1940s combat zone in brief / THU 4-15-21 / Emperor who abdicated in 2019 after 30 years / Idyllic spot of myth / Once-plentiful endangered fish nicknamed Albany beef / Gritty films informally / Philosopher who favored simple explanations

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley and Ben Zimmer

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: MIDDLE "C" (58A: Starting point for a piano student, or a phonetic hint to 17-, 18, 22-, 33-, 41-, 49- and 55-Across) — themers are three-syllable words / phrases that have the sound "C" (i.e. "see") in the MIDDLE of them, with that "C" sound spelled differently each time:

Theme answers:
  • TAXI CAB (17A: City transport, redundantly)
  • CALCIUM (18A: Most common mineral in the human body)
  • PUSSYCAT (22A: Gentle, mild-mannered sort)
  • PRESEASON (33A: Warm-up time for pro athletes)
  • TOP SECRET (41A: On a need-to-know basis)
  • NO-SEE-UMS (49A: Camping pests)
  • HALCYON (55A: Happy, as bygone days)
Word of the Day: GORDO (47A: Astronaut Cooper as portrayed in "The Right Stuff") —

Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper Jr. (March 6, 1927 – October 4, 2004) was an American aerospace engineertest pilotUnited States Air Force pilot, and the youngest of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human space program of the United States. Cooper learned to fly as a child, and after service in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, he was commissioned into the United States Air Force in 1949. After service as a fighter pilot, he qualified as a test pilot in 1956, and was selected as an astronaut in 1959.

In 1963 Cooper piloted the longest and last Mercury spaceflight, Mercury-Atlas 9. During that 34-hour mission he became the first American to spend an entire day in space, the first to sleep in space, and the last American launched on an entirely solo orbital mission. Despite a series of severe equipment failures, he managed to successfully complete the mission under manual control, guiding his spacecraft, which he named Faith 7, to a splashdown just 4 miles (6.4 km) ahead of the recovery ship. Cooper became the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight when he flew as Command Pilot of Gemini 5 in 1965. Along with Pilot Pete Conrad, he set a new space endurance record by traveling 3,312,993 miles (5,331,745 km) in 190 hours and 56 minutes—just short of eight days—showing that astronauts could survive in space for the length of time necessary to go from the Earth to the Moon and back. (wikipedia)

• • •

It was weird to zip through a Thursday grid, all the while wondering what was wrong ... when was the axe going to fall ... when was it going to get MACABRE!? (great clue there, by the way: 8A: King-like, in a way). I just knew that some vicious trick was going to be lying in wait around the next corner, or the next, but once I got well over halfway done, I realized it probably wasn't coming, and just sailed to the end of what felt very much like a Wednesday-level puzzle to me. The good news is that I solved the puzzle in exactly the right order, such that my path ended exactly where it was supposed to end, with the revealer, which at first glance felt pretty ho-hum (I was very briefly worried that the answer meant that the *letter* "C" was going to be in the "middle" of all the answers, because wow ... that would not be much of an accomplishment). But then I noticed the sound pattern, which was simple, clever, and elegantly expressed. I like the idea of the *sound* being in the "middle" (as opposed to a letter or letter string being literally physically in the middle). And I really like that the answers are all three syllables (with "see") in the middle, and that each word / phrase achieves that "see" sound with different spelling. It's got layers, this theme, which is what makes its simplicity lovely (rather than plain or boring). The "see" words are all nice stand-alone answers, too—nothing feels forced, the way some themers in a very dense theme often can. Not the usual Thursday challenge, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The density of the theme is *probably* to blame for what felt like an uptick in crosswordese / repeater fill today. Lots of the very familiar short stuff, though some of it is so old-school, I feel like recent solvers might not even recognize it as crosswordese anymore. "ERI tu" and ETO are some serious throwbacks—they used to roam the grid like buffalo but then they were largely hunted out of existence (the buffalo analogy is bad, though, as the near-extinction of ERI and ETO was far less tragic). A sizable list of other common short answers are here too (e.g. ACTA, ERMA, IWO, NCO, SSN, ECTO, RAE, etc.), and then some short partials or add phrases (UPTWO, ENDIN, WASI), all of which me feel a little like I was being swarmed by the crossword equivalent of NO-SEE-UMS in the spaces between the themers and longer answers. Only I could "see um." But as I say, the themers were both plentiful and strong, as were the longer Acrosses in the corners, and so all that crosswordy stuff was occasionally annoying but not overwhelming or exhausting. 

Had no idea about GORDO or PARR (33D: Surname of the Incredibles), but otherwise, all the answers in this one were familiar to me. I've seen "The Incredibles," but just once. Their family name is not a household name to me. Oh, and I guess I don't really know all the Braxton names ... in fact, I know only TONI Braxton, because she was a very successful R&B singer in the '90s and '00s. But TRACI slotted into the grid easily and felt right, so no trouble there (43A: One of the sisters on TV's "Braxton Family Values"). Made a few errors. Had the last "H" in MICH. but wrote in UTAH because I didn't read the clue past "State" (8D: State whose northern residents are known as Yoopers: Abbr.) (the "northern residents" live in the Upper Peninsula, or "U.P."—hence the name "Yoopers"). Wrote in INEPTLY before IN ERROR (16A: Wrongly). I don't like this whole "S"-plurals-on-fish thing. One, two, three STURGEON. Say no to TROUTS, say no to STURGEONS (20D: Once-plentiful endangered fish nicknamed "Albany beef"). Really happy that when I first looked at 32D: Make corrections to (EMEND), I already had the "E" in place, so I didn't have to suffer through my usual "wait, what's the difference between AMEND and EMEND again???" crisis. I was also happy to know SIROCCO. I have no idea why I know it, or know how to spell it, but it whooshed down my grid off of the "S" and every letter proved correct. Sometimes you luck out. Volkswagen used to make a SCIROCCO, which is why SIROCCO always looks wrong to me. But it's just a variant spelling. Wikipedia says the wind is also known as JUGO or, "rarely," simply SIROC. Why have I drifted into trivia? I better stop now. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 6:02 AM  

I gotta be missing something. There's no way having the letter "C" in the "middle" of the themers is the theme.
If this is it, I can hear REX's head exploding from here - despite the shout out at 3D. Yesterday he was all but apoplectic about having to do a word search. The mind boggles at what doing a letter search might evoke.

