Libertarian politico Johnson / THU 4-1-21 / Ice old tennis nickname / SUV with geographic nickname / Quite a job you have to admit

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Constructor: Sam Ezersky

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: literal clues ... I think that's it — You have to take the theme clues literally in order to understand the answers. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • 19A: 6-Across, with "out" (6-Across = DEV ... then you add "out" ... which gets you "Devout" ... which means ... VERY RELIGIOUS)
  • 33A: Inits. before 9-Across ("Inits" + 9-Across (ELF) = "In itself" = ESSENTIALLY)
  • 40A: 37-Across, in slang (37-Across (MMI) is (literally) inside "slang," giving you "Slamming," which gets you BAD-MOUTHING)
  • 50A: 64-/65-Across and others (STE and PBR and "others" = "Stepbrothers" = BLENDED FAMILY)
Word of the Day: Trey SONGZ (45D: Trey ___, R&B artist with the 2012 chart-topping album Chapter V) —

Tremaine Aldon Neverson (born November 28, 1984), better known as Trey Songz, is an American singer-songwriter and actor. His debut album, I Gotta Make It, was released in 2005 through Atlantic Records. His follow-up album, Trey Day, spawned his first top 20 single, "Can't Help but Wait". Songz released his third album Ready in 2009 and a single from the album, "Say Aah" (featuring Fabolous), peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it Songz's first top 10 hit. Ready was nominated for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards. The following year saw Songz's highest charting song to date, "Bottoms Up" (featuring Nicki Minaj) from his fourth studio album, Passion, Pain & Pleasure.

In 2012, Songz released his first number one album, Chapter V, which debuted atop the Billboard 200. The album's lead single titled "Heart Attack" was nominated for Best R&B Song at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Following that Songz released his sixth studio album Trigga in 2014, his seventh studio album Tremaine in 2017, and his eighth studio album Back Home in 2020. He has sold over 25 million records worldwide in singles and albums. (wikipedia)

• • •

Kind of a twist on the child's menu-type rebus (as opposed to the crossword-type rebus, where multiple letters must be written in single squares). Something plus something minus something blah blah blah = some message, only here the clue equations lead you to the "normal" or typical clue for the answers. I suppose this one is going to try to pass itself off as an April Fools Day puzzle, but it's Thursday, and trickiness is just what you come to expect from Thursday, so if this is an April Fools attempt, it's not a great one. It's mainly just a harder form of trickiness—what we've come to expect, only more so. And the trickiness on display here ... it's more "ah, I see what you did there" than "Wow." Lots of people are going to have to have the theme, or parts of it, explained to them, I think, as the first theme answer is pretty obvious once you've got DEV filled in, but the next two, yikes, I didn't understand what was going on there until the puzzle was totally finished. This is an important lesson in how valuable the *front* ends of words are: I could see "Devout" from DEV, and I could see "Stepbrothers" from STE/PBR, but could do nothing with ELF or MMI (because they form the end and middle of their clue words, respectively). Also "Inits." is really Really hard to read as "In" + "its..." when you have no idea that that's something you're supposed to do. You have to mentally supply a space, which you don't have to do with the others (I think the "." at the end of "Inits." is slightly cheating, there's no "." in "In itself," but we'll just assume cryptic rules, where punctuation is ignored). There's no internal coherence to the answers—presumably you could make puzzle after puzzle just like this, where the only way to find the normal clue (e.g. "Devout") is to read the published clue as a cryptic clue (DEV + "out"). Because there's no thematic concept, this felt more of a hassle than a joy, a series of thought exercises rather than a pleasurably coherent theme. Also, I don't see how BLENDED FAMILY works if the clue is just [Stepbrothers]. Stepbrothers can be *part* of a BLENDED FAMILY, but they aren't the whole shebang. Weird. 

Slow at first because I went with the wrong language at 12A: Good, in Genoa (BUONO), using the letter pattern to guide me to the more common answer instead of Actually Reading the Clue. This is to say, I wrote in BUENO. This made the already hard-to-parse GO OVERSEAS much harder indeed (3D: Travel abroad). Clue on DOORMAN is maybe my favorite thing in the grid, and it was also hard, making the NW quite a mess for me at first (5D: Quite a job, you have to admit?) (get it? ... because a DOORMAN ... has to admit ... you ... to the building?). EASTLA is crosswordese that was very well masked today (I know I-5 well, having grown up on the west coast (it runs practically the length of the country, N/S), but the I-710 I could not place) (23D: Where I-5 meets I-710). I couldn't see DECRY until DEC-Y and even then I had to think about it (6D: Publicly criticize). Sometimes my brain just won't go into gear, no idea why. Had SHEEN for 48D: Strong luster? (SATYR), failing to pick up on that "?"—it's a good clue, which for me is one where you trick me and the trick seems worth it (SATYRs are known for their lust, so ... "luster"). Had SPOT for 62A: Fix (SPAY), which was quite rough, since SPOT shares two letters with the "correct" answer and is also literally correct for the clue ("in a SPOT" = "in a fix"). 

I don't think anything else needs explaining, does it? PBR = Pabst Blue Ribbon. Björn BORG is the tennis player in question at 56A: Ice-___ (old tennis nickname). That's it. Happy Opening Day! (I'm talking baseball...)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Conrad 6:08 AM  

Had trump and then cuomo before SATYR for 48D.

Ω 6:20 AM  

No, really, don’t bother explaining. I’m sure some will love this. I’d rather spend the morning reading Tennyson.

