plant native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia, and an introduced plant to North AmericaAustralia and New Zealand. (wikipedia)
• • •

Just doesn't work. I went in to this one *determined* to enjoy it—you know, just churn up affection by some sheer force of will—but the theme ended up all of a muddle, and the fill was dullish and oldish, and the one good / great clue in the whole thing got absolutely stepped on later in the solve when one of the words involved—indeed, the entire jokey premised of the clue—got duped! (i.e. duplicated). Tuezday makes it hard. So the theme: there's some consistency. All those final words are synonyms, yes, that is true, all the clues are written in the same "option" fashion (___ or ___?), and all clues reorient the meaning of the words involved in the answer, creating wackiness. Check check check. Two issues for me. First, it is somehow posing as a sports theme but isn't one? DRAFT CHOICE? Sports term (though "draft pick" out-googles it by a lot a lot a lot). SPLIT DECISION? Sports term. SHOT SELECTION? Sports term. Hell, a "pick" is a sports term (basketball) and since "ice" is involved in hockey, I thought that one, and thus Every one of the themers I encountered before the last one (STOCK OPTION), was sports-related too (weirdly, "option" is also sports-related: football play). Go all the way with the sports or else vary your phrases. Taking so much from sports but not actually being a sports theme, that was weird. 

But the worse issue for me was that the ICE PICK clue does not reframe the first word in the themer. NBA draft goes to beer draft, divided-in-two split goes to banana split, basketball shot goes to bar shot, Wall St. stock goes to farm stock ... but ice ... goes to ice. Bartenders even use little ice picks sometimes to break the bar ice apart, so ICE PICK really *really* didn't do the reorienting of meaning that it was supposed to. But worse than ICE PICK was STOCK OPTION, because its "stock" pun is a rehash of The Very Same Pun back at 6D: Participated in a stock exchange? (MOOED). It's the same pun. Same pun. In all its elements. Even the word "stock" is repeated. That no one at any point in the editorial process caught this, or thought it was a problem, is baffling. I'm experiencing the same feeling last week when I noticed simply (very simply) changing IMPASTO to IMPASSE would've made the grid infinitely smoother / better, but ... no. No. The word "Editor" should mean something more than "guy who gets his name on every puzzle." These are stunning ball-drops (to borrow a term from ... sports).

This felt pretty darned easy, which is fine, for a Tuesday. The fill felt awfully yesteryear, which is something less than fine. Lots and lots of XER OHO ERAT ESME KIR, etc etc., and of course the comically terrible TEHEE. This grid is solid for 15 years ago, less solid for today. Should be lots of comical ways to clue BURP without bringing it back to the old alcoholism-is-Hilarious trope with Barney Gumble. I have never seen / heard SPYFI outside of puzzles, and I've watched plenty of spy films. Turns out "spy films" is concise already, and SPYFI sounds so much like "sci-fi" that people are apt to misunderstand what you're saying. Perhaps this is why no one says it. Anyway, no one does. Using a partial clue for DROWN was confusing (I always assume going to a partial means some random two-word phrase is involved). DECOCT remains one of the uglier words in the English language. I struggled to get CELT (40D: Druid, e.g.), and had to dig myself out of a mini MISTS hole at 57A: Perfumery scents (MUSKS). That is about as much exciting puzzle action as I had with this one. I'LL PASS. SO SUE ME. The puzzle was off-putting, but under no circumstances would I now, or ever, in any situation, say I was OFF-PUT (14D: Disconcerted). Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. the SYD tha Kyd clue is so weird (10A: ___ tha Kyd (big name in rap, once)). Well, the "once" part is weird. Makes it sound like she is no longer a "big name," like she's bygone somehow, when in reality she simply dropped the "tha Kyd" part of her name and now goes by just SYD. She's not even 30! Don't "once" her yet.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:17 AM  

Partly true on the pun duplication. But half of each pun includes "stock" in the financial sense, but the other half isn't the same meaning of stock - stock for soup/stew vs cattle stock in a barn. And the clue vs answer moves in opposite directions. So not a big deal.

Joaquin 6:28 AM  

Another day. Another crossword. And another new word. DECOCT. Who knew? Not me.

Roberto 6:29 AM  

Decoct is ridiculous. O e d lists it as obsolete. It is able to be figured out from the crosses. I d be shocked if many people actually knew the word.

Conrad 6:32 AM  

Guessed wrong at 58D, cOLA vs. KOLA (I know: "cola" is the beverage, "kola" is the nut). Then when I failed to get the happy music I wracked my brain trying to figure out what was wrong with 8D, DECOCT. Strange word indeed. The bulb illuminated eventually.

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

I'll wait for someone else to explain @Rex's goof. I expect many will do so.

Lewis 6:59 AM  

This one, to me, effused with quality through and through. From a clever why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before theme, to its rock-solid answers – and remember, two pairs of those answers had to have an equal number of letters. From confidence-building gimmes for newer solvers, to confidence building toughies gettable through crosses (DECOCT, MENTEE). All in a silky-smooth junk-free grid that felt to me like it was breathed in with no effort (though much effort/talent is needed to pull this off).

Ross made all the right decisions, IMO, and what landed was a puzzle that did our pastime proud, one that not only felt good to solve – like I travelling through beautiful scenery -- but left a lilting, lovely aftertaste as well. Brilliant. Thank you, Ross!

Anders 7:00 AM  

The "stock" in the "stock exchange" clue plays on a term concerning financial stock, but actually denotes cattle (livestock). The "stock" in the "stock option"answer plays on a different phrase concerning financial stock, but actually refers to soup stock. Similar, yes, but I don't know how one can say these are the very same pun in all elements. They're two different puns on "stock".

Still, perhaps this puzzle relies too heavily on stock phrases. ;-)

Trockmn 7:06 AM  

Since we’re piling on the editor, the 28D clueing is dead wrong. “Not worth the paper it’s written on” is by definition a written contract. It just isn’t enforceable.

Guest 7:06 AM  

The clue for 28D botched a nice standard joke: an ORAL contract "is not worth the paper it's NOT written on." Editor left out "not."

Todd 7:10 AM  

Kir is yesteryear? I made my wife a Kir yesterday.

Mark 7:13 AM  

Axel or salchow?

SouthsideJohnny 7:22 AM  

It sure seemed like there was quite a bit of obscure and archaic entrees for a Tuesday, including AENEID (crossing MENTEE, no less), TEHEE, ESME, SPYFI (made-up word nominee), EMO - whatever that is (emotional, I’m guessing), and the prohibitive favorite for today’s made-up award, DECOCT. It would be interesting to chat with Shortz and ask him if he considers that a positive trait (and if so, why), or if it is a ramification of the constraints imposed by the necessity of including a theme five days a week. Of course, a convo with Mr. Shortz will never happen on this blog, as Rex burned that bridge long ago. If any of you know him - feel free to invite him to drop by here and say hello some time !

kitshef 7:23 AM  

Not knowing what either Fireball or Jägermeister is certainly dampened my enjoyment of this otherwise mostly pleasant puzzle.

Why do people make their beds? Extra work in the morning, just so you have to do extra work at night when all you want to do is sleep? I think the only beds I’ve made in decades are when we’ve had guests stay over.

Not sold on the NOM definition. Doesn’t NOM imply really relishing your food, rather than just eating?

pabloinnh 7:30 AM  

Usually a fan of RT's efforts and liked today's, which was smooth enough to give me a small surprise when I was all done. It's over? OK.

I had the mini theme as a BAR thing--things you might order at a bar--drafts, a sundae, ice (a stretch), a shot, but then the STOCKOPTION showed up and I had to rethink my theme and saw the synonymous nature of Part B. of the answers and that was my aha!

I did remember DECOCT after writing it in but that was the only answer with even a whiff of unfamiliarity. Decades of crosswords will produce that effect, no doubt.

Nice enough Tuesdecito, M. Trudeau. Thanks for the fun, and wished there were more of your puzzle.

