Historic Kansas fort name / MON 3-15-21 / European name that lent its name to a nonconforming lifestyle / Trick-taking card game / Incendiary bomb material / Smooshed into compact layers

Monday, March 15, 2021

Constructor: Philip K. Chow

Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday) (3-ish minutes)

THEME: MEXICAN FLAG (61A: Where you can find a 17-Across perched on an 11-Down devouring a 25-Down) — literal description of the flag in question:

Theme answers:
  • GOLDEN EAGLE (17A: Large bird of prey with a brownish-yellow neck)
  • PRICKLY PEAR (11D: Cactus with an edible fruit)
  • RATTLESNAKE (25D: Venomous predator with a vibrating tail)
Word of the Day: Benito Juárez —

Benito Pablo Juárez García (Spanish: [beˈnito ˈpaβlo ˈxwaɾes gaɾˈsi.a] (About this soundlisten); 21 March 1806 – 18 July 1872) was a Mexican lawyer and politician, who served as the 26th president of Mexico from 1858 until his death in 1872. He was the first president of Mexico who was of indigenous origin. Born in Oaxaca to a poor Zapotec rural family and orphaned young, he moved to Oaxaca City at the age of 12 to go to school. He was aided by a lay Franciscan, and enrolled in seminary, later studying law at the Institute of Sciences and Arts and becoming a lawyer. After being appointed as a judge, in his 30s he married Margarita Maza, a socially prominent woman of Oaxaca City. From his years in college, he was active in politics. Appointed as head justice of the nation's Supreme Court, Juárez identified primarily as a Liberal politician. In his life, he wrote briefly about his indigenous heritage.

When moderate liberal President Ignacio Comonfort was forced to resign by the Conservatives in 1858, Juárez, as head of the Supreme Court, assumed the presidency and the two governments competed. His succession was codified in the Constitution of 1857 but he survived in internal exile for a period. During which he signed the McLane-Ocampo Treaty in 1859. He weathered the War of the Reform (1858–1860), a civil war between the Liberals and the Conservatives, and the French invasion(1861–1867), which was supported by Conservative monarchists. Never relinquishing office, although forced into exile to areas of Mexico not controlled by the French, Juárez tied Liberalism to Mexican nationalism. He asserted his leadership as the legitimate head of the Mexican state, rather than Emperor Maximilian, whom the French had installed.

When the French-backed Second Mexican Empire fell in 1867, the Mexican Republic with Juárez as president regained full power. For his success in ousting the European incursion, Latin Americans considered Juárez's tenure as a time of a "second struggle for independence, a second defeat for the European powers, and a second reversal of the Conquest."

Juárez is revered in Mexico as "a preeminent symbol of Mexican nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention." He understood the importance of a working relationship with the United States, and secured its recognition for his government during the War of the Reform. He held fast to particular principles, including the supremacy of civil power over the Catholic Church and part of the military; respect for law; and the depersonalization of political life. Juárez sought to strengthen the national government, asserting its central power over the states, a position that both radical and provincial liberals opposed.

After his death, the city and state of Oaxaca added "de Juarez" to their formal names in his honor, and numerous other places and institutions were named for him. His birthday (21 March) is celebrated as a national public and patriotic holiday in Mexico. He is the only individual Mexican to be so honored. (wikipedia)  

Though Juárez's birthday is actually March 21, the national holiday is celebrated every year on the third Monday of March (which this year falls on the 15th), to make a three-day weekend out of it. (banderasnews.com(my emph.)
• • •

My main question here is: Why? If you're just gonna serve up a literal description of the elements of the MEXICAN FLAG, it seems like there should be a good reason—an anniversary, a holiday, something. As it is, it looks like you just lucked out that the elements on the flag could be arranged symmetrically and decided to run with that as a theme. I guess I've seen flimsier themes, so why not, and yet I was left looking for a Reason. The only thing I could come up with, the puzzle surely could not have intended, is that today is a national holiday in Mexico, celebrating the birthday of 19th-century Mexican president Benito Juárez (per wikipedia, "the only individual Mexican to be so honored"). He's got nothing specifically to do with the flag, though, so I think the fact that this was released on a Mexican national holiday is a total coincidence, and at any rate very few NYTXW solvers are going to know this (I sure didn't). The grid is solid enough, and the themers themselves are fine stand-alone answers, with PRICKLY PEAR being particularly lively. But as revealers go, this one was a bit of a let-down. Maybe if I hadn't already had FLAG in place before I looked at the clue, the fact that the location described in the revealer clue was a FLAG, and not a geographical location, would've been more surprising, and this maybe (?) more delightful. As it is, it all felt a bit STAID. Clean, though, which is nice. I appreciate that.

[my favorite AIDA (4)]

I was slightly sluggish on this one, for reasons I don't really understand. I think I tried to make some other nationality fit before the FLAG part at first. In fact, without properly reading the clue, I think I tried writing in AMERICAN, but that didn't fit, so after briefly thinking "... 'MERICAN?" I just let the crosses do the work. I also thought ISLAND was going to be a foreign word for island somehow, so didn't write it in right away (9D: Cuba or Aruba), and I couldn't turn the corner from the NW into the W because I didn't know what verb was supposed to go in front of UP at 23A: Make excited, as a crowd (FIRE UP). I wanted RAMP (?) or RILE. Weirdly, the answer that took me the longest was SPARES (55A: Shows mercy to). I wasn't thinking of showing mercy in the rather grim and extreme sense of "sparing someone's life," and so I needed many (most of the) crosses to make that word appear. The fill is, overall, largely unremarkable, but, as I say, it is almost totally devoid of clunkers, which, on a Monday, I will take. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:04 AM  

Just wondering: Is that GOLDEN EAGLE on the MEXICAN FLAG thinking the RATTLESNAKE tastes like chicken?