CeCe 6:32 AM  

"Inits." is cheap but so is "out" in the first clue, the only word you need to add to an entry that's put in quotation marks. The slash in "64-/65-Across and others" for BlendedFamily is also something I found confusing and still can't make sense of. Too bad Ezersky needed to rely on some cheap stuff to increase the difficulty of his gimmick.

Lewis 6:35 AM  

Yes. Yes! This was my cup of tea, more like an urn of my tea! The wordplay! The tongue and cheek at crossword clues! All framed in a spotless grid sprinkled with glitter like NOODGE, FIDGET, and SAMMY. There’s even a dook (GOOVERSEAS)!

Look at those wordplay clues – for DOORMAN, EYES, OLA, SATYR, BEAD! Look at the wordplay in EVERY SINGLE theme answer clue! Look at the sly wink at crossword conventions in the theme answers – “…and others”, “inits.”, “… in slang”, “with ‘___’”!

All in a solve that kept the brain active and searching from square one to square last. Oh, this puzzle made me very happy. I will be happy all day after this one. Filled with fun, filled with figuring things out, filled with wit.

And I’m filled with drop-jawed admiration and gratitude. Sam, bravomissimo! I love your puzzles, and I especially adored this one!

bocamp 6:38 AM  

Thank you @Sam for this workout. Still attempting to grok a couple of the themers.

Tough solve; felt very fortunate to have finished it correctly. :)

Was way off the wave-length on this one. Nevertheless, a good exercise in patience and persistence.

Elf: one of my fave Xmas movies. Loved every goofy part of it! :)

TONIGHT (West Side Story)

yd pg -2

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness ~ HOPE for all 🕊

Joaquin 7:02 AM  

The Good: There were a few very clever clues; I especially liked the clues for DOORMAN and SATYR.

The Bad: Several clues that made no sense even after filling in all the right letters.

The Ugly: A theme so convoluted it doesn’t even work on April fools Day.

“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain:

SteveDubs 7:07 AM  

Challenging? Wow. This one really hit my wheelhouse I guess, since it was almost a record Thursday. Fast, fun. Only STEBBR slightly annoyed, as it seemed outside the wordplay zone of the other themers.

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

TVAD and ADREPS — isn’t that sort of repetition frowned on?

Joaquin 7:21 AM  

The "Centerfield" video that @Rex posted is (IMHO) the best music video ever. If watching that video does not put you in a toe-tapping good mood, call 9-1-1 - and tell 'em to hurry!

Lobster11 7:23 AM  

I'm sure there are a lot of people who like this kind of thing. I am not among them.

kitshef 7:28 AM  

The fill clearly took a major hit today in service to the theme, and some of the cluing is trying too hard to be cute (e.g. that for VEAL).

All of which would be acceptable for a great theme. Which today’s is. But man, it took me a hell of a long time to figure out ESSENTIALLY. Somehow that “.” in “Inits.” really threw me off.

I liked this much, much better than the last Thursday April Fool’s Thursday puzzle (2010), which took about half a second to get the twist, followed by a long slog.

Fun fact: Perry Mason is the only book series in the ten top sellers of all time that is not geared to children or young adults.

OffTheGrid 7:32 AM  

[Sigh]....another CRAPpy Thursday.

Frantic Sloth 7:33 AM  



Barbara S. 7:59 AM  

OK. Hmm. Well. I sat at the supper table last night enthusing to my husband about April Fool’s Day puzzles and how they were always off-the-wall tricky and often pretty hilarious, and saying that I was excited to see what they had in store for us this year. I went to bed last night having finished the puzzle, saying to my husband “Forget everything I said about April Fool’s Day puzzles.” I had no problem finishing this one but, although I grasped DEV + out = VERY RELIGIOUS, that was the extent of my theme understanding until I read Rex. Yes, Sam, you got me twice yesterday. First with the Spelling Bee (-6) and then with this puzzle. But I was glad to read @Lewis for a different take and I’m interested to see if there are other lovers of this puzzle out there.

Today a passage from JESMYN WARD, born Apr. 1, 1977.

“I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so that they will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black the Greeks would say it was harnessed to dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.”
(From Salvage the Bones)

pabloinnh 8:03 AM  

Got all the letters right, grokked the first and last themers, needed explanations for the others, which is to say, Rex had me figured out.

Fun enough, thanks SE. Slightly Enigmatic.

@Joaquin-Saw the uke guys at our local college a while ago, and they were just great.

Happy Opening Day! Or for some of us, Happy New Year!

Mike G 8:03 AM  

Count me among those who solved the puzzle but had no idea why until I came here.

Teresa 8:06 AM  

A mixed bag. Many clues used great, fun wordplay, but that the themer relied on British-style cryptic cluing was something I never expected in the NYT. And this puzzle is why I don't do the cryptic. I never learned all the gimmicks you have to know to solve it, and to me it's not really a word game, it's something else entirely.

Son Volt 8:06 AM  

Liked the gimmick here. First themer dropped quickly - I had to really work to get BAD MOUTHING - just couldn’t see that one. BLENDED FAMILY is solid - but agree with Rex that STEPBRothers is a little loose.

Overall fill was solid. DAVID LYNCH and Film noir work together well. Liked SHE BOP and NOODGE. A nerdy physicist friend of my has built a YURT somewhere in NE Vermont so that was cool to see.

Not a quick solve - but tricky and enjoyable as Thursday’s should be.

Anonymous 8:13 AM  


mambridge 8:19 AM  


DeeJay 8:26 AM  

This is what I'll call a Desert Island puzzle. Many solvers would need the time and space of being stranded on a desert island to figure out this theme. We have Rex, so we give it 30, 45, maybe 60 seconds before we go to the bookmarked page, where all is revealed.