Lewis 7:30 AM  

@rex sees this as a sports theme. A commenter on WordPlay sees it as the themers all being clued with relation to beverages/liquid. I see it as delightful wordplay on phrases (and a term) having to do with choosing. This is what makes the world go round.

Harry 7:32 AM  

I filled MENTEE under protest. It suggests that Tutor and Mentor are interchangeable terms. In practice, I suggest that they seldom intersect.

OffTheGrid 7:49 AM  

61A Broth and bouillon suggest livestock?? All righty, then. Speed solve if you must but please read the clues upon which you base you rants.

bocamp 7:52 AM  

Thank you @Ross, for the "choice" Tues. puz. A bit of crunch in the "split". Really enjoyed this one! :)

Med. solve.

Stumbled a bit in the NW, so headed east and got the Great Lakes. Smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Watched all the Bond movies; enjoyed them all. The The Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger was on display for many years at the Attic Restaurant in West Vancouver, BC.

"Blow"ing in the Wind ~ Bob Dylan

yd pg -1 (still working on it)

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Barney 7:53 AM  

I suppose this question should be posted on Ross's blog rather than here, but I seem to recall Ross making a big song-and-dance about how he was no longer going to submit puzzles to the NYT (or, perhaps, anywhere) unless he co-authored it with someone who identifies with some group that's under-represented in the xword world. That proclamation came around the time that a bunch of folks signed that letter to the NYT/Shortz demanding greater diversity.

Part of the reason I (believe) I remember it is that not long after that, he had a puzzle published and made a point of saying that it had been submitted prior to his proclamation. He also said he had asked the publisher to pull it, but it was too late (apparently).

Maybe I'm simply "mis-remembering" the details. But if not, I wonder why he decided to start submitting solo again and competing for the limited number of slots that could otherwise be filled by others who are not white men (which was his logic for not submitting solo ever again).

TJS 7:56 AM  

Rex bashes a Ross Trudeau puzzle !! Stop The Presses !!

Yesterday, sneaking "fratty" in at the end. Today, "mentee".

I would guess that "emo" makes the puzzle at least once a week since the 90's. "decoct" not so much, but frequently enough to not cause a major problem.

This was better than the average Tuesday.

TJS 7:58 AM  

Oh yeah, "Syd the Kyd" is Crosby, by the way.

clk 8:01 AM  

I’m with Lewis. Smooth as silk, thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I didn’t even notice DECOCT was in there because I got it all from the crosses. My only momentary stumble was thinking it might be a Kona coffee bean that was providing the caffeine but that was quickly remedied. Perfect Tuesday.

Peter P 8:05 AM  

@Guest 7:06. The saying as I have always heard it is that an oral contract/handshake deal/verbal agreement "is worth the paper it's written on." I've never heard it as "is not worth the paper it's not written on." The whole point of leaving out the nots is that those not-written agreements are not written on paper, hence "worth the paper it's written on" means it's worth nothing, because it's clearly not written on paper. That's the whole point of the humor and the phrasing.

@kitshef The way our family uses NOM, there's no real relishing involved in the definition. "Hey, sweetie, what do you want for lunch?" "Oh, nothing. I've just been NOMming all morning."

Barbara S. 8:12 AM  

1) Himalayan pink or Celtic?
2) Cultured butter or organic butter?

I liked this well enough. At first I gave the side eye to the duplication of STOCK, but agree with the commenters who said that the puns are different enough to let it pass. Also I laughed out loud at MOOED (“Participated in a stock exchange?”). But I do agree with @Trockmn and @Guest (7:06) and whoever else criticizes the ORAL contract clue. I recognize the word DECOCT as existing, but it wouldn’t have sprung readily to mind without crosses. I feel DECOCTion is used more frequently (although not that much more), but I can’t seem to dredge up a likely context. I love OXEYE as a word and when you combine it with “daisy”, I’m in heaven. I’ve never heard of NOM, so learned something new. Sorry to see TEHEE going the way of TEPEE.

“The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess. The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be UNMADE.”

The quotation today is by John Irving, probably born Mar. 2, 1942. (Wikipedia confusingly says both Mar. 2 and Mar. 3 in different spots in their entry, but other sources seem to agree on Mar. 2.)

“So my grandmother was not without humanity. And if she wore cocktail dresses when she labored in her rose garden, they were cocktail dresses that she no longer intended to wear to cocktail parties. Even in her rose garden she did not want to be seen underdressed. If the dresses got too dirty from gardening, she threw them out. When my mother suggested to her that she might have them cleaned, my grandmother said, ‘What? And have those people at the cleaners wonder what I was doing in a dress to make it that dirty?’

From my grandmother I learned that logic is relative.”

(From A Prayer for Owen Meany)


mmorgan 8:19 AM  


Nice puzzle, but NOM is totally new to me.

Jeff 8:26 AM  

Decoction is an old-school brewing technique used primarily in Germany and the former Czechoslovakia. It has been falling out of favor for years because malt quality is far better than it was decades ago, and it is time, labor, and energy-intensive compared to other methods.

I brew beer. I've done a few decoctions. And the word is so niche I completely whiffed on it in the puzzle, needing all but one or two of the crosses. It's so niche my spellchecker doesn't recognize it. Calling DECOCT obscure may be the understatement of the month.

Birchbark 8:27 AM  

DECOCTion is a way to draw plant essences out of the leaves or roots. It's basically prolonged steeping right below the boiling point, as I learned it. It is a cousin to distilling.

The STAYS SANE clue seems to imply insanity as the default, unless one "attends to one's mental health." I take no position here but note that it hadn't occurred to me, and seems a bit of a stretch. A meadow splashed with OXEYEs beyond the office window (or the thought of it in winter) will suffice.

The Joker 8:29 AM  

DECOCT presents terrifying images.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I'll second Jeff, DECOCT is actually a great cross for DRAFT SELECTION because a traditional lager would likely be decocted. In the brewing context, it's a process where a portion of the mash is removed from the mash tun and boiled. When it is returned to the mash tun, it raises the temperature of the mash. Often this process is repeated several times to perform a step mash. It is supposed to give the beer a rich malty flavor that is otherwise hard to achieve.

Anyway I can see why it wouldn't do anything for most solvers, but for anyone who has brewed a beer it is a nice little wink. It certainly made me happy when I saw it.

burtonkd 8:47 AM  

I love DECOCT and it is a reason I do puzzles. A word I don't know, but snaps into an aha. If there is a CONCOCT, there can be a DECOCT, a kind of reverse process.

Page one of google results says the ORAL agreement clue checks out. Attributed to Samuel Goldwyn Meyer, although he said something a little different.

After a long rant about a misunderstanding of STOCKOPTIONS as having to do with cattle as clued, it is great to have my world DE-ATILTED by Lewis (while we're making up words).

@Barney - if lead times are what I hear they are, we may be seeing SOLO efforts by RT for a few years.

Barney 8:49 AM  

Actually, on April 12, 2020, Ross wrote:

For the remainder of 2020, I’m not going to submit any solo puzzles to the New York Times. Any grids they receive from me will be collaborative efforts with folks from groups that have been historically underrepresented in that puzzle.

Getting published in the most popular puzzle in the world is a zero sum game. And as someone who’s benefited from a variety of systemic and structural legs up, it feels like it’s past time to pay it forward.

Given that, it's odd that he had solo puzzles published by the NYT on 5/11/20 (perhaps this was the one submitted prior to the proclamation), 7/28/20, and 10/7/20. (I gather the one on 1/12/21 was submitted in '21 and was so good it had a blazing fast turnaround.)

I guess I hadn't remembered that his vow extended only through the remainder of '20. Good to know that the benefits accrued from "systemic and structural leg ups" were sufficiently compensated for by sort of, kinda' collaborating on some puzzles for a handful of months. Seems a bit virtue-signaling-ish, but I suppose it's hardly the first time a privileged, white, heterosexual man did that.

Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I don't care who the author is. Give me a clean grid with interesting clues and a fair fill (and no Naticks) and I'm satisfied.