Z 12:12 AM  

LAYLA. AN A instead of ANA and SLOAN is missing an E, so just LAYLA. Really kind of amazing. Women’s History Month indeed.

webwinger 12:45 AM  

Getting excited about symmetry is the probably the nerdiest quality of a crossword dweeb, but I have to say I found it amazing that all of today’s closely linked themers had eleven letters.

Frantic Sloth 12:45 AM  

Tip of the day: If no ball is available, DODGE TIRE is not, I repeat not a suitable alternative.

It's becoming old hat. Another debut! I liked the theme more than Rex did. Just let the shock wash over you for a nano...there. All good?

And the fill offered just enough crunch lite to spice up the Mondee, so more enjoyable than usual for me.

Well done, Mr. Chow! More, please.


Andrea 1:10 AM  

The story goes that the Mexica (or Aztecs) were looking for a land to settle, and one of the elders said he heard the gods telling him in a dream that they’d know they found “Aztlán” when they spot an eagle on top of a “nopal” devouring a snake. Indeed after a long and arduous trek, they found it right in the middle of the Texcoco lake, in which they in turn built the fabulous city of Tenochtitlán, a truly modern, ever growing city, with palaces, temples, markets and a very ingenious water system based on aqueducts and canals that provided all inhabitants with water. Then the Spanish conquistadores arrived, killed an subjected the mexica (with the help of neighboring tribes that despised the emperor Moctezuma and their cruel and unfair ways) and built a new city on top of Tenochtitlán. That city is Mexico City now and though all the water (lakes and reservoirs) have long been dried up and the city itself has kept growing and growing uncontrollably, you can still look down at the whole valley where it rests, from many of the roads that lead to it from towns where people go escape the pollution on weekends, and marvel at the vastness and beauty of the city and it’s surrounding mountains and volcanos, the Popocatépetl and the Iztaccíhuatl. I used to imagine, as a little girl, what it would’ve looked like, centuries ago, all water and swamps, and then suddenly someone shouting “there, over there!”, the impressive figure of the eagle with a snake in its beac, standing on one leg on top a prickly pear tree. They had finally found Aztlán.

¡Viva México!

jae 1:55 AM  

Medium. Pretty smooth with a WOE off the wall theme. Liked it a bunch!
Nice debut Philip and congrats on POW at Xwordinfo.

chefwen 2:07 AM  

Fun little Monday puzzle with a wee bit of a bite. Couple of hang ups. Cooking is never far from my mind, I put WHISk in first at 15A which gave me a SkENCIL at 10D, I was pretty sure that wasn’t right. It’s WHIST and STENCIL you idjit! That and spelling KLINE KLein like the the underwear guy didn’t help my cause. Finally sorted it out in due time.

Max 4:51 AM  

Seeing as DUANE Allman’s most famous guitar part is the ending of LAYLA, that feels like a bit of a missed opp. I enjoyed the puzzle tho!

mathgent 5:55 AM  

I liked it because of the theme. Linking the elements of the Mexican flag in its clue. Very cool.

Thanks to Rex for pointing out that today is a national holiday in Mexico honoring Benito Juarez.

BarbieBarbie 6:02 AM  

THIS PUZZLE NEEDS TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY except, you know, when it comes to things that most of this puzzle’s solvers wouldn’t know.

??? @Rex, good one.

I’ve always loved the Mexican flag and its origin story, which anyone listening in school, growing up in California, would know, and I really admired the way the themers were laid-out, without adding to the puzzle’s difficulty. Way to go and more please!

Lewis 6:10 AM  

@andrea -- Wow. Gorgeous post!

Lewis 6:44 AM  

Some national flags are easy to describe – Circle in the middle, three horizontal stripes, two horizontal stripes, one diagonal stripe, a plus sign in the middle – but Mexico’s, now THAT one has personality, spun from nature, from a dramatic event, using elements with such colorful names. Among the world’s flags, so many plain and rational, here’s a splash of poetry.

After solving this puzzle, I perused the national flags of the world, and indeed, this one from Mexico stands out as a thing of beauty. I’ve never given thought to this flag, nor have I given much thought to national flags period, and this puzzle presented me with a little jewel, this flag, to admire and to brighten my existence.

This is no small matter, and I’m reminded of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Thank you so much for this, Philip, and congratulations on your NYT debut!

OffTheGrid 6:44 AM  

Mini themes_

Animals-BAA,PET,SNAKE,ARK,EAGLE,TIT(though differently clued)



PPP count seems low.

Thanks to @Rex for the Benito Juarez piece. Interesting.

Hungry Mother 6:52 AM  

Super quick today. One afternoon in Juarez, while a soldier at Fort Bliss, I walked into a bar, plunked a dollar down, and asked for 10 shots of tequila to be lined up. i don’t know how I got back to camp safely, but I did. Where was @John X when I needed him?

SouthsideJohnny 7:14 AM  

Just two speed bumps today - BABAS crossing AWN, both of which were new to me, and NAVI (don’t know if that’s a race of fictional people or a sporting event, but hoping it’s another 5 years before that particular piece of trivia resurfaces in the Times’ crossword section).