I.e., if we had more time and patience and didn't have Rex, we'd all figure this out eventually.

BarryH 8:29 AM  

Makes me glad I follow Rex. Never would have figured out the theme details on my own.

chuck w 8:56 AM  

I think for 50 across, you have to add “others” to the answers, but then you have to add “and others” again to get that stepbrothers “and others” are a blended family. A bit unfair. I agree with Rex. I was proud of myself for figuring this out, but my reaction was more a groan than “Hey, that’s cool!”

The Vez 9:14 AM  

I basically did the puzzle without knowing the themeI basically did the puzzle without knowing the theme. 33 across should have had a, instead of a. Should have been called medium challenging.

Nancy 9:15 AM  

Yikes!!!! Or, in the words of the puzzle, MY GOD!!!!

Other than the DEV "out" of 19 Across, I didn't understand any of it before "finishing" the puzzle. And I "finished" the puzzle with a DNF even after cheating in my patented @Nancy way (TM) -- using what I already had to get the PPP answers. Thus I put in SHEB to get SHE BOP and put in Tony to get SONGZ, when I already had ONGZ. But there were some big unsolved problems left...

What on earth is the SAMMY you make with cold cuts? I wanted SALad and therefore had MLI, not MMI for the year. When SHE BOP gave me PASSED BY, I changed to SALAD to SALMY. What dat, I thought?

And I was going to ask what on earth is GEOVERSEES???? Now I find out it's GO OVERSEAS. I had BUeNO not BUONO and OLE, not OLA.

I knew I wanted BAD-MOUTHED, but I couldn't get there. I had BADAOUTHED. And I also couldn't figure out why I wanted BAD-MOUTHED from the clue.

It wasn't just the clever but extremely opaque theme that did me in. The rest of the fill also required a lot of extraneous information I didn't have. Too tough for me, Sam. And, Sam, since it's based on your name, maybe you'll tell me now -- now that it's too late -- what SAMMY the edible is?

Nancy 9:17 AM  

Too funny, @Z (6:20)!! Thanks for the indirect shout-out and I'm tickled pink.

Andrea 9:20 AM  

Thank you for these passages you share, Barbara. I always enjoy them so much 🤗

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

or in your case the Spark notes on Tennyson, right?

Blue Stater 9:32 AM  

What an overtricksy, overcutesy mess. A complete waste of time.

Birchbark 9:33 AM  

You had me at DAVID LYNCH.

In other TV history, among the better season-ending cliffhangers: Captain Picard, with half-mechanical face, announcing to the Enterprise from the enemy space-cube: "I am Locutus of BORG." Holy ^&%, we thought at the time.

MY GOD, VERY RELIGIOUS, DEV[out] -- it seemed like 50A should be BLEssED FAMILY. And with just the "N" off of HEN and slightly misreading the clue, I wondered whether IRON was the name of an airline. Typical gaffes-along-the-way when YURTs truly solves a puzzle.

RooMonster 9:37 AM  

Hey All !
I'm with the group who thought "what in tarhooties is the theme?" Couldn't figure it out whilst solving, or even post solve. But, like @DeeJay 8:26 said, I gave up trying to figure it out, because I knew Rex would tell me. Was more of an "Ah" than an "AHA" once I read what it was. I'll tell myself I would've figured it out eventually!

Had SAytR spelled thusly, with hiRErS for ADREPS, which got me rELy for Bombard (with), and SPAr for Fix. SPAr works for Fix, as in In a Fix, maybe SPArring? ThursPuz twisting meaning? But couldn't get rELy to jive for its clue. Erased the h-i-e of hiREeS, and the y-t of SAytR, saw ADREPS, then let out a Har at it being SATYR. Misspelling. Temporary dyslexia.

Tough today, only because of the not knowing how the themers worked, so couldn't see them from the clues, had to figure them out from pattern recognition and figuring out they were real words.

YURT! Dang, been a long time since seeing that. Cool name for a glorified tent. We had a music festival thing here way out in the desert BC (Before COVID), and I picked some people up who had stayed in a YURT. There were a whole bunch of YURTs there, probably 10 feet round, with hard outside shells. They even had tiny porches attached. Neat.

Knowing the theme now, kicks the puz up z notch, but as @Nancy laments, not too fun from a solving perspective. I do think she'll like this puz, though. I didn't hate it, but don't like not catching the theme. Want a puz, not a QUIZ. ☺️

Does Door hinge rhyme with ORANGE?

Took me a minute to grok DOOK GOOVERSEAS. Had Rex's BUeNO, and also OLe for OLA, so had GeO___SEeS, and was like Huh? Good stuff. GeO seemed a plausible start for Travel abroad.

Ezersky. SB protagonist. 😁 Been getting my butt kicked at SB lately. Hate when I look at "Yesterday's answers" and find simple words I've missed. Especially four letter ones. Makes me utter my own four-letter words!

Three F's

lukiegrifpa 9:51 AM  

Ese-talk is new to me. I googled it and I’m still not sure I understand the etymology.

Brit solves nyt 9:52 AM  

Easy as I got the theme straight away so the long answers were simple to get. I think we have a lot more wordplay puzzles here in the uk what with cryptic crosswords etc so more practice means it’s easier to spot this sort of thing! Enjoyed it.

TTrimble 9:53 AM  

I gather that @Frantic Sloth found this to be no biggie. I concur. I'm glad I didn't check the constructor's name beforehand, because, MY GOD, usually I think of a Sam Ezersky puzzle as something to be a little SCARED OF, and I might've gotten CRAPped out early. I'm not BAD-MOUTHING him here, honest, although I've been known to DECRY some of his choices for SB, HAR HAR.