In fact, I wish the puzzle would be published without a name and the author's byline only added when the solution is published in the paper the following day. It also wouldn't be a bad practice for the editors to evaluate puzzles without knowing who had submitted them (until they've been chosen for publication).

Frantic Sloth 8:52 AM  

Another day, another punny theme. Oh these things go, this one was about average. Can't muster up a lot of feeling one way or the other.

I liked the clue for MOOED (Participated in a stock exchange?), but "No kidding?" for ITIS isn't. I guess it's an imagined answer to an imagined question because it makes no sense to me otherwise. Imagine that.

Guess I'll have to wait for Rex's write-up because I got nuthin'.

Okay then. Never mind. Didn't hate it as much as Rex did because I was oblivious to much of his criticism - including the "dupe". Except DECOCT. Just an ain't-got-no-alibi ugly-ass word. Period.

Now I can read you all for some actual entertainment. 🤞


Anonymous 8:52 AM  

I'm an avid homebrewer of beer. A "decoction" mash is when you remove a measured volume of the mash water, boil it, then add it back to the brewing beer. This lets you accurately raise the temperature of the mash without diluting it. It is a very old technique predating thermometers or, probably, even the idea of what "temperature" means. Volumes being very easy to measure. This lets you consistently brew the same beer.

That is all.

RooMonster 8:59 AM  

Hey All !
Very enjoyable puz here. Got depressed reading Rex. I actually thought for a nanosecond (Hi @M&A!) that Rex would like this. Fun phrases! All with Choose synonyms! But, no. Is it Shortz hate? Is it speed solving affecting his enjoyment? Is he just SHOT from doing too many puzs? I like Rex, really, his videos whilst solving with Rachel are fun and show a side of him not shown through text. But, MAN, disliking 355 out of 365 puzs a year is really beginning to grate. I tried the @Nancy approach, not reading Rex, but can't do it. I need my Rex fix. Sad.

I got a kick out of puz. Fun phrases, all related by Choose synonyms, so doesn't matter that they are all almost sports terms, or almost all liquid terms, that's not what Ross was going for. I got it, liked it, matching clues with Chooses. Bam.

Gonna say it again, until it sinks in. EVERY puz has dreck. The pitfall of puzzledom. Some might have less than others, but it should be something you expect. -ese and dreck, coming to s puz near you. (Hi @Z!) That sounds like a Law Firm. "Welcome to Ese and Dreck, who can we sue today?"

Some fun clues here. Although the "stock" is duped, MOOED is an inspired clue, so it gets a pass. Add me to the list of Non-bed makers. What's the point when you'll just be back in it in 16 hours or so? I did it in the Army, that was enough for me!

IM OK and STAYS SANE. Mantra. Keep telling yourself that. YAHOO. 😁

Two F's

Unknown 9:02 AM  

Very enjoyable Tuesday. No complaints. Fun to solve.

Hungry Mother 9:06 AM  

Nice crunchy Tuesday offering. I quit drinking before IPA or chocolate martinis were things, but no real problem. I’ll remember DECOCT for some future SB. I don’t think I want to remember NOM.

Cecil B 9:13 AM  

@trockmn @guest @Barbara S

An oral contract is not worth the paper it’s written on

. . . is a well known quote attributed to (and misquoted from) Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn

Frantic Sloth 9:22 AM  

@Barbara S 812am "...logic is relative." Truer words... 😀 Thanks again for all the daily quotes you mine for our pleasure!

@Birchbark 827am Agree with your STAYSSANE comment. Found it odd myself. And I know from odd.

As others have already pointed out, the oral contract quote is correct. The whole point of the joke is that it is nudge-nudge wink-winkishly nonsensical. Think Yogi Berra if Sam G. doesn't do it for you.

Nancy 9:32 AM  

So, as I'm scrolling quickly past Rex's comments on my way to saying that I think this is pretty much a flawless puzzle, I spy out of the corner of my eye his opening sentence: "Just doesn't work". I have no idea why he's saying that and I don't especially want to know. That's because I don't feel it's remotely true.

The theme is clever and original. It's also quite dense. There are some interesting clues: MOOED; ORAL; DROWN; SPOUTS. Even the "Star War" clue was nice. And I love thinking about hot fudge and caramel sauce. Well, maybe not so much at 9:00 in the morning, but soon.

Best of all, I had to do much more thinking than usual on a Tuesday. I love when that happens. (Which is one of the reasons I consider DEDOCT a feature, not a bug.) Smooth as silk and enjoyable to solve.

mathgent 9:37 AM  

I liked it a lot. The most enjoyable Ross Trudeau I've done. The theme was beautifully done, familiar phrases which can be interpreted cleverly to mean making choices in different situations.

Today was one of those days when Rex twists himself up in knots to slam the puzzle. I hate to see him write such silly stuff.

I think that those who think the clue for 28D is wrong are missing the joke.

In my high school we took four years of Latin and indeed we read parts of the Aeneid. We also took classical Greek and read a lot of The Odyssey. We learned more about the Trojan War than we did about The Civil War.

I recognized that DECOCT was a word and filled it in immediately from the crosses, but I didn't know what it meant until I came here.

Peter P 9:38 AM  

Ah, shoot. I got my 8:05 comment wrong, running out the door to get the kids to school. As @Cecil B states, the usual form is "not worth the paper it's written on" not "not worth the paper it's not written on." And the humor is, as I mentioned before, because clearly an oral agreement is not written on paper.

But, anyway, digging in, as I assumed the Samuel Goldwyn claim was probably apocryphal (because much of these types of origin claims are--like when you seen Einstein as the source of a quote, you might want to check that out) it turns out that it is, indeed, apocryphal and Samuel Goldwyn has himself denied he ever said it in a February 12, 1956, article in the Dallas Morning News.

The saying itself or variations of ti predate the first attribution to Goldwyn (1937), and can be found as far back as at least 1890. This is not my scholarship. All the information can be found here, with sources:

MarthaCatherine 9:38 AM  

I really dislike it when Rex hates a puzzle because it is so last decade. It is for HIM. He has grown jaded and bored over the years and years and years and years. He's ruining it for those less cursed with such elitist ennui. I'm with RooMonster: disliking 355 out of 365 puzzles a year is such a downer for us less disillusioned solvers.

And I like Barney's suggestion that the puzzles remain anonymous (at least until the next day), although that's not fair to the authors, who deserve their moment in the sun. Maybe Rex could decide to not look at the author's name until he's written his column. And we can only hope that when Shortz retires, Rex's head will be a little less likely to actually explode on a nearly daily basis. Such relentless irritability can't be good for his health.

Is it bad form for us commenters to be critical? I always love Lewis's positive takes. But Rex is wearing me down.

Sixthstone 9:41 AM  

Really enjoyed this and why not. It was overflowing with booze references (DRAFT CHOICE, STOLI, ICE PICK, SHOT SELECTION, KIR, DROWN sorrows) and other party innuendos (STONER, BLOW, TABS). Throw in some classic HANNA Barbera cartoons for a nostalgic smile. Super fun puzzle.

Unknown 9:49 AM word for me...kept wanting to make it dissect but not enough room and and confident in my crosses so relented. Kid Royal is my favorite drink....Made me happy to see it in the puzzle.

Whatsername 9:51 AM  

Kind of a LIMP reaction to this one, not a lot of enthusiasm either way. It’s just kind of there. Whether it’s a novel or a movie or a crossword puzzle, if the word “wacky” can be used to describe it, I’m generally going to feel OFFPUT by it, and this was no exception.