First of all, there's that. But then the grid has a pretty lax interpretation of what "middle" means.
And I just now caught on to the actual theme. The "C" sound is in the middle of the themers! That's so much not-much better!

Nothing like an anemic theme to squash a fun-ish solve. Points for construction and a bunch of themers, but somewhere Peggy Lee is singing.

I'm really starting to hate the Thursdees. They've been such a disappointment (if you're into extreme theming) with few exceptions for some time now.

And the fill might have been solid gold and shit rainbows and still wouldn't make up for it.

The good news is that thanks to some folks here on the blog, I knew what Yoopers are.
The bad news is that I know what Yoopers are.

***Useless Tidbit Alert***

For those who may not know, BEQ is the perpetrator of the original Natick 7/6/2008 - look no further than 1A/1D! 😁


Rgbruno 6:12 AM  

The clue on 17 across is ok but also historically wrong. Taxicab is short for taximeter cabriolet. Taximeter is the device that records distance travelled and converts it into the money amount, cabriolet is a carriage, of course. So although we use both taxi and cab as synonyms, it was not always thus.

Tom Taylor 6:26 AM  

I don’t get the clue for MACABRE... any help?

Anonymous 6:27 AM  

Clever theme but felt like way too many proper names today - Isaac, Traci, Debra, Rae, Gordo, Brice, Erma, Parr, Ana, Akihito...

Anonymous 6:32 AM  

I've wondered why the two BEQ/Zimmer collabs appear in the the NYT and not the WSJ. Do Miller and Shenk think these puzzles are not good enough for them, or is it just another sign of the pre-eminence of the NYT?

SouthsideJohnny 6:54 AM  

ACTA, UNAGI, SIROCCO, NOSEEUMS, ERI, AKIHITO . . . Oh my ! I would have had about the same chance at getting those if they were shown in the cyrillic alphabet. Today was the kind of a day where I pretty much concede any chance at a complete solve and just try to hone my “crosswordese” skills by filling in the usual suspects that we encounter as on a daily basis (and sort my way through the somewhat loosely clued items like OILERS and OH MAN - can you imagine anyone saying something like “Hoo-we, you should have seen the size of the ships in the canal today !” And having it translated to “OH MAN, Get a load of those OILERS !” (The latter of which does seem like it may apply to a hockey team, at least - is there still a team in Edmonton ?). So, decent workout and a chance to bulk up my solving muscles today in what amounted to a practice round.

Richard Stanford 6:57 AM  

Overall a very easy Thursday. I admit that I don’t get MACABRE though. It doesn’t seem to match up with any of the definitions and I can’t think of an Elvis link either. I’m sure it’ll be obvious once I see it, but as of now I’m just not seeing it.

I was happy that I learned how to spell HALCYON for some reason, and SIROCCO (thanks, Volkswagen). Had to guess on AKIHITO/ETO and got lucky.

Lewis 7:11 AM  

This solve went steadily two-thirds of the way through, not a straight-line zip, as there were hesitations and a change-a-letters here and there, but the barriers dissolved fairly quickly. At that two thirds point, however, two things happened. One, I was confused because couldn’t figure out what the theme was, and nothing tricky was going on. And two, I finally ran into a thicket I couldn’t penetrate in the SW.

So I finally went revealer hunting, and when MIDDLE C showed up, I saw what was happening, and that gave me HALCYON, which lickety-split gave that thicket a ticket to ride, and boom I was done.

The theme wasn’t tricky, but it was impressive as that C sound appeared in different costumes each time – XI, CI, SY, SEA, SE, SEE, and CY. And I experienced pings of pleasure as I passed through such beauties as SURE DID, MACABRE, ME AGAIN, NO SEEUMS, HALCYON, SIROCCO, STURGEONS, and OCCAM.

Finally, I highly recommend that you go to XwordInfo and look at BEQ’s gorgeous ZZ-Top-worthy beard. The clincher to a most lovely B&B experience. Thank you, you two!

Spatenau 7:14 AM  

For those asking about 6 across: MACABRE is "king-like" because the author Stephen King writes horror novels.

Mel Torme 7:17 AM  

MACABRE is a type of writing Stephen King is known for.

Toberts 7:19 AM  

Stephen King-like? That was all I could come up with, but it seems pretty obscure.

quincy 7:21 AM  

Stephen King

pabloinnh 7:21 AM  

Still busy here, went as fast as I could, although no printer means doing these on line, yuck.

Did not feel like a Thursday at all, just an early week puz with a gimmick. That's OK with me as I was dreading having to type in a rebus, eek.

Closing tomorrow.

Son Volt 7:22 AM  

This was brutal - not my kind of Thursday or for that matter any day. Three syllable words with the phonetic C sound - so much fun. Include as many as possible so the resulting fill sucks and you get today’s puzzle.

MACABRE is a reference to Stephen King. That and HALCYON are the best entries of this one. The SE block is particularly bad.

Dismal puzzle to go with the already grim weather this morning.

Flying Pediatrician 7:23 AM  

When I was stationed overseas in the Caribbean, the NO-SEE-UMS were the absolute worst, especially after rain. They are completely indifferent to DEET. Everybody seemed to have their own homemade solution, but none of them worked. Give me mosquitoes any day—at least they respect insect repellent!

bocamp 7:27 AM  

Thank you @Brendan & @Ben for this fresh, crunchy puz! :)

Easy+ solve.

Good start in the NW, and smooth sailing all the way.

Was looking for some Thurs. trickery, but it wasn't to be.

Coincidence of the day (did this puz Wednes. eve.): Wanted HALCYON for the SB, but no dice.

ERI tu ~ Robert Merrill

pg -5

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

OffTheGrid 7:28 AM  

I quite enjoyed this as a themeless after tripping over my own feet once or twice (I'm lookin' at you, NW corner). The only real ugly was STURGEON*S*. I put in STURGEON immediately only to see it was a letter shy. I groaned loudly later when I saw what it had to be. I looked at the theme afterward. MEH.