It sounded like Rex was flailing around a bit grasping for something to complain about today (the theme is about a flag, the flag has to do with a country, there is (or isn’t) a famous holiday today . . .). It looks like he couldn’t really come up with anything, so he just gave up and phoned in a very tepid tirade about the theme not really being legitimate or some such nonsense. I enjoy the way Rex consistently strives to be displeased.

Lewis 7:17 AM  

Trying, but can’t unsee that backward WETS crossing DEPENDS.

Jess 7:25 AM  

Loved it. Easy breezy, and I loved the theme. Thousands of people are going to learn about or be reminded of the story behind the Mexican flag, which seems a bit more interesting a reason to have a theme than, like, 'movies with the same sound sequence in the middle syllable' or whatever.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Very easy, even by Monday standards (__ for tat, ___ carte, Poet’s “before”), but I quite liked the theme.

I did not use said theme at all during the solve, and did not realize until late that it involved the down answers. I was looking for a common thread among:
Started off thinking about Lyle’s GOLDEN Syrup, which one might put on PANCAKEs. Maybe with a side of sausage or bacon (MEATS). Then … BASE HITS???

Son Volt 7:28 AM  

Liked this one. I get Rex’s point about running it on a relevant date - but it’s a tight, interesting theme. Overall fill was solid - a little too much short glue but I’ll take it. Liked FATWA next to ILIAD and the little LAYLA - DUANE subset. Never saw a Kevin KLINE movie I liked.

Enjoyable Monday solve.

Tom T 7:55 AM  

Have bad memories of Avatar, a movie that perpetuates the nonsense that the only way for peace loving folks to get along in this world is by winning "the war to end all wars." How's that working out for us so far?

pabloinnh 8:20 AM  

Probably a wheelhouse thing, but this felt a little like the moo-cow roundup (hi M&A). Only needed crosses in a couple of places, and nothing was unfamiliar with the exception of NAVI. My favorite answer was PANCAKED, which was the only other not readily apparent fill in.

I used to teach the condensed version of the origin of the Mexican flag, and thanks to @Andrea for the fuller version. Found out from the puzzle that the eagle was a GOLDENEAGLE, so there's that. It seems that many buildings in Mexico City are still settling, which is what happens when you drain a lake and build a city on it.

The veterans among us will hail the return of AWN, crosswordese from ages past, and a handy little filler who's been shy. Compare with FATWA, who has barged in again, probably having overheard the discussion surrounding it recently.

Hard to imagine that today's publication was mere coincidence, and thanks to PKC, who is a Presumably Knowledgeable Constructor.

Barbara S. 8:20 AM  

@Andrea (1:10)
Absolutely loved your evocative piece.

I felt we travelled all over the world with this puzzle from SLEDS in the snow, to an OASIS, from Fort DODGE to BOHEMIA; we met a SCOT on an ISLAND, visited the site of the ILIAD, TAMED SIRENS after we left, and finally reached MEXICo via the ANDES. There we smashed PIÑATAS and had a SIESTA (because we were TIREd) and finally got around to admiring the MEXICAN FLAG. I liked the pinwheel configuration of the three themers and revealer. I was only sorry that the constructor hadn’t somehow managed to work in oak and laurel, the two plants in the wreath at the bottom of the Mexican coat of arms, but that’s probably an unreasonable ask. Smooth solve -- I think my only mistake was caT for PET. I needed a few crosses to get two of the three themers, GOLDEN EAGLE and PRICKLY PEAR, and also the revealer. But I had a satisfying moment of standing back and admiring the elegance of the puzzle when it was all done.

Today’s quotation comes from BEN OKRI, born Mar. 15, 1959.

“How many times had I come and gone through the dreaded gateway? How many times had I been born and died young? And how often to the same parents? I had no idea. So much of the dust of living was in me. But this time, somewhere in the interspace between the spirit world and the Living, I chose to stay. This meant breaking my pact and outwitting my companions. It wasn’t because of the sacrifices, the burnt offerings of oils and yams and palm-nuts, or the blandishments, the short-lived promises of special treatment, or even because of the grief I had caused. It wasn’t because of my horror of recognition either. Apart from a mark on my palm I had managed to avoid being discovered. It may simply have been that I had grown tired of coming and going. It is terrible to forever remain in-between. It may also have been that I wanted to taste of this world, to feel it, suffer it, know it, to love it, to make a valuable contribution to it, and to have that sublime mood of eternity in me as I live the life to come. But I sometimes think it was a face that made me want to stay. I wanted to make happy the bruised face of the woman who would become my mother.”
(From The Famished Road)

QUOTER’S NOTE: The speaker is an abiku or spirit-child (from traditional Yoruba belief), caught between the world of the living and the world of the spirits.

bocamp 8:31 AM  

Thank you @Philip for a fine Mon. puz to start the week off. :)

Med. solve.

Once again, good start in the NW, with DODGE and SPELUNK leading down to FIREUP, FATWA and ILIAD; so another counterclockwise solve, ending up in the G.L.s. Steady progress all the way.

Played lotsa WHIST in the navy.

Himno Nacional de México / Mexico National Anthem (Letra Español / English Lyrics)

yd 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

RooMonster 8:41 AM  

Hey All !
Because Rex, it's a crossword puz with a theme. Stop over thinking, over analyzing, over pissed-off-ing...

Neat theme. Nicely laid out themers, with the two Across and two Down. Gives @M&A lots of weejects. Hardly a dreck to be found, as noted by others.

SPELUNK, what a great word that doesn't seem to correspond to the activity. Sounds like KERPLUNK. If your exploring a cave and fall into some water whilst doing it... (You know...) You've just had a SPELUNK KERPLUNK moment.