I liked the theme and the theme answers but raised an eyebrow at the clues for NOM and MENTEE. Some pretty tough entries for a Tuesday: AENEID, KIR, SPYFI and DECOCT, probably new to even veterans solvers. Only my humble opinion of course. SO SUE ME.

newbie 9:51 AM  

Don’t know if anyone has said this yet but DECOCT is a chef’s word, meaning “to extract the flavor of by boiling,” or “to make concentrated by boiling down.” I can almost hear Julia Child saying it. Similar to “reducing” or making a “reduction.” Together with thinking “stock” meant livestock when the clue clearly refers to bouillon shows that Rex hasn’t invested his pandemic time in watching cooking shows or developing his culinary skills. The puzzle has a definite food-and-drink bent. Now that I’ve learned that decoction is also a part of beer brewing, I see that it was also a play on the alcoholic drinks part of the theme. As I always say, you learn something new every day. @Lewis 7:30 am is right! (As usual.) ; )

newbie 10:02 AM  

@Frantic 8:52 am. IT IS? Makes more sense with the question mark.

Trockmn 10:02 AM  

Point taken but that’s pretty obscure for a Tuesday. Or I’m not as culturally aware as I thought (true).

Z 10:05 AM  

I liked this more than Rex although I agree with his plaints.

@Lewis - How great would this had been if it had been a Sports/Food/Choice puzzle? Or better yet, a Sports/Booze/Choice puzzle. But since it’s not having 60% of the answers being sports and 60% being booze causes a sense of disappointment to our pattern seeking brains. I agree with Rex’s Go all the way with the sports or else vary your phrases. This almost a pattern thing, Themus Interruptus, really throws a cold shower on our fun.

I also agree with Rex that repeating your Wall Street pun in a non-themer is a real D’Oh moment. MOOED is easily clued so why would you detract from the theme by duping the clue? And since multiple people proof and test solve these things it is really amazing that such an easy thing to fix is missed.

@Barney - When a puzzle is submitted has almost zero relation to when it is published. Accepted puzzles have languished for years waiting to actually see print. For all we know this puzzle was submitted in 2011. A former commenter who is also a prolific constructor once commented that they stopped submitting until their back-log of accepted puzzles had been published.

Merriam-Webster, besides providing definitions, also provides example sentences from around the World Wide Web. They give three examples for DECOCT, one from brewing, one from herbal medicine, and one from cooking, with dates of use of 2019, 2017, and 2017. I am fairly sure I’ve never used this word, and yet it went with only the mildest of hesitancy over that CT combo, which did turn out to be correct. Again, always amazing which tidbits of trivia find purchase in the gray matter crags.

Hoboken Mike 10:12 AM  

Funny, every time I've heard the phrase not worth the paper it's been printed on and there have been many they were referring to an oral contract as being worthless. I just can't imagine the circumstances in which you'd say that about a written contract it's not nearly as funny.

Different circles I guess

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

@8:52, et al
A "decoction" mash is when you remove a measured volume of the mash water, boil it, then add it back to the brewing beer. This lets you accurately raise the temperature of the mash without diluting it.

??? Isn't that what the heating element (steam jacket, gas ring, electric coil, etc.) is for? How can it be more accurate, anyway? Why is the alternative dilution? And so on.

Hoboken Mike 10:15 AM  

For the gold...

Chickie 10:16 AM  

Never heard of it

C. Wolf 10:23 AM  

For 39A, perhaps Rex would have been happier with: Cage or Barracks?

Argy 10:27 AM  

Rex is wrong as usual. So petty. It’s both sad and pathetic. Get a life Rex.

Jeremy 10:34 AM  

Agree, too. That was a real pleasure to solve. I noticed the sports x 3 and then non-sports thing but waved it off like a soccer ref. It was a super enjoyable, exactly Tuesday-difficult, fun little theme of a puzzle.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Ball drops? Really? The phrase is always dropped balls. Always. And of course pick is used in football too. Not only is it slang for an interception, it's also use precisely as it is in basketball. That is when a player impedes the progress of an opponent allowing his own teammate unfettered movement.

JOHN X 10:38 AM  

I have better odds of becoming the next editor of the NYTX than Rex does.

Newboy 10:38 AM  

Just can’t make up my mind today! I see Rex’s objections, but geez that bar is at Olympian level. Enough for me that all the themers are well established in daily usage. I face that ICE PICK almost daily. And it’s Tuesday, so generic seems about right! Wonder what others have decided, so back to check.

P.s. Thanks Ross :^)

CDilly52 10:40 AM  

Ditto @Lewis. Poor @Rex needs to lighten up and just enjoy a well crafted and enjoyable Tuesday. Perfect level of difficulty and just plain fun.

CDilly52 10:41 AM  

I’m with @Hoboken.

Darryl 10:45 AM  

First, ICEPICK = Robert Van Winkle or Tracy Marrow (and that answer is obvious; actually my clue's kind of insulting to Mr. Marrow. My apologies.). Take your cluing out of the Percival J Farnsworth III having his evening single malt in the library mentality.

Second, @Rex went a little too deep with his criticism of the dupe STOCK can mean many things hahaha isn't that funny, but the basic point was true and critical. Get over the "too deep" part. I know, somehow it's fun to spend your time deliberately hating on @Rex, but get over it or go away.

Finally, I won't go into how I'm not an inadvertent father based on my knowledge and application of 8D (in it's gerundive form). Which is also appropriate length and width specification btw. Take that John X. Sorry, strike that last sentence. I don't think either of us go that way, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Bruce R 10:51 AM  

+1 here that is familiar with the term decoction as it relates to brewing. Made DECOCT easy.

Carola 10:51 AM  

I thought it was a clever theme and had fun working out the answers. I do agree with @Rex about the tired feel of some of the rest, though: there were a lot of entries that fell into my "help from doing decades of crosswords" category and went in one AUTOcomplete..: OHO, EMO, SO SUE ME, TMI, ERAT, OXEYE, XER, ESME, NAB.... So for me, the non-theme highlight was DECOCT: with the DEC.... in place, I thought, "DECOCT on a Tuesday? Nah" and enjoyed the surprise of being wrong.

Nomcebo Manzini 10:52 AM  

Nah. This is either lying or lack of self-awareness at an almost scary level. I refer to Rex' absolutely vacuous "I wanted to like this."

He more than any of us HAS TO KNOW that even 5 "perfect" themers is a bridge too far. Anybody but someone who obviously wishes he had Will's job would stop at the positive part of his review - "all 5 endings ARE parallel and appropriate."

OK, every comic has his/her shtick, but when it's 9/10 shtick - "Take my wife" or whatever - it's the opposite of comedic - it's sad, pathetic.

Rex may or may not be a good teacher, but the template he's writing these columns with - "Paragraph 4 - say something about the fill... the more acerbic, the better.... Focus on the 'worst' one and - optionally - dump on the puzzle editor for lack of inspiration."

Did I say - I thought this was one of the most fun puzzles in quite some time. True, actors, writers, etc. - some/most of them - don't waste time reading reviews, but this bears a resemblance to Cuomo's travails.

These columns are too much about the author and too little about that which he ostensibly has as his focus. I recognize that calling for attitude adjustment is not that far from "pull your punches" or "fix your personality," but there's a reason why most TV shows are cancelled. They lose their edge.

Rex dishes it out - and has for years. Time for him to face up to the fact that he's mostly recycling his bile at this point ... and it's both unfunny & increasingly uninteresting.

Turn the column over to new and fresh!! voices - 4-6 days per week would be ideal. Maybe, then, you'll get some of your mojo back.

Pete 10:55 AM  

@Anon 10:13 As others have pointed out, history exists before the mid 20th century, where automated temperature control systems exist. Medieval monks made beer without the benefit of thermometers, electric heaters, etc. There were only two constants by which they could judge temperature accurately - the boiling and freezing points of water. If you know that a vat of beer is at room temperature on an average summer day, it's between 80 & 90 degrees. If you want to raise it to 120-130 degrees, you take about 1/4th of it, raise it to the boiling point, and return it to the vat.

Barney 10:58 AM  

@Z, yes, no doubt. But isn't it safe to assume that an author could say to an editor, "Please withdraw any puzzles I have submitted prior to today that are not already scheduled for publication. Thank you!"? It's understandable if a puzzle is already in the publication queue, but surely that queue does not extend six months out. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it also seems far-fetched that an editor would refuse such a request.