Anonymous 7:29 AM  

Stephen King-like

kitshef 7:38 AM  

Ugh. Second Thursday in a row that has been a real disappointment. This is a decent Tuesday puzzle, but sure does not belong on Thursday.

With Bananarama in the clue for TRIO, Rex missed an opportunity to include (arguably) the greatest music video ever in his writeup.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Funny how something so tiny can make you jump and yell.

Anonymoose 7:42 AM  

@Rex, Here's what they really call the wind...

A Way Out Here They've Got A Name For Wind And Rain And Fire
The Rain Is Jack The Fire Is Joe And They Call The Wind MARIA
Maria Flows The Stars Around Since The Clouds're Flying
Maria Makes The Mountains Sound Like Cold Wind Out There Dying…

Greg in Sanibel 8:02 AM  

@Flying Pediatrician I see from your profile that you live near Jacksonville. You don’t have to go all the way to the Caribbean for noseeums, come on over to Sanibel on the Gulf coast where we have plenty to entertain you! Along with a dozen homemade remedies that don’t work.

mmorgan 8:16 AM  

I was flummoxed by why a ring thing is a STONE but I get it now. (I was thinking it was some Lord of the Rings thing I didn’t know.). I don’t know why, but HALCYON is one of my most favorite words in the universe.

Phaedrus 8:24 AM  

Yes. The SB caused me to learn the proper spelling of halcyon which came in handy today

Phaedrus 8:27 AM  

Did exactly the same thing. Share Rex’s wrath at adding s to pluralize already plural words.

TJS 8:33 AM  

OH,good,a BEQ !...and then an eleven minute Thursday. Sheesh.

Zwhatever 8:38 AM  

So what you’re saying, Rex, is that fish are S-less. Sounds fair.

I gotta love a theme that highlights the stupidity of spelling. A single sound spelt 8 different ways. Mwah! And, of course, always in the middle of three syllables (hence TRACI is not a themer (and maybe a wee bit suboptimal to have her in a MIDDLE C puzzle)). Just a perfect little theme. But, what Rex said about the fill and the day placement. The more I Iook the bigger the chasm between the quality of the themers as answers and the quality of the fill appears to be.

The ONTario clue got an arched eyebrow. Most ONTarians are eastern neighbors of MICHiganders with a few actually being southern neighbors of Detroiters. Consider that Thunder Bay has roughly 120,000 people living there while Toronto and environs has nearly 10,000,000 people. Sure, most of the land of ONTario is north of MICHigan, but most of the “neighbors” are east.

Nothing says NYTX better than going Bananarama and Bell Biv DeVoe for your TRIO clue. There are no one hit wonder TRIOs from this century? I don’t have a problem with either of these two groups, just that one from the pre-crunge era and one from a year starting with 2 would have been better.

Karl Grouch 8:38 AM  

Better clues, as M&A would say:

MEAGAIN, Latin for "My profit"

HALCYON, Kingfisher- like, in a way

NOSEEUMS, Place to exhibit snouts?

STOOP, "Noo moore please!"

STURGEONS, School of fish in a hospital aquarium?

OHMAN, Actress Sandra's husband?

ONT, They have in Le Havre?

Thank you, I'll show myself out.

shari 8:48 AM  

On 59D “MLB’s 10th men”. What are DHS?

JOHN X 8:55 AM  

Interesting puzzle. I honestly never really noticed the theme at all, even after seeing the revealer. I just filled it all in. It was a good puzzle, though. Brendan Emmett Quigley does not look at all like I thought he'd look.

I don't think ETO and IWO are tired fill at all. They represent war at its finest.

The clue about Banarama sure brought back some memories. I remember the night some years back when Banarama called me up and asked me to come over and get them all pregnant. And I would have done it too but I was busy getting The Bangles pregnant at the time.

Fun GORDO Cooper fact: he was the only one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts who did not smoke cigarettes. It was a different era, folks. At the introduction of the astronauts at a press conference in 1959, everyone on stage is smoking. Here's a video clip of the 1959 press conference. See how many cigarettes you can count being lit. One administrator is smoking while he is speaking to the audience. It's pretty awesome.

Barbara S. 8:59 AM  

Do Ben Zimmer and Brendan Emmett Quigley team up because they both have last names starting with exotic letters? Does it make them the Zachary Quinto of crossword constructing teams? Am I talking nonsense because I don’t have much to say about the puzzle?

I mean, I quite liked it, but I was disappointed in its lack of Thursday sleight of hand (except possibly for that MACABRE clue – that was ace). My only major error (appropriately) was in response to the clue “Big Bungle”: gafFe for SNAFU. That was irritating because the common F affirmed AFAR. Otherwise, smooth sailing. Glad to see REX in the grid. And thanks to @Z for teaching me the term “Yoopers”. I’ve got to commit UNAGI to memory – the need for that word sets my brain to wracking every time. Liked the clue for ANDS, of all things – “They may lead to longer sentences” – although ANDS itself is a pretty bad answer. “WAS I close?” was majorly obscure. But something about ME AGAIN smiling and waving in the middle of the grid made it all OK.

@Karl Grouch (8:38) -- Tee Hee.

The quotation today comes from ANNE MICHAELS, born Apr. 15, 1958.

“The spirit in the body is like wine in a glass; when it spills, it seeps into air and earth and light….It’s a mistake to think it’s the small things we control and not the large, it’s the other way around! We can’t stop the small accident, the tiny detail that conspires into fate: the extra moment you run back for something forgotten, a moment that saves you from an accident – or causes one. But we can assert the largest order, the large human values daily, the only order large enough to see.”
(From Fugitive Pieces)

JBT 9:00 AM  

Maybe it’s just me but taxi cab is not pronounced with a see sound. It is tax-ee

mathgent 9:04 AM  

@Anonymous (7:42): Thanks for the lyric. I've heard it many times but never really caught its beauty until now, seeing it written out. I remembered Vaughn Monroe singing it. Just having looked it up, I'm reminded that Frankie Laine also sang it. (Frankie Laine was my favorite singer when I was 20 -- Jezebel!). The lyric was by the genius Alan J. Lerner from Paint My Wagon.