What? 9:54 AM  

What? Oh. Ok. So I got lots of fills but couldn’t figure what was going on. April fools joke? Nonsense stuff, jokes on you. Harhar.

bocamp 9:57 AM  

@Joaquin (7:02 AM)

Thx; Great vid! Ditto for the "Centerfield" vid, which evokes all kinds of good memories. :)

@Barbara S. (7:59 AM)

Ditto for getting "fooled" twice by Sam. Powerful imagery in your passage from Jesmyn Ward.

May or may not have fully grokked the theme if stranded on @DeeJay (8:26 AM)'s isle. Will never know; regretting not having given it a better shot, tho. Thx to @Rex for the explanation and for an all-around good write-up.

td pg -4

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Amity ~ Kindness ~ HOPE for all 🕊

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

If you've lived in the Southeast your whole life, this puzzle was punishing. Buildings in Chicago, west coast interstate intersections, geography of cities along the lakes in the north...Add in the very poorly implemented theme, things I'm too young for, and names, and the result is a very irritating solve, aided by Google.

Also, who does roasts at BBQs?

G. Weissman 9:58 AM  

I find that this puzzle is too clever for its own good, particularly given that it relies on solvers having to make sense of things that ultimately do not make sense. Having to “admit” people to a building does not, in fact, make being a DOORMAN “quite a job” (whatever that means in this context). There is no reason that 33A has a period after the letters that need to be added to ELF except that the clue needs what is really INITS to read as the abbreviation for the word “initials.” As is, “Inits. before 9-Across” is this: Inits.ELF. There is no universe in which Inits.ELF = in itself, because there is a period between the s and the E, and because in crosswordese it is only a string of ALL CAP letters that may be spaced to form sets of words. That the puzzle wants us to ignore all this points to it’s half-baked quality. I presume that I will be faulted for overthinking this, but that’s my point: this puzzle demands a high degree of tiresome overthinking, past which it needs one to stop thinking lest one realize that the puzzle does not hold up because it’s own rules are not thought through.

Hungry Mother 10:09 AM  

Nice and tricky today for “All Fools Day”, as my wife calls it. Very pleasant challenge.

Whatsername 10:27 AM  

MY GOD! The only themer I understood was DEVout/RELIGIOUS. I’d like to know how anyone is supposed to figure out that STE/PBR stands for stepbrother and that those two sets of non-words make up a BLENDED FAMILY. In what GENRE is that? I expect Thursdays to be tricky and I was hoping for a fun one today with it being the day of fools. But now I just feel like one of them for spending as much time as I did on it. The horror!

I’m probably just one of those HICKS who doesn’t know CRAP but as far as I’m concerned this one doesn’t even deserve to be wadded up and thrown against Nancy’s Wall. It would be too much too dignified an end for this “overtricksy, overcutesy mess.” (Thanks @Blue Stater.)

Nancy 10:29 AM  

Someone on the Wordplay Blog tells me that SAMMY is slang for sandwich. Rex doesn't mention it. None of you have either, at least so far. Certainly I've never heard of it. Has anyone in any section of the country or even any part of the world ever heard of it?

CDilly52 10:30 AM  

Fun fun fun! Despite my post-operative brain fog. I managed to finish but freely admit that I did not get all of the theme connections and will have to go back and study those. But as @Leeis and others pointed out, such interesting and challenging word play and a very crunchy thought-provoking theme. Can’t ask for more than that! I get sprung this afternoon and now have a matched set of artificial knees. So grateful for them both a d the exceptional care team but so so SO ready to get home and get some sleep.

Great start to the day. Fun, challenging and very clever. Loved it!

Carola 10:35 AM  

This was a woulda-coulda-shoulda theme for me: I would have enjoyed it so much more if I'd understood more than the first answer while solving. It took me a few minutes of staring after I finished to see that the "others" I'd vainly sought in the grid were in fact in the clue, that MMI was supposed to be "in" s-l-a-n-g, and that those "Inits." were not ESS, EN, and-what-the-heck-about-TIALLY. Since I regularly do cryptics, I could have and should have caught on. Still, always good (in a weird way) to be "gotten" on April 1.

I liked the FIDGET + FLAB pair, which reminded me that "Multiple studies have confirmed that fidgeting throughout the entire day can burn ten times more calories than just sitting still; one study from 2005 clocked the number at 350 calories per day, enough to lose 30 to 40 pounds in one year.".

Thank you for the brain-racking, Sam.

GILL I. 10:41 AM  

I think I'll go sit with @Joaquin - except I had a love/hate...yikes/ I dance or sit in the corner and suck my thumb moment.
Where to begin? Like some of you I sorta got the DEV/VERY RELIGIOUS thingie. I thought love. I looked at DECRY and thought CRAP. SHE BOP gave me yikes and SONG Z the egad. Do I need to go on?
Some parts were easy but I felt like the HICKS trying to make a YURT square.
PBR? Peanut butter and rum?

TJS 10:48 AM  

Finished it out of sheer stubbornness. Had no idea what the theme was and never think of themes as something I need to grok anyway. Phone solving continues to be sheer hell. Two more days before my new laptop arrives here in the DR. Now I know I am truly addicted.

egsforbreakfast 10:49 AM  

@Barbara S. Thanks for the daily quotes. I’ve been meaning to thank you and I always forget by the time I’ve finished my fascinating comment on the puzzle. So I wanted to start off with that.

Living on the left coast, I usually solve at night and can’t turn to Rex for an immediate explanation, so like others, I finished but didn’t get any of the themers other than DEVOUT until I had read and reread the clues for longer than the solve itself took. I was proud and tickled when I got the final one (SLAMMING). Some of the fill is delightful, some slightly weak, but there were big-time constructing constraints when you think about how much fixed stuff had to be filled around. Definitely two thumbs up for Sam Ezersky on this one.

Jwaan 10:55 AM  

"Sammie" was used in widely played Quizno's TVADs as far back as 2007, so I'd call it generally fair (with "fridge" cluing that it's slangy/shortened). But the spelling here might be questionable--to the extent there's a "proper" spelling of this sort of thing, "-ie" seems more standard here.

JD 11:01 AM  

Filled in the themers by staring at the letters I had and then throwing in a bunch of hail Mary answers.

I was Bten by the easy stuff. PBR, Decry, and Crap. Or maybe just gave up to soon out of mounting frustration and it was getting late. Never heard of Crap in dice. Just Craps, "A come-out roll of 2, 3 or 12 is called "craps" or "crapping out." If I were to do a Rex impression I'd write five more sentences using Crap. I'll leave it to your imagination.

@Anon. 9:58 am, agree but did find this:

"Can You Grill a Roast? Cooking a roast on the grill may not be as far-fetched of an idea as you'd think. In fact, if done correctly, the cut can cook and remain as tender as it would in the oven."

pmdm 11:01 AM  

I have learned from past experience that Sam and I don't share the same vocabulary. Or so it seems. That isn't so bad, but for whatever reason, most of his puzzle don't exactly send me. While I might put it differently, I pretty much agree with Sharp's assessment today. Certainly no laughs for me, which is )I think) what April Fool's Day is supposed to be about.

Z: I take it you are no fan of Tennyson. Forgive me if you mentioned that in previous comments.

Based upon some of the comments left yesterday, me comment was not quite understood. Not surprising, since it was merely a response to a comment made by Z on a previous day. For the record, I have read and understand all the arguments about this country's electoral college, but my comment was not about my feelings about it (of which I was purposely silent for the sake of trying to avoid an argument) nor the reasoning that justifies it. I was simply (and maybe humorously) responding to Z's depiction of me as a cynic. I did not explicitly say that the misuse of logic in my conversation led me to where I am, not the actually arguments which are irrelevant to what I said and the purpose of this forum.

Richard Stanford 11:10 AM  

ESSENTIALLY took me a long time to figure out, since I initially had ESSENT_____ and assumed from the start that we were spelling out initials in some way ( ESS , ENN , TEE , etc ). It feels like SAMMY could have had something in the clue that hinted to the baby talk answer as well, if I'm being picky.

mathgent 11:12 AM  

Clever idea. Four non-clues. Instead of being clues, they are instructions for piecing together a clue from other entries and some of the letters in the non-clue. The letters to be added are disguised as part of the instructions except for "out" in 19A. Being in quotes made it inferable. I think that the other parallel words should also have been in quotes: "Inits.", "slang," "others."

I filled in the grid correctly, guessing three of the themers from the crosses, but I don't feel that I solved the damned thing. I needed Jeff Chen to explain those three.

Not enjoyable for me. Besides what I said above, two other clunkers. "Sweat it" for BEAD. Also, no one called Bjorn Borg "Ice-Borg." Early in his career he was called Teen Angel after a popular song of the time because he made young girls swoon. He was that handsome.

Newboy 11:23 AM  

Y oh Y and Q & JWX? Missed that pangram, but almost achieved a London-level cryptic!

Mrs N grapples with a cryptic for days and then explains what I always miss totally, so she either loves me or has a high degree of tolerance. Sam’s had just the right amount of in your face zaniness for an April first publication. He noted on xwordinfo that his intent was to have a grid where “ Each answer would be its own joke, so the solve could twist your brain all the way through.” For this brain, he achieved that goal. I thought it MUY interesante indeed! And today I actually got most of the funny business first.

GILL I. 11:29 AM  

@Nancy...I had SALAD before SAMMY as well. I think it was Rachel Ray of the Food Network ilk who started using SAMMY as a sandwich. At least that's where I first heard it. She also seemed to coin EVOO for extra virgin olive oil.
By the way...that 39 "hey" in Sao Tome is not OLA. OLA means hello in Portuguese. OI might be more of a hey!

Anoa Bob 11:30 AM  

I had misgivings about this one from the start. Forty black squares, 4 of them of the cheater/helper square variety, gave the grid a dark and ominous feel. I dutifully got it all filled in but kind of lost interest trying to cobble the convoluted theme together after the initial DEV-out. The basic idea seems to me more suited for some other format or venue rather than for a crossword puzzle.

It was nice to see our old friend CLIO (29D). Will her sister ERATO be far behind? One member of our poker group (that hasn't played for over a year now!) is from CLIO, Iowa, which has an area of 480 acres and a population of 66 (as of 2019).

Pit Master 11:31 AM  

@Anon 9:58 - Not to re-start the BBQ is/isn't grilling war, but if you're an "isn't" adherent, everything about BBQ is roasting. Slow roasting.

mbr 11:38 AM  

@lukiegrifpa: think "Chinese" or "Taiwanese"
@Nancy 10:29am: I've heard sammy/sammie and live in NYC - but suspect its popularity comes from Rachael Ray's (supposedly cute but ...not) terms for a variety of foods.

Masked and Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Kinda cool April-Foolish Day's puz. The skunky "init." trick clue was the best one. Lost precious nanoseconds, starin at ESSENTIALLY in disbelief.

fave fillins: HARHAR [Do not try this double-HAR at home … might hurt yerself]. UNUM.

DOORMAN clue had a nice, raised-by-wolves, feel to it. BUONO.

staff weeject picks: ELF, DEV, MMI, STE & PBR, of course. Sneaky lil darlins.

Thanx, Mr. E-Z dude.

Masked & Anonym007Us


chuck w 11:41 AM  

@Nancy, I assumed "sammy" meant sandwich, but no, I never heard it.
ese talk, according to Google, is from Mexican kids in California being stamped S.A. for "social adjustment." So ese came to mean "dude" or "homie." It's also apparently the title of a song.
And no, I never heard of that either!

Tom R 11:45 AM  

Well, I needed MMI explained to me. Still seems tenuous to me. To be honest, I just filled in enough crosses on the themers in order to guess the word(s) in the long theme answers and never bothered to do the actual theme itself. And yes, it was brutally tough, but I like that, so it was still positive for me.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I guess Will Shortz hasn't listened to the lyrics of She Bop too much.

Ethan Taliesin 11:49 AM  

I was unable to solve without cheating a couple of times.. In the end I was just glad it was finished

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

I had gaetz.

jberg 12:01 PM  

I loved it. As others have pointed out, it's basically a crossword with a cryptic-puzzle theme. I love cryptics, so I loved this -- as cryptic clues go, these were easy -- but I can see how others might not. btw, ignoring punctuation is a common cryptic thing.

jae 12:14 PM  

Tough. Clever, tricky, and ESSENTIALLY fun. Liked it, even though it took a bushel full of nanoseconds to get there.

Whatsername 12:32 PM  

@Barbara (7:59) I read Jesmyn Ward’s gritty novel years ago. Besides the horrifying focal event of Katrina, the book also centers around dog fighting with pit bull terriers and I had a hard time with those aspects of it It. But the book was memorable, despite being very intense and at times difficult to read.

@Nancy (10:29) Never heard of it in this part of the country either. You might have a sammich but never a SAMMY.

@CDilly (10:30) Sending you best wishes for a speedy and restful recovery. You’re a brave soul to do them both at the same time.

TJS 12:32 PM  

@Anon.958. My family used to grill beef roasts all the time back in the 60s. Many hooded grills at the time came with spits and a small motor attachment that turned the roast about 8 inches above the coals. Yum ! I have no idea why they are not commonly sold today.

Nancy 12:35 PM  

@mathgent -- I was so busy thinking about the various aspects of my ignominious DNF that I forgot about my own "Huh?" reaction to the "Ice-Borg" clue. Thanks for reinforcing my recollection that there was no such nickname ever given to Borg! And we should know, having both been avid tennis fans during that wonderful era. Because I watched -- in the moment -- just about every Borg-McEnroe match ever played, if such a appellation had ever been used, I surely would have known it.

And, yes, I remember the "Teen Angel" nickname well. As someone who neither likes long hair on men nor is especially drawn to the stoical demeanor, Borg was no heartthrob for me. But he was one helluva tennis player.

JC66 12:39 PM  


Check out 1D in today's BEQ puzzle.

longsufferingmetsfan 12:42 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, crunchy cluing with a unique twist

Interesting how theres crickets from our ultra woke, normally boisterous leader about the term "Hicks". I guess a disparaging term against mostly Republicans, mostly Trump supporters is just fine. Move along, folks, theres no glaring double standard to see here.

Oort 12:45 PM  

Inits. read to me as initials, and thus ESSENTIALLY as S N T L E, which made zero sense. Came here after I finished for the scoop on the theme.

Guilherme Gama 12:50 PM  

The themers were very reminiscent of cryptic crosswords, especially stashing MMI inside "slang". Though it would be the other way around - the word itself would be SLAMMING and the clue would be something like "Badmouthing informal discourse about first year of this century" (but much more cleverly phrased, of course).

Masked and Anonymous 12:54 PM  

First msg typo: Should be "inits.", not "init."

First msg April Fool's gag: Clickin on **gruntz** don't work. This time it will, but U may still be kinda sorry that U did it (as usual).



Nancy 1:04 PM  

Interesting coincidence, @JC66. But I don't like it over there on BEQ any more than I like it over here. And if Rachel Ray coined it, may I respond to her use of SAMMY for sandwich the same way Dorothy Parker responded to the use of the word "hummy" in the Pooh books:

"Tonstant Weader fwowed up."

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Sam Ezersky,

I hope you never see this owing to the number of lunatics that post on this blog, but this, sir, was a terrific puzzle. you should be very proud. Not just puzzle of the week, but puzzle of the last 6 weeks. maybe more. Thanks again.

Teedmn 1:15 PM  

I'm wearing my dunce cap today. I didn't even get DEVout for the first theme, I'm so slow today!

I went @Carola's route for inits. in 33A's clue. I got all the way to ESS EN TI when SNT in front of ELF made no sense. Never mind.

While I understand Rex's nit about {STE PBR others} not making up the whole family, that was my favorite theme; (once they were all explained to me, I felt okay about choosing a favorite!)

I squeaked through this by luck with DAVID LY barely rising to my consciousness (never saw "Twin Peaks") and deciding Tony and Maria must be talking about TONIGHT when I had TONI (never have seen "West Side Story") which allowed me to see TAHOE, HICKS and GENRE for the finish. At least I never had any problem with GO OVERSEAS because BUONO and OLA were gimmes. But DOORMAN, I did not get the "admit" wordplay until later, thought that clue must be some universally known Seinfeld quote (I've only seen one episode of Seinfeld). HARHAR.

But OLA, ignorance CAN be bliss. I loved this after I read the explanation, so thanks so much, Sam Ezersky.

JC66 1:16 PM  


Interesting that you'd refer to Pooh since I think BEQ's use of SAMMY is a hint that the answer skews preschool usage.

Nancy 1:19 PM  

I have heard of SAMMY to mean sandwich, altho I had “Salad” in there for a long stretch. I’m from New York altho I don’t think the word is native to New York.

kitshef 1:51 PM  


I know of only one person who uses "sammy" for sandwich, and they use only "sammy". They are from Baltimore, which may or may not indicate a regional thing. Baltimore has a lot of interesting pronunciations (e.g. "towel" is pronounced "tay-ul"), but I haven't noticed much of a vocabulary difference.

burtonkd 1:53 PM  

@Nancy - I also didn't remember that particular moniker for Bjorn Borg, but it shows up readily on google page 1, which reminded me of a documentary "McEnroe/Borg: Fire and Ice". It is a fun trip down memory lane and examination of their relationship during and after their careers.

EdFromHackensack 2:06 PM  

finished no errors. no idea what the theme was. Understood the DEVout one, and the STEPFAMILY one. the other two, after explained by Rex, are too obtuse. Did NOT like this puzzle at all.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

As to 'sammy' and Baltimore, it gets better. Sort of. Years ago I regularly trained from DC to Up North. One day I got chatting with the conductor, who was also from Up North, about his station call-outs, in particular Baltimore, which he voiced as 'Ball Tee More, next station stop is Ball Tee More'. I asked him, how come? He said that it drove the natives nuts, which was the point, being from Up North (for those not from the area, Maryland in general and Baltimore in particular, was/is Quite Southern; which DC is not). Turns out that the natives did/do voice the name as 'Ballmer', just like the guy who ran Microsoft after Uncle Bill. This was before MicroSoft existed.

DigitalDan 2:14 PM  

Very impressed by this one. Bravo.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

@long-suffering 12:42 I've noticed that Rex doesn't comment on every single clue and word in the puzzle. Posters often point out that he missed a rant on NRA and SOT, that we know he hates. As for him not commenting on HICKS, could be either he didn't find it offensive or he didn't notice it or he didn't want to include it in his puzzle analysis. Your theory that since it wasn't a slur against Trump supporters is the reason he didn't write about it, makes the least sense. Like he's only brought up words that offend him if it's about Trump supporters? What about NIP? He discussed his displeasure with that, that word isn't disparaging a Trump supporter. But leaving out HICKS means there is a double standard?
You sound like the typical AGRIEVED Republican, that finds things to be offended by where there is nothing to be offended by. Otherwise what does the GOP stand for except the party of boo hoo hoo grievance?

Barbara S. 3:56 PM  

@Whatsername (12:32 PM)
It's true that Jesmyn Ward eschews easy or comfortable subject matter. Her books are tough. I find it interesting to see a relatively current event like Hurricane Katrina pass into the realm of literature. Salvage the Bones was published in 2011, so it didn't take long. Sounds like you read it when it was new. Thanks for your insight.

@Andrea, @bocamp, @egsforbreakfast
You're all welcome. I'm finding the whole quoting project has turned into a great hobby.

And if anyone has a quotation to suggest, please do! Contact me on the email address in my profile.

Steve M 4:23 PM  


Ursula 4:57 PM  

@3:24- Meh, HICK is a pejorative. It just happens to be a pejorative that Rex approves of, but as has been said, it’s his blog he can say whatever he wants, no matter how bigoted.

pabloinnh 5:34 PM  

@anon 2:14

My favorite Ballmer pronunciation is "paramour' for the thing that runs on gas and mows your lawn.

Possibly apocryphal.

CuppaJoe 5:52 PM  

Excellent, excellent writeup today, Rex; I liked it much better than the puzzle itself. I grew up near Milwaukee and Pabst was my favorite beer but I’m always stumped by PBR, my mind can’t see the abbreviation.

RooMonster 5:54 PM  

Connecticut calls Sub SAMMYs Grinders, and calls Yard/Garage sales as Tag Sales. Weird.

Pennsylvania calls Subs Hoagies.

RooMonster Just Don't Call Me Row Guy

Randy Miller 6:21 PM  

I thought it was fun but 3/4 themers I just got with the crossing clues and figured out after

BarbieBarbie 6:26 PM  

Found it medium-easy, got all the themers, not sure why all the mud thrown at this one. I liked it. Pretty much agree with Lewis tha it’s a lot of fun to see a whole puzzle of crossword conventions turned inside out.

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

Did this one fairly quickly and moved from NW to NE to SE to SW. I caught on to “devout” early but saved my energy on trying to decode the others and went for the crosses to solve.

Some weakness in clueing, Some tired long fill HARHAR, TVAD and ADREPS spring to mind. I’m still not sure that the NYT puzz master has any hard and fast rule for the insertion or non-use of ?s.

Without using the clues I had to take 33A, 40A and 50a on faith that the answer contained actual words.

Cleverly constructed for a relatively easy puzz. Good mix of decades and a minimum of PPP.

Rex the wonder dog has baseball on his mind. April Fools

Paper, Pencil and Purity Of Essence

albatross shell 7:48 PM  

With @Lewis on this one. FLAB FIDGET SHEBOP HICKS (Don and his Hot Licks. And its only insulting if you are ashamed of it, just like elite snobs). Clue for Doorman.
Clever, tricky, perfect April Fools Day misdirection day.