I didn't raise the point because I wanted to hold Ross to some unfair standard. He set the standard (though I would argue it was a dubious one, at best, considering such a gesture does virtually nothing to address the problem that allegedly motivated his decision). And, well, he didn't exactly follow through.

Isn't that the essence of virtue signaling?

Crimson Devil 11:00 AM  

Agree; shades of Lorena Bobbit.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

it's also use precisely as it is in basketball

for the sports neophytes out in the commentariat, a B-ball pick isn't the same as a F-ball pick. a legal pick in B-ball is fair play, while in F-ball it's a penalty; there is no legal pick. a *moving pick* in B-ball is a foul; but it's about the toughest call to get right, or may be the charge/block foul.

jae 11:09 AM  

Medium. Food and drink choices work for me, liked it more than @Rex did.

...and speaking of Sam Cooke, “One Night In Miami” on Amazon Prime TV is worth seeing. The back and forth between Cooke and Malcom X is fascinating.

RooMonster 11:12 AM  

Oh, wanted to say Thanks to all the pillow responders YesterComments. Arm slightly less sore today, as was careful where it was while sleeping. (Or, at least as much as I can, you don't know how your body is splayed or curled while you're sleeping!) I have this pillow that has a thicker support on one end than the other. The thinner support is supposed to be for side sleepers (yes, I'm one), and the thicker support is supposed to be for back sleepers. Well, I tried the thinner part, wasn't working well for me, so have had it at the thicker part, which is where my sore arms came from. Last night was the thinner side. Arm less sore today, so apparently they are right!

Sorry no puz relation. Well, I Do see a bunch of people with similar tired-of-Rex posts. Har.

SB, yd, big points, was pg -13! Ouch! Since last QB on 2/8 (ouch again!), Average misses are 5.6 words. Dang. td, about 20 points short. In case you care. 😆

RooMonster Sleep Tight Guy

satellite73 11:15 AM  

Agreed. Also, I thought neat or on the rocks was the highlight of the puzzle.

Newboy 11:17 AM  

Wow, can’t wait to DECOCT some basaltic vinaigrette for tonight’s fig pizza. As is usual, I’m in @Lewis camp today, but I appreciate the diversity of responses that Rex continues to prompt almost daily. And as has been suggested by many others over the years, skipping Rex is an option at any point in the offending diatribe. I mail my yearly check because he offers those goads from his lofty perspective (well, the kitty postcard helps).

Masked and Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Well, shoot. I really liked the MOOED and ORAL clues. Maybe @RP was just in a real bad mooed.

Themers were reasonably diverse & drew on the followin (original) subjects:
* DRAFTCHOICE - sports.
* SPLITDECISION - supreme courts.
* ICEPICK - bartending.
* SHOTSELECTION - covid treatments.
* STOCKOPTION - securities/mooing.
Liked the theme, at our house. M&A extra themer clue: {Loch Ness monster or stable genius?} *.

staff weeject pick: KIR. Is this bad, for some reason? @RP seemed to ice-pick it out for decontamination. Nice weeject stacks in the NE & SW, btw.

Only hard spot in the M&A solvequest was around the dreaded DECOCT. Lost precious nanoseconds, gettin it from the crossers, which included two of the themers.
fave sparkler selections: ILLPASS. OFFPUT. OXEYE/EXPANSION.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Trudeau.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

p.s. * Answer to M&A themer: HOAXELECTION.


Doc John 11:21 AM  

Frankly, ICE PICK was my favorite clue/answer.

egsforbreakfast 11:22 AM  

Better clue for DECOCT would be “John Bobbit, post Lorena.”

While I think Rex is mostly wrong about the MOOED/STOCK dupe, I do think it’s bad form to use any significant word in both a question and an answer in the same puzzle. Words like conjunctions and articles are not significant in this context.

@Nancy 9:32. Was this a hint that your “I don’t read Rex” stance is not ironclad?

If you don’t over read this as a sports theme puzzle, but rather as a clever play on phrases that contain “choice” words, it works quite well. I enjoyed it a lot.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

anon 11:03.
Nope. Picks are legal within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage. It's true many pick plays are fouls because the pick occurs beyond that. Nevertheless, pick plays are not illegal per se.

JC66 11:39 AM  

Hey @Roo

Is your whole arm sore, or just your wrist? ;-)

GILL I. 11:40 AM  

MENTEE EMCEE sat on a wall, TEHEE and DECOCT had a great fall, all the LIMP EPS and all the NOM EATS couldn't put him together with SLEET.
SO SUE ME......
Well don't we love a Tuesday full of MUSK and OXEYE and a little BURP here and there and learning that @kitshef doesn't ever make his bed in the morning?
I like Ross puzzles....I like to have a good drink...but why is STOCK in the pile of imbibements? What did I miss?
I made a banana SPLIT for m husband's birthday and I had one for mine as well. I still have leftover fudge and caramel in the fridge. I'm going to have one for lunch today.

@Barbara S. Loved the John Irving quotation. Why not wear a cocktail dress while pruning some thorns from you rose bush?

Chip Hilton 11:42 AM  

How many offending football and basketball players sound exactly like Jerry Seinfeld as they plead their case to the ref? “That was not a PICK!”

Bill 11:44 AM  

Rex Parker’s hate boner for Will Shortz is priapic.

Crimson Devil 11:50 AM  

Re John: that musta been one helluva scavenger hunt, and it was successful !!

Z 12:01 PM  

@Barney - You’re moving the goal posts. “He didn’t do the thing that I disagree with to the degree I decided is appropriate” is an interesting stance. And then you seal the deal with “virtue signal,” which is just code for “I don’t have a real argument so I’m going to try to impugn their motives.” Seriously, always. It’s the perfect example of the ad hominem fallacy.

@John X & @Nomcebo Manzini - Just yesterday I criticized the Tigers’ GM in the comments. Does that I mean I want that job? Thinking he wants the job is like thinking a movie critic wants to be a director or a music critic wants to be a record producer. If Rex wanted to edit puzzles he could. He certainly has enough cachet to start his own puzzle site even if he couldn’t get one of the current puzzle editing jobs (let’s see, The New Yorker, USA Today, Vox, and Universal all got editors somewhat recently). My guess is that it is far more likely that he moves to New Zealand and there’s no more Rex Parker than that he applies for the job. Besides, it’s very obvious that the NYT realized they’d left Shortz out there to dry without enough oversight and have taken steps to rectify some of the most glaring problems. Like many aging superstars who some see as past their prime, it seems like the NYT will let Shortz retire on his own terms.

@TJS - I just saw that Syd the Kyd is on the COVID Protocol List. Being a Red Wing fan I am obligated to hate the guy, but that still sucks.

Thrillworld 12:10 PM  

I knew decoct as it is a beer brewing term referring to boiling a small amount of the mash then returning it to the main mash. Still needed quite a few crossing letters to get me there.

Thrillworld 12:11 PM  

Decoct is a word I know from beer brewing. Still took a few cross letters for me to make the connection.

Joe Dipinto 12:22 PM  

Reading Rex Parker's spluttering is not worth the energy it takes to open the link...Hey Rex, what if the clue had been "Vegetable broth or seafood bouillon"? Get it now? Does it help at all?

It was obvious to me, if not to the bone-broth-headed blog writer, that all the clues were about comestible choice-making. That a few of the phrases came from sports was ancillary; I thought the concept was inspired. Aside from the ICE PICK clue –I'd have preferred something like "Cracked or crushed"?– I loved all the themers. And I haven't particularly liked most of R. Trudeau's offerings.

DECOCT is definitely a word I've seen in cookbooks. Hey, it's even sort of theme-related.

8d did make me think of this. (Sorry.)

RJA 12:32 PM  

Was ICE PICK supposed to be some play on "NICE PICK" given the options in the clues?

I don't know. Just throwing it out there.