Jeff Chen gets a big kick out figuring out the theme of a crossword. Not me. My enjoyment comes from sparkly clues and sparkly words. "King-like, in a way" for MACABRE is a double sparkler. BTW, is MACABRE our only word with a silent RE? Other sparkle: HALCYON, UNAGI, SIROCCO.

I've spent time in Michigan but haven't hear the term "Yoopers." Is it commonly used these days?

Is Lewis saying that he likes BEQ's beard?

Lewis 9:10 AM  

@mathgent -- Yes.

Hungry Mother 9:14 AM  

Quite easy, but the SW had me going until I remembered my piano lessons in my youth. Expecting a rebus, I had HARd[core] for a short while.

burtonkd 9:14 AM  

@mmorgan - I kept protesting in my head "The ring thing in The Ring IS the ring!".

@Karl Grouch - I'll be happy to kick you on your way out. Loved it, actually.

@Z - I see your point about Ontario, yet go north from any point in MI and you end up in ONT. Clue says nothing about population density. The southerly crossing into Windsor from Detroit was a shocker.

2 days in a row of puzzles playing as themeless only to discover the theme at the end.

Probably pointless (bad pun intended) to mention that being ahead by a basket can just as easily be UPTHREE.

MEAGAIN looks like a pop star spelling that could be Ms. Trainor's first name.

I thought the plural to cause consternation would be NOIRS. Also was steeling myself up for a scathing blog write-up.

burtonkd 9:19 AM  

@JBT - X consists of two sounds, a k and an s. When writing it out phonetically, you would connect the k to the first syllable and the s begins the second; thus tak - see.

@Rgbruno - thanks for the fun fact about taxicab. That's the kind of stuff that brings me here.

Flying Pediatrician 9:31 AM  

Oh man. You’re not kidding. I’ve been to Sanibel a few times and they’re brutal there. What a scourge! Whoever figures out how to deter them deserves a Nobel Prize!

Crimson Devil 9:35 AM  

Designated Hitters, but not in all MLB: AL only.

GILL I. 9:52 AM  

Well I obviously don't know my Bell Biv from my M.L.B's 10th men and I should revisit my syllables and maybe do a HALCYON dance because I never got the revealer.
So...what's new PUSSY CAT?
Oh, wait...it's BEQ and his MACABRE, wicked cluing.
Why isn't Streisand a Fanny?
Where is OCCAM's razor?
GORDO looks like a skinny minnie to me
I learned all about NO SEE UMS in the swamps of Florida. Those little bastards would fly up your nose while you ate your mustard laden hot dog.
I think I'm going to pull up a chair and go sit with my pal, @Frantic. We can yak NON STOP about the starting to hate Thursdees. Maybe do a DUCHY dance and wonder why PARR wasn't clued as Jack.
My Yoopers runneth over.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Can someone please explain 31A "Ring Thing"?

JD 10:00 AM  

I'm conflicted. Felt that things skewed old during the solve, from 50 to 80 years ago. Funny Girl, WWII, Gordo, Erma. Words like Taxicab (taxeecab), Sot. @Karl Grouch had better clues.

But it's kind of a Monet. Step back and look, you get a different impression. Macabre, Unagi, Halcyon, I Second.

I really don't see though, how anyone can praise some variations on the C sound and criticize the awesomeness of hidden sheep.

Steve Allen 10:02 AM  

@GILL I 9:52AM

PARR wasn’t clued as “Jack” because his name was spelled PAAR.

Barbara S. 10:07 AM  

@JOHN X (8:55)
As my husband always says, that was back when smoking wasn't dangerous.

Joe Dipinto 10:12 AM  

@Z – BEQ really should have used ZZ Top for the TRIO clue (see pic at XWord Info and @Lewis's 7:11 post).

Nancy 10:17 AM  

STURGEONS is one of the more ridiculous examples of a POC. Here's PROOF; Listen and enjoy!

Now, back to the rest of the puzzle. Feeble. I checked my calendar twice to make sure it really was Thursday. No tricks. Nothing up the puzzle's sleeve. A theme that you'd miss completely if you weren't looking. Or perhaps even if you were looking. Comprised of a lot of weak, slangy phrases like "SURE DID"; "ME AGAIN"; "GET THIS"; and "WAS I close?". A few very minor celebs tossed in for good measure. Was there anything I really liked about the puzzle? Actually, no.

GILL I. 10:20 AM  

@Steve Allen.....Damn it. Story of my life.

Whatsername 10:21 AM  

Oh goody! Another puzzle where I get to go back after the fact and find the secret word - or in this case, sound - in order for the revealer to make sense. AGAIN, as I said yesterday, at least there were no circles. Please make it STOP!

But to be fair, aside from the fact that I hate the find-a-word aspect of it, this was well done and the theme was solid. Not much flash for a Thursday but it’ll do.

oceanjeremy 10:23 AM  

Ugh. First DNF in ages. I had to look up Emperor AKIHITO because baseball might as well be Esperanto to me (DHS) and I can never remember that ETO stands for "Eastern Theater of Operations." So I was looking at AKI_I_O and just couldn't be bothered to "run the alphabet" twice. Yes, I know, I should have remembered AKIHITO because it is very recent news, but by the time I got there I was so mad at this puzzle I didn't even feel like searching my memory banks for the name.

None of the PPP was in my wheelhouse today. The theme might as well have just not been there. How does this even qualify as a Thursday puzzle?!

I hated it.

JD 10:33 AM  

@burtonkd, It's a revelation to know I've been mispronouncing tak-sē my whole life. Thank goodness for Uber. Pronounced like Yooper, right?

Zwhatever 10:37 AM  

@burtonkd - “Neighbors” are people, not land. No argument on the head north and hit ONTario observation, just that not even YOOPERs head north to visit their ONTarian neighbors (well, I guess you do technically go north from Sault Ste. Marie to Sault Ste. Marie). It was really the “neighbor” part of the clue that caused the eyebrow to twitch.

Fun fact, the former mayor of Sanibel has a condo in my (soon to be former) HOA.

@mathgent - YOOPER is very commonly used in reference to the Upper Peninsula. “Troll” for people who live “under the bridge” is less common but can still be heard and found in print. You may not have heard it because you never had occasion to have a jocular conversation about the U.P. For most MICHiganders everything north of I-96 is just “up north” most of the time, so that is the more common term in day-to-day conversation. Still, YOOPER lore is part of the state’s cultural gestalt. Here’s an example I just found.