Nice puz Philip. That GOLDEN EAGLE is a bad ass!

Liked the story by @andrea 1:10. Good info. Jeff gave this POW, which means the rest of the week won't be as good. Brace yourselves for the negative comments. 🙂

Two F's

Birchbark 8:46 AM  

@Andrea (1:10) -- You SPUN a nice tale about the Mexican flag and your imagination as a child.

MEATS -- I have beard trimmer, long forgotten to its real purpose, now used between haircuts to preserve a half-civilized mien. On Saturday it rebelled, mowing something of a bald spot above the right ear. I tried to even things out with frightening consequences. So off to the barber and now all's well, high and tight. The point here is the trip home -- the providence of Hagberg's Market along the way, one of the great butcher shops on the planet. I picked up a really nice big rib-eye steak. Just like a great restaurant off the grill with rice and steamed broccoli and toast, paired with an early Spring fair weather gloaming. Then in sandwiches yesterday, and the last for steak and eggs this morning, I think. Or maybe I'll save it for lunch and stick with the usual Greek yogurt, granola and blueberries.

I'm told that PRICKLY PEAR is edible, but have never tried it.

TJS 8:47 AM  

Uhoh, Monday is the puzzle of the week ?

TJS 8:55 AM  

Wait, did Rex say this puzzle should be tied to "an anniversary, a holiday, something" and then say "today is a national holiday in Mexico"...a total coincidence". WTF ??

Golfballman 9:12 AM  

Holy shit Rex, my personal best time. Medium?

Nancy 9:14 AM  

Good grief! I just saw out of the corner of my eye scrolling down through the comments that Jeff Chen awarded this creampuff a POW. That certainly does not portend well for the rest of the week.

I spent much of this puzzle, especially on the left side, guessing the clues without reading them -- based on no more than two filled-in letters. (If I ever were to construct my own grid, this would help me be a better grid constructor). I wasn't wrong even once. I got BASE HITS, AESOP, RATTLESNAKE and ADLIB that way, for example.

The right side was not as easy to see from a few letters -- especially PANCAKED and PRICKLY PEAR. I didn't know DUANE, and SPUN had a nice clue that required a bit of thinking.

But, as I say, a creampuff. And I found the theme completely underwhelming.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

@ max i agree with you on the duane cluing. especially since it's not technically a eric clapton song, it's a derek and the dominos song

Pete 9:26 AM  

On Saturday I saw a Red Tailed Hawk flying with a snake in its talons. Where's my flag!?

Jeff B. 9:50 AM  

A more interesting Monday puzzle than usual. Thanks for the story, @Andrea! Did not know the background of the flag.

Nice to see DUANE Allman with LAYLA, whether intended or not. Too bad they didn't cross.

Andrea 9:56 AM  

Another thing, yes, the prickly pear is edible. We call it “tuna” and it can be green or purple on the outside. One has to, obviously, get it at the market after they shave off the spines (thorns?); the rind is thick and hard but the inside is soft and juicy. The only annoying thing is all the little seeds inside that can’t be chewed, so you have to just swallow them. A lot of people are put off by it, but it’s really delicious!

Also, beyond the collective nationalistic narrative around Benito Juárez, he was really a remarkable person, a true liberal and fair leader that held Mexicans and their betterment first and foremost. It is telling that for a country with a clear indigenous majority, almost all presidents have been “criollos” or of Spanish descent, so it’s easy to see how things have been -and still are- for the brown population. Anyway, yes, Juárez is everywhere: I grew up in la Calle Benito Juárez, and here in Chicago there’s a statue of him front and center at the Plaza of the Americas, right where the magnificent mile start on Michigan avenue and the Chicago River (that is, right next to the Wrigley building). This is a very nice little plaza with all the flags of every country in our great American continent.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Anon 9:23,
Nah. It is a Clapton and Jim Gordon song. It was originally recorded by Derek and the Dominos, but it's undoubtedly Clapton's show.
Duane Allman was certainly magical on the track. But anything he touched turned to gold (save motorcycles of course). But Clapton always said his favorite Allman guitar solo was hiss on Wilson Pickett's cover of Hey Jude.

Did you happen to catch Pope Francis's remarks on gay marriage? And
whether homosexuality is properly ordered? I'm wondering, is he a bigot too?

Bill Evans

EdFromHackensack 10:18 AM  

NAVI? Surprised no one else commented on this. found it lame.

pmdm 10:19 AM  

After solving this puzzle I thought to myself that, for a Monday puzzle, Jeff will probably award it with a POW. Correct. Then I thought to myself that Sharp will somehow find things to gripe about this puzzle and will justify his complaints in a round-about manner. Kind of correct, but after the "why" question I stopped reading his write-up. The comments posted here are more interesting to read.

The bottom line: if you dislike a puzzle, you need not justify your reaction with BS or anything else (not that I think Sharp BSs. That characteristic seems to annoy some who visit here as much as anything. If you've read the write-ups for a while, you understand Mike's limited concept of a good puzzle. Just as you understand Z's dislike of a tribute or quote puzzle. No need to justify your emotions. (Unlike most people I very much enjoy classical music. No need to justify my taste.) Doing so can get quite boring. Quite, quite boring. At least to me.

So I felt the long theme entries justified the many short entries. For me, a more enjoyable Monday puzzle for most. For new solvers? I'll listen to their reactions. For experienced solvers? That's not for whom is aimed at.

If I don't stop now I'll just go on and on and on ...