Nancy 12:36 PM  

I’m also a fan of this puzzle, but I’m old, so puzzles that skew on the “old side” fit my knowledge base just fine!?

jberg 12:43 PM  


I got most of the way through the comments, but then down toward the end a couple of people (@Crimson Devil first) beat me to the punch on the Bobbitt jokes. seriously, though, I actually knew the word, but not its meaning -- I think I was mentally confusing it with decant. Fortunately, I had the O from crosses.

And here's where I show my ignorance: SHOT SELECTION is a thing, as opposed to two ordinary words? I tried and Internet search, and got a few semi-comprehensible references to basketball, one completely incomprehensible reference to cricket (well, nothing about cricket is comprehensible to us uninitiated), and one completely sensible reference to film editing. But people are calling it a sports term, so basketball?

But where are the mathematicians today? Maybe they are all amateur brewers, and getting off on explaining decoction to us. But what about that clue for NTH? The NTH degree is indeed the highest you can go -- but in a "series," a word in the clue, the Nth item is any member of the series/ For example, "for any n, f(n) = f(n-1) + 2. Minor nit -- we all got the answer -- but why not get the clues right?

I did like the puzzle; tough for a Tuesday IMO.

jberg 12:46 PM  

@kitshef yesterday -- thanks for the correction. I should check my facts before writing, but it never occurred to me that one of those fairs smight last longer than a year.

Nancy 12:56 PM  

@Egs (11:22) -- No, it's as "iron-clad" as a knight in armor. But you can't get to the comments without scrolling by Rex, and sometimes your eye sees what it would prefer not to see. It's a bit like that grisly, inhuman unwatchable scene* in a TV ad for a horror film you'd never, ever go to see and the scene suddenly flashes on your screen without warning, so you snap your eyes shut, but, alas, never in time...

*Perhaps my metaphor is a little over the top :)

@kitshef and @Roo -- All I can say is that you guys must be MUCH better sleepers than I am. I have enough problems with all the various incarnations of insomnia without trying to sleep in a wrinkled and mussed-up bed. While I have the most limited domestic skills imaginable and do the least work around the house I can possibly get away with, I do make one helluva good bed, if I say so myself. (It consists of tucking in tightly, but then pulling the sheets and blanket out about halfway at the bottom corners where the toes go. Maybe I should make a how-to video?)

Teedmn 12:59 PM  

This was a light, airy, clever puzzle, I thought. I loved MOOED and by the time I got down to the bottom of the grid, had totally forgotten about STOCK in the 6D clue so not an issue for me.

MENTEE - I had trouble getting past thinking of the word "charge" as a fee (there's a special word for what a tutor charges? I wondered), and with TEE in place, was wondering if I needed to change that to fEE. 46A AIMed me in the right direction.

Thanks, Ross, this was a fun Tuesday puzzle.

@Barbara S, thanks for the quote from "A Prayer for Owen Meany". I don't remember that passage, guess I have to reread that book, the only John Irving oeuvre worthy of multiple reads, in my opinion.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

From the same rule, Article 4 "Other Prohibited Acts by the Offense. Blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference."

so, it appears that the definition of a pick play excludes blocking within a yard of scrimmage. what is a pick past a yard isn't when closer to scrimmage. kind of a picky rule, or perhaps misuse of words.

Barney 1:11 PM  

@Z - yes, I suppose you're correct. He climbed upon his soapbox and proclaimed that he would not submit any solo puzzles to the NYT through the end of the year. It's quite possible he followed through. I don't know for certain. You may. I don't.

That said, we do know two things: he had solo bylines after he made his statement and the reason he gave for his decision:

Getting published in the most popular puzzle in the world is a zero sum game. And as someone who’s benefited from a variety of systemic and structural legs up, it feels like it’s past time to pay it forward.

What seems reasonable to infer (though, admittedly, I don't know this for certain, though you may) is that if he didn't want any of his solo submissions to be published in 2020, he could have withdrawn them. It seems difficult to imagine Shortz would reject such a request.

Given that it's a "zero-sum game" and his desire to "pay it forward," it seems odd he would want to take up any slots, crowding out "folks from groups that have been historically underrepresented in that puzzle."

But I see you point. What he explicitly said was that he would not solo submit. In theory, Ross could have submitted hundreds of puzzles prior to his proclamation. Will may have considered them so brilliant that he would make the unprecedented decision to run puzzles by no other constructors for the rest of 2020. And Ross could have been patted himself on the back for fulfilling his promise and achieving his goal of advancing diversity in the NYT xword.

Mmm, yeah, I don't know. That seems odd. Perhaps it's not virtue signaling, but it sure is something.

I appreciate that you disagree about the "virtue signal" label, but it's a bit unfair to claim that there is no "real argument" there. If one recognizes that it's a zero-sum game (and Ross clearly does) and one also wants to make a minor gesture to address it, then it seems odd to gladly take up spots that others could fill. It's simply not consistent with the stated objective of not taking up slots and "paying it forward."

He (or you) could argue that the most important factor in addressing the problem is by focusing on submissions. But the submission process is not a zero-sum game. Getting published is. He could have submitted any number of dreadful puzzles and doing so wouldn't have crowded out a single other voice. In contrast, every solo publication does and, therefore, is inconsistent with his objective.

Contrary to your contention, that's a "real" argument. It may not be the only one, but it is real and also inherently logical.

But, yes, you're absolutely right. He said he wouldn't submit. That's it. From reading his blog, he seems like a very thoughtful, compassionate, good-hearted, and exceptionally generous person. It's entirely possible that he did not understand that publishing is a zero-sum game. Maybe he thought it was all about submissions. I doubt it because, after all, he also seems pretty darn sharp, but perhaps you're right: his goal posts was submissions. Period. Nothing else. If he took the spotlight because some work he submitted earlier merited it, so be it.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Anon 1:11,

You're all balled up. As you may have noticed the term pick isn't used in the NFL rule book. It is true that contact after 1 yard by the offense is prohibited. In fact, it's true before the ball is thrown AND while the ball is in the air. Pick plays are used all the time in the NFL. All the time. Almost always by two receivers simply crossing each other's path. Every team uses these plays and they all refer to them, rightly, as picks. My comments on this subject have been correct all down the line. I assure you.

A 1:40 PM  

Maybe it was just my MOOED, but this one didn’t tickle my fancy. No OHO moments, just an OHOk here and there. The first themer was one, “Oh, ok; draft, not beeer.” (even though nothing in the clue implies draft over bottled)

“Homes” for PADS is another one, “Oh, ok; I guess you could make your pad a home.” (even though PAD seems more like a place you have between the time you move out of your parents’ house and the time you buy your real home)

Too much oh, ok; not enough YAHOO!.

What’s wrong with DECOCT? I like DECOCT. Fine word, we use it in cooking and also zymurgy.

Another “oh, ok” moment was “Lion-colored” as the clue for TAN. “Lion-colored” implies that we’re looking for the standard fur color. Tawny, fawn, golden, golden blond, reddish-blond, dirty blond, yes. Tan, no. “The lion’s coat is short and varies in colour from buff yellow, orange-brown, or silvery gray to dark brown” (Britannica)

Anyone else notice that of all the themers only one, ICE PICK, is a physical thing? The rest are all mental actions.

OFL, I didn't care for the stock dupe, either. Beef stock comes from cows, cows moo. Easily avoided.

Finally, I get we’re trying to make choices here, but if I get a banana split it better come with caramel AND hot fudge! The real choice is whether to share it or keep it all for myself.

Anoa Bob 1:42 PM  

Hello ESME my old friend, you've come to help my solve again. Don't be a stranger---come back soon! Speaking of which, I was doing an archived puzzle the other day from 2002 with a "last word is a type of grain" theme and one themer was from another Salinger opus CATCHER IN THE RYE.

This former bartender did the side-eye to the clue for ICE PICK "Neat or on the rocks". I would say that an ICE PICK would be something like "cubed, shaved or crushed" while "neat" would be no ICE PICK at all.