@JBT - hmm... for me it is a TACKS EE when speaking slowly, but always TAX C CAB or a TACK C when speaking normally.

Ike 10:37 AM  

@ oceanjeremy 10:23AM

ETO stands for European Theater of Operations

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

And for all my years growing up in the Great Northeast, I thought that one of the region's benefits was the presence of NOSEEUMS. Our Red Badge of Courage.

Also, here in Snowflake Land it's said TAX-EE CAB. There is no soft C to be found.

jae 10:44 AM  

Easy. Clever and pretty smooth given 8 themers. Liked it.

14d was a gimme as we are currently watching NatGeo’s genius series on Aretha.... and, Re: yesterday’s genius discussion, Aretha is the third installment, the first two were Picasso and Einstein. All three are terrific!

RooMonster 10:48 AM  

Hey All !
Dang, BEQ, I'm jealous of your beard! I would have a beard like that if I could, but not good for the Limo look.

SE corner. Egads. Congrats to AKIHITO for being an Emperor for 30 years, but who are you? I don't care about world leaders. Too much else to fret about. Plus the ole brain flatly refusing to see ENDIN. Had the EN, and could only see ENter or ENtry. Even OHMAN wasn't materializing. Wanted OHboy or OHyes. Eek. Was getting frustrated, so hit Reveal Word for ENDIN. Was able to finagle the Revealer finally after the cheat, had csharps in at one time! So, sorta kinda had the theme, but improperly parsed.

And I pronounce TAXICAB as tack-see-cab. So there. 😁

Would've had a DNF regardless of that SE corner, having eNTRy for INTRO, which got me SeROCCO, which looked fine, and STURGEyNS which looked silly. Oh well. Agree with the Wrong-Day-Puz people. But who am I to say what days puzs belong on? Nobody, to answer that question.

A neat idea, nicely executed by BEQ and BZ. Does your middle name start with E, BZ? If not, you should change it. Har.

One F

TTrimble 10:53 AM  

@Anonymous 9:55 AM
A diamond on a wedding ring is also called STONE.

I was glad for @Rgbruno's comment; I was going to point out the same thing. You have to go back to the roaring 20's or so, but a TAXImeter dancer was a lady you would pay to dance with you at a set rate. I think Henry Miller discovered his future wife June as such a dancer.

I found this fairly easy for a Thursday until I hit the SW. After all the build-up, MIDDLE C was pretty much a gimme. But AKIHITO -- no way I would conjure that up on its own. And 10th men as DHS -- same thing; I just don't know baseball ("designated hitters", for those who were asking). COP was not immediate to me.

I always have trouble remembering if it's UNAmI or UNAGI.

The first time I saw NOSEEUMS in print, I must have been about 11 or 12 years old. I was reading one of the volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia -- I used to love reading encyclopedias, just browsing at random, picking up bits of random information -- and it must have been an article on flying insects or something where the term was introduced with an explanation that the name is from what the American Indians* called them. Or something like that! I couldn't believe my eyes and thought the article writer must have been kidding around and managed to slip this past the editor, this obvious stereotypical broken English of "Injuns", like how they say "how" as a greeting. "Ugh, no-see-um." And yet, it seems to be more or less true. Dictionary.com has "An Americanism dating back to 1840–50; from the broken English phrase (You) don't see 'em, supposedly used by American Indians". I'm not sure the article writers included "supposedly" in the explanation; they might have, or might not.

Not sure if Rex knows all this, and how un-PC it all seems today. He didn't say anything, obviously.

*I'd bet a dollar to a doughnut that it was "American Indian" in the article, and not, say, "Native American". It was the 70's, man. We used to play Cowboys and Indians back in the day, or in my own neighborhood it was more likely Cops and Robbers, but you get the idea.

pmdm 10:55 AM  

Pleasant enough puzzle today. Demonstrates the usefulness of blogs since I had no idea about the 8A clue until I read the comments here.

Interesting in that the solution printed in today's puzzle for yesterday's puzzle includes circling the theme parts. The NYT is usually not that nice, seems to me.

Crimson Devil: I may be wrong, but I though during inter-league games the NL uses the DH when playing a game in an AL park. By choice, not mandated by the rules, so only usually.

Nancy 10:57 AM  

For @Anonymoose, @Mathgent -- and for all of you. Lerner and Loewe's incandescent and haunting song They Call the Wind Maria If you've never heard it before, you're in for a treat and you'll never forget it. One of about 7 songs in the world that always makes me cry.

I'm not sure what exactly in the puzzle led to a discussion of this song, but it doesn't matter. It's all in a very good cause.

Carola 11:11 AM  

For me, encountering a theme with an after-the-fact reveal for the second day in a row took some of the shine off the puzzle (hi, @Whatsername 10:21). File under "OVERUSE." Usually, I appreciate themes that point out the craziness of English pronunciation, but honestly, I had more fun with yesterday's sheep. HALCYON and SIROCCO were lovely, and I liked the parallel PUSSY CAT and NOSEEUMS. Thanks to those who explained the Stephen King connection.

@OffTheGrid 7:28 - I got as far as STURG... and erased, thinking, "With an 'S'? No way."

Moochie 11:12 AM  

The clue for 23 Down is "leading by a basket," and the answer required is "up two." You can also lead by a basket and be up three, so I think this clue is slightly off.

ulysses 11:13 AM  

Natick, native, natick. Proper name crossing proper name. I usually love BEQs puzzles but I thought this one was terrible. Not enjoyable at all. Theme and reveler were lame. Not sure why Rex didn’t pan this one.

Masked and Anonymous 11:17 AM  

yo, @Karl Grouch: Primo "better clues" selections -- several of em worthy of the coveted ??-mark. That there HALCYON pup might even rate a ???-mark.

@BEQ: Wowhar … Nice raised-by-the-wolves beard look. Like. Almost as scruffy-lookin as M&A's recent new driver license photo. [Gal at the DMV proudly displayed the old & new photos side-by-side on a big wallscreen. Old one sorta looked like a clean-cut kid. New one had a Nick Nolte mugshot ambiance to it.] But, I digress ...