Pete 10:30 AM  

@Anon 9:23 Jumping in here, but if he thinks any member of the LGBTQ+ community is entitled to fewer rights or less respect as a human, then yes he is.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

He most certainly does not think any member of the LBGTQ+ is entitled to fewer rights or less respect. In fact, he doesn't think ANYONE is entitled to less respect, love or rights than anyone else.
The question at hand is about which acts are licit, what behavior is ordered correctly.
It has nothing to do with inclinations, sexual or otherwise.

Frantic Sloth 10:46 AM  

@Z from yesterday. Thanks for the WaPo puzzle recommendation - that was fun!

@Andrea 110am Brilliant post - thank you!

@Bill Evans 1014am When you spewed that bigoted - yes, bigoted - nonsense the other day, I bit my tongue, chalking it up to obnoxious trollery.
Now you're back, not letting the matter drop, and looking to incite hate-fueled controversy. Something (or someone) has obviously crawled up your butt and, understandably, wants to get out. One can only hope that you will follow its/his lead and do likewise.

@Pete 1030am 👍 Your 926am flag is in the mail. 😘

GILL I. 10:48 AM  

Ay Chihuahua....you give me anything Mexican and I will dance a zapateado with the best of them. My second home beginning in 1976 and finally seeing the end of the reign of the worst Mexican President in history....Luis Echeverria (my opinion).
BUT...Thank you @Andrea and @Barbara S for making me smile. AND @Rex with his wonderful Benito Juarez. All is well is well in the land of the finest food, wonderful people, beautiful beaches AND....@Bichbark...Yes...the fruit of the nopales are edible.
Did I enjoy this? Why yes...I did. But oh how I wish Philip had snuck in Oaxaca and a bit of the best mole in the world. Why am I missing the taste of indigenous food from Lavatura de Olla when I can have a Taco Hell right here?

Joe Dipinto 11:00 AM  

For those who missed it, late last night @Dave S located the earlier NYTimes puzzle that contained the fold-in feature. It ran on Sunday January 24, 2010.

Lewis 11:01 AM  

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

1. They often come out at night (5)(5)
2. Crow native to the Midwest (6)
3. Signs of something moving (5)
4. Far from a popular spot (3)
5. Blues ensemble? (3)(6)


Pete 11:05 AM  

@Anon 10:42 - then he is certainly free to not do them.

Reno retired 11:09 AM  

Tom T would seem to prefer living under Nazi tyranny rather than fight for freedom. As much as I detest war history dictates sometimes we must protect ourselves.

Malsdemare 11:16 AM  

@Andrea, that was a lovely, evocative story, one I'd never heard. Thank you.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Come now. That's just glib deflection.
Here's an honest question: do you believe all actions are acceptable?
I can't believe you do. Therefore it's safe to assume we both agree that some things are not licit.
Reasonable people can disagree on what behavior or action falls into that category. But it isn't bigotry to believe some acts are intrinsically wrong.
That doesn't make the people who engage in such an act any less worthy of love, or respect or kindness or anything at all. But neither does mean anything goes.
Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

JC66 11:46 AM  

Thank you @Andrea, made me appreciate the puzzle even more.

Masked and Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Really liked this MonPuz. Superb theme find, with built-in ahar moment. Smoooth fillins. Weeject stacks in all four corners. A feisty clue here and there, without goin over to the ?-mark dakside. thUmbsUp.

staff weeject pick: ANA. For some reason, I had trouble thinkin of this one, from its {Get ___ on (ace)} clue. I think maybe they stepped up the clue feistiness ever so slightly in the SE, to protect the theme revealer from early pryin eyes, like M&A's. [yo, @STEW & DUANE & DEPENDS & SPARES clues.]
And let's not forget them extra-pretty quad weeject stacks, in the NE & SW.

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clues: As far as the most letters for yer moo, I'd haft go with {Afternoon nap} = SIESTA. As far as just flat-out gimme-grade-A tap-in stuff, I'd go with { ___ for tat} = TIT.

Kinda messed up the N in SNAKE when we was writin it in, at our house, so turned it into a wriggly varmint picture. Made a nice extra salute, to the FLAG theme.

fave sparklers included: BOHEMIA. SPELUNK. AWFUL. PANCAKED. Altho Otto Correct does not like SPELUNK, for some personal reason.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Chow. And congratz on a POW-erful debut. Rest of the week could get mighty tough, if it's Flag Week, or somesuch.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Whatsername 12:00 PM  

I liked this. It was fun with a little pizzazz and just the right difficulty level for a beginner. All in all, a pretty darn perfect Monday. Congratulations to Mr. Chow on an excellent debut!

I do agree with Rex that running this on an a date which might be reason to highlight the Mexican flag would have been better timing. Cinco de Mayo comes to mind and is only a few weeks off. Olla Podrida sounds like a tasty STEW. Wonder if @GILL would tell me how to fix it. Or better yet, maybe she’ll just cook up a big part of it and have us all over. I’ll bring the BABAS and DILL pickles. After dinner we’ll take a swing at the PINATAS if we’re not too smashed.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Since this is a, sorta, Mex/Tex puzzle, fun fact about the Republic of Texas morphing to State of Texas: the Republic was bankrupt and desperately needed a saviour. Polk/Tyler obliged. (It still is.)

oceanjeremy 12:03 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Clocked about 10 seconds longer than my record solve for a Monday. Easy but clever.

After GOLDEN EAGLE and RATTLESNAKE I was already thinking of the MEXICAN FLAG — so when I got PRICKLY PEAR I knew right where we were headed.

I grew up in Texas (which, some might remember, once was part of Mexico). I’ve always admired the Mexican flag and its symbolism and mythology.

The only sore spot for me was LAYLA. I loathe Eric Clapton — as a person, as a guitarist and as a songwriter. That clue was a big fat “Yuck” in the middle of my delightful solving experience.

@Those upset by Rex’s “Why today” criticism: Rex has a Brand To Uphold. Let him kvetch, it’s what he does!

@Andrea: Wonderful write up on the flag, thank you! Your follow-up comment reminds me of an NYC Mexican Restaurant, the late great El Maguey Y La Tuna. Mezcal and nopales! Closed in 2018 due to skyrocketing Manhattan rents, from what I understand. A loss to our city.

@Tom T: Right?? I guess this counts as a second sore spot for me, now that I think about it. Avatar is a gross vehicle for the messages of colonialism, imperialism, racism and White Saviorism. Just a tad tone deaf to include that clue in a puzzle whose theme is the MEXICAN FLAG.

@Birchbark: I keep my head a bald dome these days, but sport a voluminous beard. I’ve had a few buzzer mishaps that required re-landscaping of the tremendous whiskers. You have my sympathy as you wait for your hair to regrow.

Z 12:20 PM  

BTW - Tribute puzzles are low low low on my puzzle favs list because they are inevitably just a list of more or less related factoids. Toss in the almost total absence of half the species and this is a big meh here. TBC - I like trivia, I just prefer my crossword puzzles to be about words and the language.

@Frantic Sloth - Birnholz right now is the master of the 21x21 form. Yesterday’s double curve ball was another tasty solve. I may just eschew the Sunday NYTX for the WaPo Sunday in the future.

Also - This tweet cracked me up as it so succinctly captured some of our discussions here. I don’t actually follow this guy, but someone I do follow (a science fiction author) retweeted it.
The nice thing about Twitter is I just block stupid people and bigots. I can’t imagine why I felt the urge to mention that today.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

THANKS FOR A TERRIFIC PUZZLE. The symmetry, the themers each 11 letters by amazing serendipity, the surprise ending (I had no idea it was going to be a FLAG!). Thanks!! : ) --Rick

Another Anon 12:41 PM  

@Anon 11:40. Love the "sinner" and mind your own business.

Anoa Bob 12:48 PM  

So we get a Mexican flag tribute puzzle and then PINATAS shows up smack dab in the middle of the grid? I know what PIÑATAS (peen YAH tahs) are, I see them regularly down here in TexMex Land, but don't recall hearing or seeing PINATAS (pee NAH tahs). Maybe it's some kind of folk remedy for problems with el ANO.

I tried PRICKLY PEAR fruit once, didn't care for it. I think if they are mixed with, say apple slices, they are more acceptable to a norteño's palate. I know that apple slices can improve the taste of my favorite cactus, the peyote.

Now I'm trying to figure out if it's time for my SIESTA. Damn you, daylight savings b.s., damn you! (Lewis Black has a profanity-laced tirade against DST on YouTube, funny as only he can be, but definitely not suitable for all audiences.)

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

You're saying Pope Francis is stupid and a bigot? Good to know.

Masked and Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Typo in first msg: Should be ?-mark darkside, not ?-mark dakside.

Also, meant to mention my bein impressed with the bonus, theme-related, material: PINATAS. SIESTA. Maybe toss in 59-A's "Olla podrida", too boot.

Quite a constructioneerin feat.


ss 12:57 PM  

I'd never heard of olla podrida before, but knew that the Spanish words mean "rotten pot" so it was inferrable as STEWS. Glad I wasn't doing the puzzle at the breakfast table though. That clue and the BABAS / AWN cross (pretty much natick territory for me) seemed more appropriate towards later in the week.

PGregory Springer 1:02 PM  

I do not think it is an accident that this wonderful Mexican puzzle appeared today. I am in Mexico City today and it is a national holiday. ¡Viva!

Teedmn 1:07 PM  

Possibly a Monday record for me, this played very easy. However, MEXICAN FLAG filled in with crosses; after I finished, I was looking for the tie-in between the theme answers when I finally read the clue for 61A. Hah, had no idea the Mexican flag was so interesting.

Philip K. Chow, I enjoyed your puzzle. Congrats on the NYT debut and getting POW on your first try!

Viejo Gringo 1:10 PM  

Love to see a Mexican-themed puzzle, but so sad to see the spelling error in 26 down. The Times regularly allows this error. Anyone else see it? Times has also allowed TAMALE which is not a word. Singular is TAMAL, Plural is TAMALES. TAMALE = PENDEJES.

Mikey from El Prado 1:15 PM  

A real solid Monday puzzle with some added bonuses:


DUANE Allman, who played on LAYLA and Other Assorted Love Songs.

old timer 1:16 PM  

AJA! A Tribute puzzle to Benito Juarex, running on the very day his birthday is celebrated in Mexico this year. Hardly a coincidence, @Rex.

Mind you I only know the day because of the info OFL gives. My watch said it was still the 12th, since I did not adjust it when poor old February gave up its ghost.

Of course, as an Anglo I admire stout Cortez and his little band of soldiers. Cortez gave them no choice but to win, since he burnt their ships before heading off to Tenochlitan. But how could that little band of Spaniards beat a huge army of Aztecs, even though the Spaniards had better arms? The answer: All the way up from the coast, Cortez attracted bands of the subject peoples, who were tired of having their children sacrificed to the Aztec gods, their daughters raped and enslaved by Montezuma's warriors, and maybe even more, tired of having the fruits of their labors confiscated by Aztec tax collectors. When those allies were able to enter the city and take their revenge, the jig was up for the cruel despots.

The priests with Cortez told him to tear down the temple and found a cathedral in its place, and that is what happened.

Yeah, I am making Cortez sound like a modern Republican. But what I say is the truth, and you can read all about it in one of the best books ever written, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz.

Jon in St Paul 1:25 PM  

Disagree with Rex on the theme - it gave me a nice AHA when the revealer became clear. I'd been thinking "Adjective noun?" Even after MEXICAN was clear, I was looking for DESERT or some such outdoor spot. FLAG made me smile, and I learned something.

sanfranman59 1:37 PM  

Easy NYT Monday ... 15% below my Monday median solve time

PKC is another new constructor name in my solving database associated with a 2021 NYT Monday grid. Will has really expanded his roster of early-week constructors since the first of the year.

Cool theme (why does the theme have to have a "reason", Rex? ... yeesh!). This was a breezy Monday solve, but some of the clue/answer combos felt more Tuesday- or even Wednesday-ish ... e.g., WHIST {15A: Trick-taking card game}, SPELUNK {5D: Explore caves}, NAPALM {18D: Incendiary bomb material}, FATWA {23D: Formal ruling on a point of Islamic law}, BABAS {52D: Rum-soaked desserts}. OTOH, it seemed pretty light on PPP and crosswordese. 'PRICKLY Pine' before PRICKLY PEAR {11D: Cactus with an edible fruit} was my only real stumble.

A 1:57 PM  

Forget the Ides of March, it's Act Happy Day! :-)

On March 15, 1895, at the age of 22, Enrico Caruso made his professional stage debut in serious music at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. The work was a now-forgotten opera, L’Amico Francesco, by the amateur composer Domenico Morelli.

With that in mind, and seeing BOHEMIA in the grid on Act Happy Day, here’s the great tenor Caruso singing a bass aria in La Boheme. Yes, a bass aria. (act like you’re singing) The full story is in the notes.

No need to act happy, this was a cheerful puzzle with SLEDS, PETS, PINATAS, and a SIESTA! And the happy places ARK and OASIS. Although seeing FIRE UP crossing NAPALM made me GLAD I decided to go SPELUNKing!

Only problem was having to navigate the AWN/BAA/BABAS intersection. My rule, which apparently does not carry the appropriate heft with the NYTXW staff, is goats BAA, sheeps mAA. So, after having to guess the A of AWN (seemed like the best letter to choose, After All), I had to hold my nose at sheep BAAing. Meh.

SIGMA crossing MAN was begging to be googled. Turns out, not only are there Alpha males and Beta males, there is a very rare type, the SIGMA MAle, a kind of introverted Alpha. Too bad the original wolf study was flawed, as one of our commentariat, @oceanjeremy, I believe, recently pointed out.

Thanks for the almost IRE-free construction, Mr. Chow!

One for the road: Enrico Caruso sings Santa Lucia, with old video of Napoli

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

Odd. I guess Rex isn't of the Vietnam Age, since he didn't trigger on NAPALM. Nasty stuff, that.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Breaking news : The Pope is Catholic. Also trending on Twitter: A Bear Shites in the Woods.

GILL I. 2:30 PM  

@Whatsername 12:00. I do indeed make Olla Podrida. The name (if you want to get all translating fancy) means rotten pot. This stew originated in Spain (not Mexico) and it's really a mixed bag or potpourri of goodies. ...Beans, pork, chorizo, morcilla and goodness galore. A bit like a beefed up fabada. Unfortunately, I can't always find good morcilla or Spanish chorizo unless I spend a fortune at "La Tienta." Of course you're invited over next time I make it.........
@Viejo Gringo. TAMALE is anglicized. We do it lots. My favorite: CUCARACHA = COCKROACH. And oh...did you mean pendejo?

bocamp 2:36 PM  

@A (1:57 PM)

Thx for the "Act Happy Day" post, and it doesn't get any happier than Enrico Caruso singing Santa Lucia! Thx for the vid. 😊

Sul mare luccica l’astro d’argento.
Placida è l’onda, prospero è il vento.
Sul mare luccica l’astro d’argento.
Placida è l’onda, prospero è il vento.
Venite all’agile barchetta mia,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
Venite all’agile barchetta mia,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

On the sea it shines the silvery star.
The wave is placid, the wind is prosperous.
On the sea it shines the silvery star.
The wave is placid, the wind is prosperous.
Come y'all to my boat,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
Come y'all to my boat,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!


pg -3

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness ~ Happiness to all 🕊

Mr.E 2:52 PM  

"The puzzle surely could not have intended"... What do you mean? Obviously it's intentional. Or no, you're smarter than those dumb NYTXW editors, who in their infantile brains could not have possibly released a Mexico themed puzzle on one of the biggest Mexican National Holidays. Must just be coincidence indeed! The arrogance...

Old actor 3:48 PM  

After spending 50 or so yrs. in the Theatre, I'm full of stories but don't tell them often. Today I can't resist passing my flag story along.
Being a retired actor, but still active (sorta) in local theatre, I was doing David Mamet's "A Life in the Theatre". In one scene I was doing the finale of 'Les Miz: where I was to storm the barricades with a large French flag. The stage manager assured us that he would provide said flag. Regularly I would ask him "Have you found the flag yet?" "No problem" he would reply. It never appeared.....until the dress rehearsal. Here's your flag he announced proudly. It was beautiful, large and very colorful, except it was red, white and GREEN with an eagle on a cactus eating a snake! I said "That's the Mexican flag!" Without hesitation he said, "Who'll know?"