I submit NOM as further evidence that our language is devolving and that it won't be long until we're using just grunts, clicks and whistles.

Reminds me of one of French physician Pierre Paul Broca's patients who had lost his ability to speak and could only make a single sound. When he was later autopsied, damage was found in an area of his brain cortex that came to be known as Broca's Area, the part of the brain responsible for speech production. That single sound that the patient could make was "TAN" (38A) and that became his eponymous name in medical literature. The damage to TAN's cortex may have been caused by encephalITIS , an inflammation, -ITIS (39D), of the brain, encephalo-.

chefwen 2:03 PM  

You can throw me onto the really, really liked pile. A little slow out of the gate, but picked up steam after I caught onto the theme. Kinda worked my way up from the bottom. Got STOCK OPTION first, then SHOT SELECTION. HAH! I see where we’re going here.

Great fun, thank you Mr. Trudeau.

floatingboy 2:09 PM  

SPAR ≠ feud.

bocamp 2:11 PM  

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it's Flavour (on the bed post overnight)? ~ Lonnie Donegan

I agree with @Nancy on the tight tucking bed-making. Learned it at Navy boot camp and have never wavered from the concept, altho I'm quite sure I can no longer bounce the proverbial quarter off the sheet. Making the bed first thing in the morning always gets my day started off right.

How to Make a Bed You Can Bounce a Quarter Off Of

And, if anyone's interested, I've got a great method for falling asleep quickly (akin to counting the proverbial sheep). Works like a charm

pg - 1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

I have generally heard "the contract is not worth the paper it's printed on" for written contracts that are very badly written. It's a negative reflection on the lawyers who drew up the agreement and approved their clients signing it.

logan 2:21 PM  

There has been much discussion on decoct, but very little mention of nom. I never heard it used to mean to chow down on, but it was the only answer which would make the Down clues make sense.

Barney 2:23 PM  

@Z - I had to look up "ad hominem". Is labeling an act "virtue signaling" always a "perfect" case of ad hominem, i.e., is there no such thing as virtue signaling?

I suppose my point is simply this:

When someone decides to do X because he or she believes Y is a serious problem and X will address it in some way, then when that person turns around a permits Z to occur and that merely exacerbates Y, it's far from the worst thing in the world to point it out.

No one asked Ross to address Y. No one required him to tell the world of his intention to do X. But since he did both, I don't think it's unreasonable when he does Z to be like, "Yo, dude, um... what about what you said?"

It's not the best analogy, but it's like someone saying, "Did you know that such-and-such store only sells factory-farmed chickens? That's awful! I'm passionately committed to animal welfare. I refuse to shop at such-and-such for the rest of the year." Three months later, you're at that person's house for dinner and there's chicken on the grill.

In such a scenario, is it such a bad thing to ask about the aforementioned commitment? If the answer is, "Well, of course, I didn't buy this chicken from that store. That would be contrary to what I said I would do. I had Beatrice pick it up from there on her way home." is it really so bad to point out the inconsistency?

By your definition, doing so would be "moving the goal posts." Maybe you're right. The person did do as professed, technically, but I'm not certain it's such a bad thing to point out the inconsistency. Without going unnecessarily deep on the question because, after all, it's a puzzle we're talking about, I do think we, as a society, might be better off if we pointed out such inconsistencies and demanded greater accountability from each other.

And, again, no one asked Ross to take that stand. But once he did and made it public, perhaps it should be noted (and even tsk-tsk-ed) when he does something that undermines his professed objectives.

Joaquin 2:31 PM  

@Z - The fact that yesterday you criticized the Tigers' GM is not an apt analogy. However, if you were currently the GM of the Cubs' Double-A team and frequently offered such criticism of a big-league GM, one could assume that perhaps you were angling for that job.

GILL I. 2:40 PM  

OK...since @kitshef started this whole not making his bed thing, and @Nancy and @bocamp have chimed in on the perfect bed-making technique, I will grace you with my bed story:
Before my husband and I were married, we lived together for a while. I had to decide whether he was a slob I could live with, a neatnick I could live without, a funny man and, know the DECOCT story. Anyway, he was in the British army for a while and he was a bit anal about making @bocamp style beds. I, on the other hand, would flip out of bed, go take a shower, brush my teeth, put my hair in a pony tail and fly out of the room. The bed making be damned. Paul would get up at his appointed time, make the perfect - sheets tucked in right - pillowcase fluffed just right - no left over crumbs from last night's potato chips - bed. Yep....I married the man. He would also grill the meanest steaks on the BB, this side of Mississippi. I recommend that every bride to be, test the waters I did. 35 years and counting .....

sanfranman59 2:40 PM  

Medium NYT Tuesday ... 2% below my Tuesday 6-month median solve time

Now, these puns I liked. I don't know if these are objectively better puns, if it's just that I'm more in the right frame of mind today than I was on Sunday, if there are just too many puns to enjoy a Sunday-sized puzzle full of them or what, but I enjoyed this solve a lot more than I did that one.

The fill here seemed really solid and relatively dreck-free, particularly for an early-week puzzle. BURP {2D: Emanation from Barney Gumble on "The Simpsons"} (especially abutting DRAFT CHOICE {17A: Lager or I.P.A.?}), SPY-FI {20A: James Bond genre, informally}, STONER {15A: Pothead}, MOOED {6D: Participated in a stock exchange?} and DECOCT {8D: Boil down} is a great way to start off a solve. Now that I look it over, the rest isn't particularly scintillating but there isn't anything terrible either. DECOCT (pretty tough Tuesday fare there) and 'eyeS' before TABS {55A: Keep ___ on (look after)} stole my mojo momentarily, but there were no real harrumphs along the way. Okay, OFF PUT {14D: Disconcerted} is a somewhat OFF-PUTting and MENTEE {47D: Tutor's charge} got a little side-eye, but I'm still a happy camper. Two thumbs up.

mathgent 2:50 PM  

Anoa Bob. Terrific post. And I agree that ESME (in love & squalor) has been absent too long. If there are any Salinger aficionados out there, identify yourselves by naming ESME's companion in The Nine Stories who said "I see that you are looking at my feet" and in what story.

Anonymous 3:19 PM

the final answer on bed making.

Northwest Runner 3:31 PM  

Hay and straw. Dirt and soil. Stock and broth. Seem like synonyms, but I don’t think they are.

Sydney 3:33 PM  

I loved this puzzle

Barbara S. 3:33 PM  

A lot of enlightenment on the blog today. I struggled this morning to come up with a meaning for DECOCTion without looking it up and now I know it relates to beer-brewing, cooking, and the steeping of herbs. So, a cup of tea would be a decoction? Best of all, I learned a brand new word from @A: "zymurgy" -- "the study or practice of fermentation in brewing, winemaking or distilling". What a great word! Thanks, @A.

Well, just call me @Barbara Slow-on-the-Uptake. So, that ORAL contract clue was a joke? Or maybe not so much a joke as a suggestion that ORAL contracts are *never* worth anything: get it in writing or fuhgeddaboudit. OK, I'm with you.

@bocamp 2:11 PM
Me, too: pg -1 (Haven't been this close in a while! GL to both of us and all other players.)

A 3:42 PM  

@Barbara, I like the way Irving thinks!

@Birchbark, I had the same feeling about STAYS SANE.

@Nancy, Hilarious grisly metaphor “alas, never in time” - so true! And I pull the sheets out for the toes too! It’s the only way.
I read that it’s best to let the bed linens air out a while after you get up. Then come back and make it up. I’m not too picky, although I did iron the sheets for my godmother when she came to visit. She kept the most lovely PAD.

@Joe D, funny link - thanks for cheering me up!

@jberg, I hear SHOT SELECTION a lot while watching tennis. Thought the same as you re NTH.

@GiLL, fudge AND caramel, right?