Easier than snot ThursPuz, with somewhat foreSEEable & non-tricky theme mcguffin.

fave clue: {"Hoo-ee!"}. Only one ?-marker clue, btw … mighty overly friendly, for a ThursPuz.
staff weeject pick: ERI. Better clue: {Heart of the eerie matter??}. Part of the fab weeject quad-stacks, in the NW & SE.

extra sparklers included: ARCADIA. SIROCCO. SUREDID. MACABRE [with feisty-ish clue]. DUCHY.

Thanx for gangin up on us, BEQ & Zimmer dudes. Cool puz, tho not exactly brain sturgeonery.

Masked & Anonym007Us


The Vez 11:25 AM  

Flew through this puzzle even though 59 down is an incorrect clue, MLB still has only 9 batters. Still don't understand cop for 62 down.

Ethan Taliesin 11:28 AM  

One of these days I'll get the difference between EDO and ETO down pat.

TOCraig 11:37 AM  

...and his Steely Dan t-shirt. 👍

Georgia 11:41 AM  

To me it's tack-see.

Georgia 11:45 AM  

A gemstone goes on a ring, a diamond, pearl, ruby. Not sure if gemstone = stone, but I think that's the intent of the clue.

Chip Hilton 12:02 PM  

Putting in MIDDLEC right away made this one a relative Thursday piece of cake, once I realized it wasn’t the letter C but the sound. Neat. I loved the MACABRE clue and NOSEEUMS was cute. But, overall, everything fell just way too readily for a Thursday. I have no idea why court proceedings yields ACTA, but, that’s just me, I’m sure.

bocamp 12:09 PM  


For a mix of yesterday's FLAMBOYANT and today's PUSSYCAT: Tom Jones.

@Frantic Sloth (6:02 AM) 👍

Thx for the "useless tidbit"; didn't know that one. Seems there was another Natick/Wyeth one (in the NE corner??) that snookered me. Nevertheless, not really "useless", cos I'll be getting around to that puzzle in a year or so, as I slowly make my way thru all the Shortz era puzzes. I just looked Wyeth up again; maybe it will sink in at some point.

@Rgbruno (6:12 AM)

Thx for "taximeter cabriolet". :)

@Phaedrus (8:24 AM)

I've looked up HALCYON enough times that I may finally have it down pat (sp & def). LOL

@Z 8:38 AM

Going south from Detroit to Canada reminds me of Stamford, Conn., where, if I'm remembering correctly, going due N, E, W or S, one must pass thru New York state.

@Karl Grouch (8:38 AM)

Good stuff! Esp the reminder that the HALCYON is in the Kingfisher family.

@Barbara S. (8:59 AM)

Thx for the Michaels' quote. Yay for 'asserting human values, daily'. :)

@JBT (9:00 AM)

This is interesting. When spoken it can sound either as you describe it ("x"/"ee" (tax-ee) or "k"/"C" (tack-see). It depends on focusing on one sound or the other, i.e., saying TAXI with stress on the 1st syl, I can hear it the way I think it. So, bottom line: for me it fits into the puz as a legit themer if I 'think' of it the k/c way. 🤔

Now I'm motivated to track down the recording of a word that you can hear one way or the other, depending on your thinking as you play it.


Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

burtonkd 12:35 PM  

@Z - You made me reread the clue and it asks for the singular neighbor to the north of the state of Michigan, not the people therein. Too bad it is about the states and not the people, because we could be cross-referencing Michiganders and Ontarians.

on Taxi, my point is you can't say a letter x without making the sounds of k and s. I can't for the life of me figure out how one would say taks ee, unless they burped or had a hiccup in the middle of the word.

Zwhatever 12:54 PM  

@burtonkd & @bocamp & @JBT - If I make TAXI basically two words I can hear a distinct KS sound and long E sound. But in normal rhythm that KS EE becomes TACK-SEE.
@burtonkd - As for “(MICH)’s northern neighbor,” you’re not wrong. It still makes my eyebrow twitch. For most other states that border Canada this is a non-issue. But for MICHigan and Maine cluing anything Canadian this way feels lazy to me even though it would only actually feel “wrong” for Alaska (except on a Saturday because you can go north from Juneau and end up in Canada so that could be a nasty fun misdirection).

Teedmn 1:08 PM  

The clue that elicited the coveted "circled clue award" today is 54D. "They may lead to longer sentences" = ANDS. With the A in place, I was not misled but I still got a chuckle over it.

I think it was the Grand in 5D's clue that led me to splatz in "hotel" before the DUCHY took its rightful spot on the map.

I have an old book (Victorian-novel old) titled "Halcyon Days". Now I finally have confirmation of how to pronounce it.

SIRroCO/SIROCCO (not quite to-may-to/to-maa-to).

Thanks, BEQ and Ben Zimmer.

bocamp 1:09 PM  

Do you hear tax-ee or tack-see?

Do you hear green needle or brainstorm? It's up to you! 🤔

Do you hear Laurel or Yanni? You'll hear one or the other.

You've all probably seen these vids, so I'll just show myself out. Auf wiedersehen.

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

I pronounce it Uber.

jberg 1:33 PM  

@Loren is pretty busy these days, or she'd have stopped by to tell us that none of us really know how we pronounce TAXI. But it would be lax of me to say that one can't pronounce the x sound with a following consonant. Still, for this puzzle, it works.

Leavning all the threes aside, what I liked about the puzzle was a lot oof fresh fill, many of which were theme answers. And I see phrases like SURE DID differently from @Nancy; I liked it because it fit the clue so exactly with a combination of ordinary words.*The Vez -- the clue ssays "10th men," not 10th batters.

@Gill, how about Catherine PARR, sometime wife of Henry VIII of England? Now there's a MACABRE clue for you.

@Greg, I spent most of March in Captiva, with many side-trips to Sanibel, and never encountered a NO-SEE-UM. Are they a summer thing?

@Nancy, that's quite a song! It's correct, too; female STURGEON, like most fish, squeeze masses of eggs out in an appropriate place, after which the males cover them with milt. So they are all virgin while the eggs are still in them. BTW, I grew up in STURGEON Bay WI, and never heard an s-plural.