What makes this so ironic is that this theatre is 20 miles North of the Mexican border and the population is about 80% Hispanic. Fortunately, our costumer made reasonable replica over-night.

Unknown 3:49 PM  

Budweiser makes a beer w/ prickly pear and lime. Quite refreshing!

bocamp 4:05 PM  


Just redid your and Will's awesome "Ready, Set … Get's Low!" NYT Sunday puzzle from this date last year. What a fun solve! Thank you! :)

"That all of good the past hath had
Remains to make our own time glad"

John Greenleaf Whittier

pg -2

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness ~ Happiness to all 🕊

Bill L. 4:23 PM  

Golden eagles are badass predators. I once saw a pair of them take down a deer fawn in a canyon in northern Colorado. Fascinating and terrifying at the same time. The fawn’s mother was helpless to stop them.

Nancy 5:55 PM  

Gosh, @bocamp (4:05) -- What a wonderful surprise!! I've sort of assumed that once a puzzle of mine appeared...and was duly worked on...and was duly solved (or not)...and was then commented upon at some length by a relatively large number of people, my brief moment in the sun was all over.

For someone to do my puzzle not once, but twice -- and not by accident, but knowingly and voluntarily is more than I could have possibly hoped for and quite a compliment.

And, while parents aren't *supposed* to have favorite children and authors aren't *supposed* to have favorite books, I will cop to the fact that "Ready, Set, Gets Low" is one of my two favorite puzzles -- the other one being "Black Hat."

So I sincerely thank you, @bocamp, for your completely unexpected and highly gratifying post and for truly making my day.

Unknown 5:57 PM  

In the NYT Wordplay column, the constructor gives a shout out to the special meaning of today. Sometimes there's just no pleasing Rex. Make that, most times.

Smith 6:57 PM  

Son Volt? Is that you?

bigsteve46 7:54 PM  

"... 15% below my Monday median solve time." Good grief! Somebody actually calculates their "Monday median solve time??" Just curious: how many Mondays are involved here - and do you play "Monday Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas as background while you work on this? How about "Blue Monday" by Fats Domino as you work through the rest of the week?

Actually, I took 1 hour and 38 minutes for today's puzzle (had a couple of interruptions) so I'm not one to talk about speed solving.

JC66 8:05 PM  


Relax. #SFman has been a regular here for years.

You can always skip his posts if you want to.

Roth 8:22 PM  

I could have done without NAPALM. Horrible stuff, bringing back ghastly memories for those who lived through the Vietnam war.

SBpianist 9:11 PM  


Unknown 9:37 PM  

"for the brown population". Really? "Held (insert any groups here), and their betterment first and foremost"? Really? Do you know the environment you're in here???

Havana Man 9:09 AM  

I couldn't sign on yesterday but MUST lodge this comment: Layla is decidedly NOT an Eric Clapton song as the puzzle and someone here has suggested--it is 100% a Derek and the Dominos song and all of you wise folks who made the Duane Allman connection should know that Duane and Bobby Whitlock (on keyboards) were as much a part of that song's authorship as EC. So there! Just couldn't let that go un-commented--even if it is a day late--in honor of all of those who never get properly credited.

thefogman 10:48 AM  

Rex is being a bit of a PRICKLYPEAR. It’s the editor’s fault this puzzle didn’t run on Thursday, September 16 which is Grito de Dolores (Mexico's Independence Day). Constructors have little or no say regarding when their puzzle will be published. It’s an excellent puzzle in spite of it being misfiled. PS September 16 is also Yom Kipur. PPS - Can’t wait to see what Burma Shave does with 32A.

spacecraft 11:49 AM  

Any puzzle with an EAGLE in it is thumbs up with this fan. Bonus theme material: the PINATAS hanging (as they should) right in the center, and the inevitable SIESTA. Also like PET/TAMED.

Quite a lot of threes can be distracting, but they're not too AWFUL. I'll be GLAD to pay for a SPELUNK and a BOHEMIA with the occasional ANA and BAA, ETAL.

I don't know if the WWE's LAYLA is the one Eric was singing to, but she's gotta be the DOD. Special unnamed mention goes to my favorite NAVI, Zoe Saldana. By and large, a very serviceable Monday. What else?: A GOLDENEAGLE.

leftcoaster 12:59 PM  

Neat, clean and to the point.

The MEXICAN FLAG with all its symbols is pretty impressive, and will have share spacey’s GOLDEN EAGLE.

BABAS and AWN held out to the end as the PRICKLY PEAR (pair).

A nice piece of work by PKC.

Burma Shave 12:59 PM  


The SIREN's call for any MAN
MEATS AWFUL, untimely ENDs:
if her TIT SAG (you SEE, they can),
at the AGE she needs DEPENDS.


rondo 5:25 PM  

Learned something, elements of the MEXICANFLAG. Write-over having misspelled KLINE.

LAYLA is, of course, about Eric Clapton's desire for George Harrison's then-wife Patti Boyd. Eric and Patti later married.

DUANE Allman, a guitar great gone far too soon. DUANE plays on BOZ Scaggs' 'Loan Me a Dime' found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTFvAvsHC_Y
Fantastic blues guitar.

OK puz.

Diana, LIW 5:46 PM  

I didn't know that.

(btw, Mr. W's car is named Layla)

Diana, LIW

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