I sounded so negative earlier but I didn’t dislike the puzzle - the themers were decent and there were clever bits - BURP/DRAFT, STEAM SPOUTS, cartoons with HANNA and LOONY, USC/DRAFT CHOICE, ICE PICK over SLEET. CELT crossing both I’LL PASS and SHOT SELECTION, near AIM. Hey, I’ll even throw in OBGYN crossing MAN. (Why are so many of them male, anyway?) Seth MEYERS is terrific.

I think my problem is the wasted potential. So much here could have been great with better cluing. The clue for YEAS was excellent. I liked the wry “nothing broken” for I’M OK. But clues that don’t quite hit the target and stuff like “makes a boo-boo” unnecessarily dowse the sparklers.

I didn’t know about SAM Cooke’s tragic death at 33. What a talent. A Change is Gonna Come

Joe Dipinto 3:44 PM  

What is this "making the bed" thing that people are discussing? Are you all carpenters?

@A from late yesterday – my favorite Steve Reich piece is probably Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ. I did actually work for Reich's publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, in the 1990's. A lot of choreographers licensed out his pieces so we would frequently get free tickets to dance performances featuring his music, especially at the Joyce Theater. Eliot Feld (Baby John in "West Side Story"!) especially used him a lot. I loved going to those – the Joyce is a fantastic dance space.

Also from yesterday – I was looking at maps of the 1964-65 World's Fair grounds and I was amazed at the paltry amount of public parking space there was near the site. There was a small lot near the east end, across the Van Wyck Expwy, and another section at the far south end around the lake. And that was it. I guess most people took the No. 7 train to get there? The station was at the recently minted Shea Stadium site.

bocamp 3:55 PM  

@Anonymous 3:19 PM 👍

@Barbara S. 3:33 PM 🤞

pg - 1 and wheels still spinning.

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

I knew it...I think you had to be a senior, though.

kitshef 4:38 PM  

@Nancy - I share @Roo's finicky sensitivity to pillows, but the covers won't affect my sleep at all.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

I know it's late in the day for most of you, but here in California we don't get up early.

INRE: Unmade beds. The question is a visual one: do you want to enter a bedroom and see an unmade bed or a neatly made one? Your choice.

chefwen 5:55 PM  

It’s a total waste of time for me to make the bed as Rascally Robbie takes great pleasure in unmaking it. He’ll get a wild hair and every so often he will get up there and do his spinning act. The end result is hilarious, blankets, top sheet, kitty bed, pillows all rearranged in a circle like a tornado hit it. When I find it he is usually sitting on top of the mess, grinning as if to say “so, do you like what I’ve done to the place?”

Had a great, little restaurant open a couple years ago named NOM, quite popular. I just Googled it and it looks like it didn’t survive the pandemic. Makes me sad, so many closed businesses.

Jim Stevens 7:18 PM  

DNF, not because I was stumbling, but because I got to MENTEE. You hear that word from a lot of corporate HR types in describing mentor/protégé relationship programs, and it drives me crazy! I might have to put up with it at work, but not on my free time...

pabloinnh 7:35 PM  

We make our bed just so every morning, with just a little room at the top between the bedspread and the pillows, for as soon as we are out and the bed is still warm, our black cat Theo tucks himself in, with just his head on the pillow, and I have pictures to prove it.

"And so to bed." S. Pepys.

Joe Dipinto 8:38 PM  

My present philosophy on bedmaking: Why bother? Staying home doing nothing is so exhausting that I'm gonna need another nap in two hours anyway.

Teedmn 11:23 PM  

I think I started making my bed when I was around 4 years old. On days when Mom overslept and woke us up late so we had to rush to get to school on time, she would promise to make my bed for me because she knew it was one of my obsessions.

Now, I am always first out of bed and I make my side as tidily as I can, depending on what my husband's position allows. Although I have asked him to straighten my side when he gets up, inevitably I get home from work and find the covers on my side slightly askew, which I will straighten out. Why? I have no idea but it makes me feel better and hurts no one so who cares?

Z 4:40 AM  

@Joaquin - To use your metaphor, editing the USA Today puzzle is Triple A. Writing a daily critique is the sports columnist. Granted, sometimes clubs hire the sports writer or TV commentator, but that never works out and most sports columnists are self-aware enough to know that.

@Barney - “Virtue signaling” is a comment on motives, not a comment on the actual argument or deed. So even if the only reason Trudeau did what he did was to look good, that says nothing about whether or not what he did was good in and of itself.

Barney 8:01 AM  

@Z - Interesting. I thought I had addressed both questions, but perhaps I wasn't clear.

Re: what he did and whether it was good: I though the recognition of a problem and the desire to be proactive in taking steps to rectify it was admirable (though, admittedly, when I realized he was only refraining from solo submitting for a few months, I thought: well, that's a somewhat hollow gesture because, after all, a few less submissions in the slush pile does little-to-nothing to address the problem he's identified. Perhaps he felt it did/would. That's an open question, but I suspect I'm more right than not, but I could also be wrong in thinking that).

Re: his motivation: I have no idea what motivated his decision. I also don't know why he felt compelled to tell the world about it. However, not submitting but publishing (which is what truly crowds out other voices) "seems a bit virtue-signaling-ish."

On the one hand, if he set the bar at submissions rather than publications, it seems inconsistent with his professed objective. On the other, if he meant both, then he failed to follow through.

At heart, both of those comments address tangible actions: his decision about how he would address a problem and what he did after telling us about that decision. And, well, the combination "seems a bit virtue-signaling-ish." Admittedly, the appearance created by the actions may be inconsistent with his motivation. But that happens all the time: people say one thing, do another, i.e., a chasm exists between their stated and demonstrated preferences. Depending on the nature of the stated preference, that gap often looks a lot like virtue signaling.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  


"??? Isn't that what the heating element (steam jacket, gas ring, electric coil, etc.) is for? How can it be more accurate, anyway? Why is the alternative dilution? And so on."

Reread the comment. I assure you the steam jacket, gas ring, and electric coil were all invented after the thermometer. As for accuracy, the boiling point is (to a fairly high level of precision) the same every time you make the beer. Therefore if you take a known volume of mash, and heat it to one of the only reliable temperatures in the pre-thermometer era, you will achieve a consistent, repeatable level of heating of the mash. And that will help get the right balance of sugars and carbohydrates in the mash.

The alternative is dilution because if you want to heat up the mash, the alternative to boiling part of the mash would be boiling water and adding it. That would be just as good from a temperature control perspective, but it would dilute the mash.

thefogman 9:55 AM  

Alternate clue for 50A: Pfizer of Moderna?

Burma Shave 10:34 AM  


that CHOICE IS not perfection,
ANY MAN IS OFFPUT by a glass,


spacecraft 11:55 AM  

Here's how much I know about SYD: Oh, so it's a girl?? Whatever. That one was strictly crosses. More nonword woes: OFFPUT. And another word-that-shouldn't-be: TUTEE. It begs to be followed by Fruitee.

I pretty much agree with OFC's assessment on this one--except that some of the fill was so bad it actually took the puzzle out of "easy" and put it in "medium." Theme is mildly interesting, but...bogey.

Diana, LIW 12:15 PM  

I rarely read OFL's comments, but started to today. Too bad he has to hand on to whatever grudge he has. Oh well - guess that's perseverance.

Good Tuesdayish puzzle, for me.

Diana, LIW

thefogman 2:10 PM  

EDIT - Make that Pfizer OR Moderna

leftcoaster 3:05 PM  

Pretty clever puzzle, as Ross Trudeau’s usually are. But shouldn’t this one have been run on a Wednesday or even later?

Theme holds up well, though ICEPICK isn’t as clear or definite as the other themers. If you order a “neat” drink, that’s it. You don’t “pick” ice or some other version of ice.

Taking a bit of extra time were BURP(!), ANIME, DECOCT, HANNA, MENTEE, NOM.

And one error: AENEus instead of AENEID.

rondo 6:11 PM  

It's not often that I do the daily Universal Crossword puz (edited by David Steinberg), but today's was every bit as good as the NYT. Which was OK. Too bad the themers weren't all sports phrases.

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