We do like puzzles, don't we? Do they always have to be the same style? And Quinzo's have or have had Sammmies. And SAMMY did the goddamned puzzle! And your going to complain about that?

ICE-BORG? I sure do not remember it, but it did exist, and even if it didn't, it should have.

When we built a cinderblock charcoal pit and roasted a whole pig over it you know what us HICKS called it? BBQing, yes we did.

I couldn't finish clean, but I had fun.

And Rex, that Fogarty video, great stuff, love the old baseball cards, but this is opening day. That video is heavy with World Series moments. Ok, so some of the clowning is from spring training. So I guess you were honoring the whole season. (joke).

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

This was SO not worth the time to do! Didn't finish, didn't CARE that I didn't finish, and barely made it over here to see what moronic "theme" there might be. Ugh.

Roll on, Saturday; it'll have to easier than this mess was!

Donna 9:51 PM  

I lurk but rarely comment. I did not enjoy this puzzle and am not sure I understand the theme even after all the comments. (However, I finished it after an hour's worth of periodontal work.) On a fun note, I dreamt last night that I decided to construct a puzzle in which the answers were all "Bob." Not only did I have to figure out how to configure the answers, but also what the clues might be. It was fun and funny.

Tom T 10:36 PM  

A long Thursday grind, but satisfying to get through it successfully. Reading the comments, it dawns on me that the clue for 37 across and the answer for 28 down provide two thirds of "slamming SAMMY snead," for all the golf history buffs. Probably not intentional on the part of the constructor.

OffTheGrid 9:20 AM  

Speaking of LEDERHOSEN

Susanna 12:11 PM  

Lol. I’d like to see that Bob puzzle!

Susanna 12:12 PM  

Lol. I’d love to see that Bob puzzle!!!

Susanna 12:15 PM  

BEAD was soooo clunky. Tough puzzle. Had to just fill in the downs and hope. But did finally get the theme on STEPBR.

Susanna 12:15 PM  


Susanna 12:16 PM  


Deb Sweeney 9:21 PM  

That wooshing sound coming from Minnesota is most of the themers and cutesies going so far over my head that the jet stream was reversed and a typhoon probably happened on the other side of the world. I mean, even "Doorman" ("Quite a job, you have to admit" . . . hmm could that be a Seinfeld quote or something? Hoo boy.

Unknown 11:19 AM  

Four quick comments:
The clue for doorman seemed more suited to puns and anagrams
Rex, you often complain about dates and stale clues and answers, but I find that there are more and more rap "music" clues that for those of us who reject the form, make the puzzles, well, puzzling.
I am over 70,was once ranked #62 in the US in 50 and over singles, have been a life long tennis fan, and have never heard the term "Ice-Borg." It is a cute nickname, just one that was not used when he played, at least not used enough so that any one would have heard of it.
I'll skip the fourth.

Bob Fingerman 1:53 PM  

To be honest, I completed the puzzle but I didn’t get the theme until I read your breakdown.

Burma Shave 11:50 AM  


SEE, ESSENTIALLY SAMMY was ONCE fairly prodigious,


spacecraft 12:20 PM  

I was waiting, axe in hand, for an "easy" rating THIS time, but had to quell my murderous urges when I saw "challenging." Oh yeah, and then some. A near fatal error occurred right away: zero crossing sears.

You mean to say that ol' Perry actually LOST one? Oh man, I bet Hamilton Burger was HARHAR and LMAO on that one! "C'mon, Perry, ya can't win 'em ALL! *snort*" Also, of course did not know the building. Only one I know out there is the Sears Tower.

After straightening out that mess, I was actually able to fill in all the squares correctly, though I can tell you it was a real leap of faith to leave SONGZ alone, and even got one of the themers, DEV[out]. The rest flew right over my head. So did I really finish? I say yes, because the period after "inits" was blatantly unfair.

Again, I wonder if we should all chip in and buy Will a calendar. Lately he seems to have no clue what day of the week it is. Today, for example ought to be Saturday, no other. Who besides a small child would call 28-down a SAMMY? How about a Thursday-level clue: "Pal of Joey?"

This grid is chock-full of guys, but for a DOD we have to go to Catherine HICKS. I did get a memory of the TONIGHT duet, so maybe honorable mention to Natalie Wood.

What must be coming if this is only Thursday? *shudder* And how to put a score to this? Did I like it? Not really; it was too much like work. But I did finish, with the attendant T.P.s. Call it a birdie.

P.S. Hearty congrats to Marc-Andre Fleury, who last night PASSEDBY Roberto Luongo into third place all-time in NHL victories.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Rejected. Will Ferrell is not funny now, nor has he ever been. Puzzle a mess.

Diana, LIW 3:07 PM  

Another day done in by PPP, but not the theme, which I did grasp. Rather quickly - in fact, I thought I must be wrong about it. But...I'm a punster.

Diana, LIW

rondo 3:19 PM  

Had it almost all filled in when STEPBRothers made sense, then the upper ones made some sense. Sure, there's plenty of BADMOUTHING of this puz, but the cryptic-style clues are pretty good - think Harper's Puz - THO I just wish there was a warning about them since that's quite unusual for this type of puz.

Princess LEIA in her steel bikini . . .

Anybody else notice there seemed to be plenty of Ys?

leftcoaster 5:05 PM  

Too clever not by half, but more by its thematic whole. Got most of it, but couldn’t make much sense of what I had. Then, saw how certain words in the clues could fit into the theme words to make them work. By then it was too late.

But was there really a “theme" to this? If so, I didn’t see it.

thefogman 10:28 PM  

Clever wordplay. Lotsa fun.

Unknown 11:07 PM  


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