As for 59D, I get the criticism, but I think the constructor were misled by their own clue, which referred specifically to the U.P., which ONT neighbors to the North (if you skip lightly over Lake Superior). That's certainly how I was thinking as I filled it in.

Fun fact: in Japan, he was referred to as the Heisei Emperor. I used to read the weekly Japan Times, which would refer to his father as "the Showa Emperor, who is known in the West as Hirohito."

SharonAK 1:49 PM  

Thank you RGBruno. I was thinking of looking up the etymology of taxi cab. Nice that you did it for me.

@ VEz, Didn't see if anyone answered - a procedural is a term for a type of crime show, hence a cop as an extra.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

so, here's the question: how do you pronounce AXE? as KS or as EX? TAXI is T-AX-EE, now and forever.

kitshef 2:25 PM  

Completely befuddled by the taxi discussion - wondering if it is an elaborate joke that just keeps going. I can't even imagine what people are saying/thinking when they say it is pronounced tax-ee but there is no 'see' sound. It's like someone said "in England there is no daytime, just the period when the sun is above the horizon'.

Sfjoe 2:29 PM  

How is acta a court proceeding?

foxaroni 2:32 PM  

Just as an FYI, the musical is "Paint YOUR Wagon." Harve Presnell sang it in the movie (which included Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees," Lee Marvin doing "Wand'rin' Star" and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band doing "Hand Me Down That Can 'o Beans.") I first heard "Maria" on the Kingston Trio album "Live from the hungry i." Thanks for the link to the Pernell Roberts version--I didn't know he had such a nice voice. Pretty easy Thursday. Didn't get the "King-like" answer, so thnx for the clarifications. Also, was never exactly sure how to pronounce HALCYON, so the theme cleared that up. Great comments today, too.

Elizabeth 2:46 PM  

I didn't know SEIKO (though I speculated that was right), AKIHITO, or ETO, so the southeast was brutal for me. I also DID NOT understand the cluing for MACABRE at all and so was convinced I was wrong in the northeast. Other than that I didn't have particular issues, but all the names I didn't know made me pretty convinced I was wrong throughout.

A 3:01 PM  

Sorry, my take on the “theme” was A FAR cry from OFL’s “layered.” I found it weak. Is it really that hard to find seven - WAIT!!! There are seven. THE SEVEN SEAS. Now that’s layered. I am now a fan.

Still hated a lot of the ppp fill, but that was offset by MACABRE, PUSSYCAT, HALCYON, and, of course REX, the regal pet.

Fittingly, it’s Take a Wild Guess Day. Which is exactly what my last two letters were. Couldn’t get AKIHI__? from the crosses, sifted unsuccessfully through the brain droppings* for an actual memory of the emperor, and put in TO on a wild guess. Came here to sooth my WOEs. Thanks, @oceanjeremy, for the ETO elucidation, but what is COP?

Ah, ok, procedural as in police procedural: “a mystery novel, film, or television drama that deals realistically with police work.” If I’ve ever heard that, it didn’t register.

*Credit to George Carlin: “Brain Droppings” is his first book - here’s a quote:
“TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. Not true. Today is another day. We have no idea what tomorrow is going to be. It might turn out to be another day, but we can't be sure. If it happens, I'll be the first to say so. But, you know what? By that time, it'll be today again.”

Happy Birthday to Mexican composer Héctor Quintanar.

Ok, Mssrs. Q and Z, I was IN ERROR - love the seven seas theme!

Fearless Spectator 3:15 PM  

Enfin! A puzzle for people who know about something more than rock and sitcom stars and the latest texter lingo. Shortz must have taken the day off.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I know that nutritionists call Calcium a mineral. But it isn't really. It's an element.


In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure, that occurs naturally in pure form.

Nancy 3:31 PM  

@jberg -- Oops. Should have listened to the STURGEON song in its entirety before posting a link. Had no idea that it 1) strayed so far afield from the actual fish and 2) managed to be so mind-bogglingly politically incorrect on so many levels to so many different people.

I can't remember which family member sang the first stanza (only) of that song to me -- quite badly, btw -- the first time I ever had caviar. It could have been my maternal grandmother, it could have been my mother, but I think it was most likely my mother's brother, Uncle Dick. I was pretty young. The song seemed quite cute. I had no idea it went on...and on...and on.

From memory, I entered "Caviar comes from virgin sturgeon" into my search box and out popped this ancient RCA Victor recording. There was a whole song, not just a stanza??? Who knew? I listened to three choruses, then thought that was more than enough, and embedded it. Only just now did I listen to the whole thing. Yikes. If you haven't listened to the whole thing, you probably shouldn't :)

TTrimble 3:58 PM  

Some corrections to my earlier post. (1) I meant to say "TAXI dancer", not "TAXImeter dancer", although ultimately the "taxi" there has the same origin as "taxi" does in "taxicab": it refers to cost based on time spent. June Miller nee Mansfield was a taxi dancer. (2) I wrote SW as the corner that caused me the most trouble, but evidently I meant SE.

The discussion about the pronunciation is IMO absurd, or prolonged to the point of absurdity.
Modern IPA: táksɪj
Traditional IPA: ˈtæksiː
2 syllables: "TAK" + "see"

Talk amongst yourselves. I'm getting a little verklempt.

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

the Kingston Trio album "Live from the hungry i."

not for nuthin' but The Limeliters owned the hungry i back then.

Unknown 5:04 PM  

ACTA ? I don't get it. What sort of court are we describing?

Someone mentioned that you could be up by a basket and still be up by three points.
You could also be up by just one point, if the "basket" happened to be a free throw.
But I think we all got the intended meaning . . . .

Since US state abbreviations are all two letters now, I'm surprised rex didn't go off on a rant about MICH. Pleasantly surprised.

RooMonster 5:32 PM  

To add fuel to the fire, 40A clue isn't totally correct. (Resisting saying it's wrong). A Private in the Army has Stripes. An E-1 has none, and E-2 has one, an E-3 had two (one pointing up, with the other arced downward.) Technicality. Two Stripes is a Corporal (who is an NCO), three Stripes is a Sergeant.

Just sayin'.

RooMonster Pot Stirrer Guy

algiardello 5:53 PM  

I was thinking Larry King (given his current looks). Ha! (I was wrong, of course.)

Anoa Bob 5:57 PM  

This solved pretty much as a themeless although I knew that with 38 black squares something themey must be going on. Too many three's for a themeless. Ah, MIDDLE C. The reveal said "phonetic hint" but in several cases there was literally a letter C in the MIDDLE of the themer. That looks like an "alphabetical hint", don't yous think?

And then there were those themers with a letter C sort of but not exactly in the MIDDLE. Kind of roils the theme waters it seems to me. Also there's the "phonetic" issue with TAXI being phonetically tax ee or tax see. My first thought was tax ee but at best it's ambiguous and that is not a good thing for a themer to be, right?

The fill got some help from three two-for-one-POCs at the ends of ROUT/WADE, NOIR/NOSEEUM, and AND/SPROUT. But seven themers and a reveal in a 15X15 grid will make it challenging to get it filled, so maybe it needed some help.

Join all those who took delight in seeing HALYCON in the grid. It put a smile on this old word-nerd's face. I first heard it in the phrase "HALCYON days". Events of the last few years have me thinking of those more and more. Calmer times.

JC66 6:30 PM  


TAK SEE works for me.

CreamyT 7:33 PM  

Cruised through most of it. Got stuck in the SW for awhile, then hit a hard DNF guessing zone in the SE. Wasn't at all familiar with AKIHITO, was *pretty* sure about SEIKO, not a clue about DHS, not a clue about ETO. Everyone one of those crosses felt like a guess with numerous possible answers. That section was a bit frustrating. Enjoyed the cluing otherwise.

albatross shell 7:40 PM  

The 7 C's (thanks @A, how did I miss that?) are all differently-spelled soft C-sounds that are the central syllable of three syllable words or phrases. You see it. Nope they used that one. DC cops? Used that one in the reveal. Is there another one? Hail Caesar?

Halcyon: I did not know it was a bird genus.
ONT: I assume that is a French language clue.
STURGEONS: I see the SURGEONS-STURGEONS connection and that you can get STURGEONS out of the letters in "fish in a hospital aquarium", but for CW purposes I would think you would want it in "a hospital aquarium". Or maybe I missing something?
But definitely some fun tough clues. Much appreciated.

Would you really not have posted that song if you listened to the whole thing? A warning maybe. Can I admit to enjoying it all? Did you not?

Not liking the plural STURGEONS, I did try STeelhead.

Eniale 8:06 PM  

Seeing no-one so far has mentioned the old classical reference for HALCYON, here it is:

a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.

Joe Dipinto 9:11 PM  

@albatross shell → Is there another one?

albatross shell 9:20 PM  

@Unknown 508pm
ACTA is apparently the Latin plural of actum meaning act or record of an official action by a court or other official body. I hope some of the lawyerly here can explain further and comment on how common this usage is. Other than that I got nothing from some soperficial googling.

Zwhatever 10:16 PM  

Came back to mention ACPT Registration.

Also, @oceanjeremy and @A - ETO is the WWII initialism for European Theater of Operations, in contrast to the PTO (although I see it might now be referenced as the Pacific Ocean Theater).

JOHN X 10:31 PM  

@Z 10:16 PM

It was called the Asiatic-Pacific Theater which had no commander per se but was divided into two major commands:

The Pacific Ocean Areas commanded by Adm Chester W Nimitz
The Southwest Pacific Area commanded by Gen Douglas MacArthur

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

I can't quite figure out how Rex has been able to do this blog every day for so many years....

jberg 2:19 PM  

@Nancy I just read your response to me yesterday. I had almost asked if you wrote the lyrics, but the recording was obviously too old for that. I agree, it is quite a song, and probably an artifact of it's times.

spacecraft 11:20 AM  

I "see" what you did there. Very clever; played like a themeless until the very ENDIN'. And then, yes, the sounds, all different but all the same. Good stuff.

14d: Bombeck 99+, Franklin 1. Good for you guys. DOD is Debra, Winger if Messing is busy. Props also to Funny Lady Fanny BRICE, as well as Sharon STONE. Not to forget ERMA of 14d or TRACI Braxton. A stage full, today.

Little Japanese mini-theme, with UNAGI, SEIKO and AKIHITO. Hand up for getting fish plurals straight. We just had pollock last night. They were good. How about "Sci-fi author Theodore and family?" That'll work. And speaking of sci-fi authors, how come no love for ISAAC Asimov? Hayes is fine and all, but he's been the last dozen or so ISAACs in puzzles. I want a grid with ASIMOV in it!

Another mini-theme exists indirectly, with Barbra Streisand appearing as BRICE and also in "What's New, PUSSYCAT?" She'll be my final honorable mention. Easy for a Thursday, but pretty well done. Birdie.

Burma Shave 11:48 AM  


It's no TOPSECRET that DEBRA loves men,


Diana, LIW 2:02 PM  

Sigh. Heavy sigh. At least 10 **** names I do not know. Words or phrases can be sussed out, but if you don't know, you don't know. And yet - I managed to get all 10 with crosses.

All except for 1 letter. EEEYUUUp. A sports word. rrrrrrr

In Seattle the 12th Man is the fan. But the DH? Who knows? (and who does not care!?)

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, usually a caring sort

Diana, LIW 2:03 PM  

BTW - I did eventually get that it is the designated hitter - before y'all rush to my rescue.

Lady Di, who still will sigh

leftcoaster 3:46 PM  

The MIDDLE C theme comes through in a clunky sort of way, the C sounding out the middle syllable of the word.

SURE DID get the whole thing--EXCEPT for OHMAN clued as "Hoo-ee!” Really? hoo-ee?

What a disappointment !

thefogman 5:17 PM  

Well crafted. Every middle “C” sound in each of the themers was a different letter combination.

Ehtisham 5:30 AM  

Taxis in Kent island Maryland

If you’ve crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, you’ve gone right by Kent Island. Located off the west coast of Queen Anne’s County, Kent Island sits at the base of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, connecting Maryland’s eastern and western shores. Public transportation through this area is limited, and Annapolis Taxi Cabs can alleviate difficult transportation situations. Annapolis Taxi Cabs offers reliable Taxi Cab Service in Kent Island Maryland.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP