Mini production company / FRI 4-16-21 / Former name of Kazakhstan's capital / Device outmoded by the smartphone / Seaport whose name derives from the Arabic for obstacle / The Big Aristotle of the NBA

Friday, April 16, 2021

Constructor: Tom Pepper

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SQUIB KICK (38A: Football tactic to prevent a long return) —
squib kick is a term used in American football meaning a short, low, line drive kickoff that usually bounces around on the ground before it can be picked up by a member of the receiving team. The ball is kicked so short that it forces the receiving team's slower players to recover the ball first instead of their faster kick returner. Secondly, the unpredictably bouncing ball may be harder for the receiving team to pick up, allowing more time for kicking team members to get downfield to surround the ball carrier. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't know who needs to hear this, but the secret to good themeless puzzles is not Scrabbly letters. I feel like somehow in the year 2021, in the fifteenth year of this blog's existence, this idea that Qs and Zs and Js are the special sauce where Friday and Saturday puzzles are concerned still lingers. This puzzle was not bad, by any means, but it seemed more interested in putting up crooked letters than in putting up truly interesting longer fill and creating an overall enjoyable solving experience. It also felt weirdly dated. Slightly WIZENed. SNIPE HUNTs seem quaint and Johnny OLSON is bygone and calling them TUSHES and TOGS seems Nana-ish and wow it is hard to imagine someone under 60 unironically saying "party down" as an exclamation, let alone as a past tense verb phrase (?). Isn't a HYPERLINK just ... a link. Am I on the World Wide Web right now? I don't know. The inclination to showcase Scrabbly tiles plus the overall sensibility of the fill and cluing made this feel a little musty to me. The IPOD is outmoded and ASTANA is outmoded etc. It's a solid grid, it is, but I didn't crack a smile or think "oh, cool" once.

One big comprehension problem today, which was HUSH (1D: Reaction to someone tapping a microphone, maybe). I just assumed that the "reaction" would be the exclamation, "HUSH!," because who wants to hear someone tap a microphone ... but it seemed like such a bizarre clue for such a reaction. It's not like mic tap + "HUSH!" is some classic combo. So it was bugging me, that clue ... until I realized that it's *a* HUSH ... that is supposed to come over the room ... when someone taps a mic. Yes, that makes sense. The "reaction" part of the clue really had me off on the wrong track there. In addition to the one big comprehension problem, I had one big parsing problem: SKI (space) TRACKS (31D: Evidence of having gone on a run). First of all, the "having gone" without any subject was slightly bewildering. The ambiguity of "run," same. But the thing that threw me the worst was having SKIT- in place the first time I looked at the clue. I made two mental errors: assumed it was the front end of a single word (SKITCHES? SKITTLING?), and then assumed that it was something to do with SKITs. No and no. Even after figuring out it was SKI something, I couldn't see what it was til I got most of the crosses. Nothing else gave me too much trouble today. Wrote in SQUAD at 12D: Fleet (RAPID), then wrote in AQABA right next to it, which left me consecutive Qs at the cross, at which point I thought "wow, a double-Q word, this guy really  Really likes the Scrabble letters. But there was just one Q. Near a J. Near a Z :( 

My favorite mistake was one I knew instantly was wrong, but I still couldn't stop my fingers from making it:

It's the first "landscaping" thing that came to mind. I thought "well, that's unfortunate" and then immediately "well, that's wrong." My proudest moment was remembering ASTANA. Seriously, that was it, that one moment of "it's this, right?!" and then having it confirmed by crosses. It's so rare that trivia like that actually takes root in my brain, this late in the game (i.e. three+ decades into my solving career). Of course I don't know what the *current* name of Kazakhstan's capital* is, but ... I'll take care of that some time in the *next* thirty years. Take care, see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*It's NUR-SULTAN, which I now very much want to be in a puzzle, preferably as soon as possible so I have a good chance of remembering it. 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Flying Pediatrician 6:21 AM  

I’m a pretty big sports fan, but this felt like it was a bit too sports-centric. Always happy to give SHAQ a shout-out, though . He just seems like a good dude. See this feel-good story HERE.

Zygotic 6:24 AM  

I didn’t notice the scrabbly letters while solving, so they hardly seemed excessive or forced to me. Rex does have a point that a lot of the answers are bygoney. It seems like there’s been improvement in this area where not every puzzle feels like it’s out of 1995, but there’s still a strong pull being exerted by the 20th century. Maybe the NYTX just needs a better flux capacitor.

I had a couple of long writeovers, neither of which did much to slow me down. SQUIB KICK started as a poochKICK, but ACTS immediately told me I needed an S and SQUIB. That made me briefly wonder if a pooch KICK is (or was) a thing. It was. Anyway, fixed that mistake immediately. Kelly ripa to KATHIE LEE took a little longer to fix. I also put in STEINWAYS, so it was pretty obvious one of those answers was wrong, but I was thinking I probably needed to correct STEINWAYS, A few passes at the downs without STEINWAYS convinced me Kelly ripa was wrong, but I needed several passes for KATHIE LEE to appear.

Somewhat surprisingly, you can still buy an IPOD, but if you want a click wheel you have to use an app.

JOHN X 6:45 AM  

I found this puzzle to be practically Monday easy.

Lewis 6:50 AM  

Tom is like Robyn Weintraub, in that he is not only giving you riddles to unlock during the solve, he is also going for giving you smiles. I find that to be such an entertaining combination. Then, at the end, you not only feel good and proud from your mental workout, you also have the afterglow of contentment.

So many clues hit both riddle and smile buttons, for me – those for PRONG, SEES, BMW, SKI TRACKS, HOPSCOTCH, and STEINWAYS.

All set in a clean grid. The only warts I found was the backward WARTS at 10A. This was packed with pleasure, Tom. Thank you so much!

hatton-man 7:10 AM  


If you care about political consistency in your blog… Before asking for Nur-sultan to be seen in puzzles more frequently, you might want to look a bit more closely at the city’s name sake.

(This seemed like a Wednesday puzzle - or even easier - to me.)

Son Volt 7:14 AM  

I didn’t feel that the Js, Qs and Zs were forced here. Liked the CALZONE x ZIPPER cross and STEINWAYS. Hand up for sticking in poochKICK initially. There was some halcyon fill of old - HOPSCOTCH, PARTIED DOWN etc but overall played pretty smooth.

I don’t like to run with my phone so I still use and love my IPOD nano circa 2007 or so.

Quick, enjoyable Friday solve. For those who celebrate - RAMADAN Mubarak.

kitshef 7:32 AM  

I'm with John X today - 2nd Friday in a row with basically no resistance, other than SKIT RACKS.

Weird thing today is that the scrabbliest section in the NE is probably the best, with IRAQI, WIZEN, TROJAN HORSE.

HUSH always makes me think of Buffy.

OffTheGrid 7:43 AM  

All the way with Lewis today. This was a very pleasurable solve.

I am so tired of hearing @Rex whine about "Scrabbly letters". There is no such thing. Scrabble has 26 letters. Crossword puzzles are made of words employing 26 letters. This the best example of a nothing burger I've ever seen.

r.alphbunker 7:46 AM  

9D. {It takes you to another site} HTTPSLINK-->HYPERLINK

20A. {The "Z" in "XYZ"} eXamine Your Zipper

55A. {Cost of the cheap seats?} CHILDFARE-->COACHFARE

46D. {Tabasco, for one} SAUCE-->STATE

bocamp 7:52 AM  

Thank you @Tom for a perfect Fri. offering; very much enjoyed the journey! :)

Med solve. Pretty much on my wave-length.

Worked from top to bottom, with very little resistance. Toughest part was sorting out the SE.

Circular HOPSCOTCH was my forte.

HUSH, Little Baby ~ Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin

yd 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

SouthsideJohnny 8:03 AM  

I rarely have much (if any) success on a Friday - today I pretty much cruised from the NW down to the SE - it seemed to actually play like a Wednesday. It did get tougher as I moved into the south and I needed to call in some reinforcements to continue to make progress. I wish all Friday’s were more like this one. I don’t know why it played a touch easier (or really, a lot easier) - the clues just seemed less cryptic than the usual weekend offerings. Anyway . . . There’s hope - my goal is an unassisted Friday solve during calendar year 2021 !

Hungry Mother 8:04 AM  

Dumb mistake, putting JIvE in and not checking the perp. I didn’t come for a geography lesson.

smalltowndoc 8:09 AM  

An "X" short of a ... whatever that word is when use the entire alphabet.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

Barbara here,
@kitshef. Best episode ever!

Richard Stanford 8:29 AM  

That’s exactly where I DNFd - AQAvA looked just as good as AQABA since I didn’t know either of them.

Zygotic 8:30 AM  

@OffTheGrid - I think “scrabbliness” is usually less of an issue in themeless puzzles because they tend to not have tight little corners, but I think Rex is spot on that an over-emphasis on the high value letters in Scrabble can absolutely diminish a puzzle. Even here, where it does not strike me as all that excessive, we qet the naticky IRAQI/AQABA cross. I find Rex’s point on this a generally a valid critique. Same with pangrams. Focusing on letters rather than words and wordplay results in poorer puzzles.

Richard Stanford 8:32 AM  

I had ShoeRACKS crossing EMceE for a long time. Once I admitted that emcee was wrong, that section and the west fell pretty fast.

Enjoyed the clues for STEINWAYS and HOPSCOTCH.

Unknown 8:38 AM  

My fastest Friday ever, but immensely enjoyed the solve.
I don't see how constructors can ever win with rex: he's either bashing the puzzle for skewing old and musty, which is a common refrain, but if the constructor throws in more up to date cultural references, then rex chastises him/her for "working too hard" to be hip and au courant.

I also didn't understand his recent rant about the puzzle with EWE and LAMBs, where he equated it to one of those simplistic "find the hidden word" games. I hate those games as much as anyone, but there's no comparison: those games have the hidden words surrounded by random letters. In this puzzle, the EWEs and LAMBs all were embedded in larger answers -- quite a feat of construction! And the fill did not seem particularly forced. But instead of focusing on the ingenuity of the puzzle, rex again goes negative . . . . .

Mr. Cheese 8:47 AM  

Rex, I see why you observe that some words/phrases are old-timey or over used.
What I don’t understand is why you criticize the developer for it.

TJS 9:03 AM  

Had "skidmarks" for that run, LOL.

Way,way,way to easy for a Friday. This whole week has basically sucked.

With ya @Z on pooch kick.

Wasn't there a "XYZ" affair?

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Also, what if one is not a scrabble aficionado? Those letters mean nothing in particular, do they?

Unknown 9:12 AM  

"Mini production company" is not BMW.
That's BMC (British Motor Corporation). Mini refers to the tiny little car that was produced until 2000. When BMW bought the brand, they completely redesigned it to the point it's not even the same car. Thus, to distinguish the two things, the BMW versions are always written in all caps, thus "MINI" and not "Mini".

I realize that thwarts the puzzle creator's half-hearted attempt at punny cluing, but them's the breaks, kid. The answer given is incorrect.

TheMadDruid 9:13 AM  

I was forced to hunt snipes once, way in my past. And yes, I knew I wouldn’t find one. That answer alone made this puzzle fun.
Squad for fleet is kind of dumb, no?

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I agree. Does he suggest only ultra modern slang and rap singers as apropos?

Jeff G 9:14 AM  

Pretty easy for a Friday 😩

Rube 9:17 AM  

Hey is this Tom Pepper the same guy who played Kramer in the Jerry and George Seinfeld pilot? The guy who takes the raisins?

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Nowhere can I find “psec” as a unit of time.

Texas Momma 9:18 AM  

46D. Tabasco SaucE, of course. The S on SANE and the E on STEINWAY confirm it. But wait. Tabasco STATE. I love when I am so convinced an answer is right and then discover the right right answer.

Frantic Sloth 9:20 AM  

It's bad enough that NCAA conference members change every 5 minutes, but now we are expected to know exactly which schools joined exactly what conference in exactly what year?? Get bent.

Rex's difficulty with SKITRACKS illustrates how being less proficient at solving can be beneficial, i.e., needing to jump around the grid filling in scattered letters, so one doesn't have a misleading string like SKIT. I feel vindicated. And maybe a little too smug.

It was an okay solve, appropriately challenging for the Fridee, but it does smack a bit like grandpa trying to impress a teenager's friends with eye-rolling references. An older version of "I'm the cool dad."

Can't really complain. Can't really applaud. It's just kinda...there.


Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:24 AM  

Have the people who didn't know AQABA really not seen Lawrence of Arabia?

Not all Steinways are grands, but I think all Grands cost at least a couple grand.

Pete 9:25 AM  

I've never heard of a pooch kick, in my lexicon it's either a pooch punt or a squib kick, and yet we all watch the same broadcasts. I've always had a mind like a STEELTRAP, but for the past few years, one that's been rusted shut. Metaphors are useless without specificity, but with them they're just so much blah blah blah.

I briefly wondered if this were a double pangram with its multiple Zs and Qs (explaining the puzzle's joylessness) then I decided I really didn't care.

Nancy 9:30 AM  

Not always on my wavelength, and once again too many proper names, but I found this very enjoyable anyway. My enjoyment began at 1A, where the eminently gettable ( but not for me) "Game on an erasable court" flummoxed me from the get-go and I had to get most of the Downs first. How could I not think of HOPSCOTCH right away? But I didn't. I was thinking of some game played on one of those Magic Slate pads or whatever they're called.

I wanted ONSIDE KICK at 38A (a little learning is a dangerous thing) and cursed the grid for being one letter too short. Finally the B from BMW gave me SQUIB KICK -- which rang a bell when I heard it.

I got BMW only because I had ?MW. I didn't know they made a Mini. Cars, again. Sheesh.


Never heard of PARTIED DOWN. I've heard of partying hard, but...

And there has to have been a better way to clue ZIPPER. I mean when you don't have to use a proper name...

But, still, a fun, engrossing Friday.

Michael Page 9:37 AM  

Per Wikipedia:

The name is formed by the SI prefix pico and the SI unit second. It is abbreviated as ps.

One trillionth of a second.

Oddly enough, that page is returned on a search for “psec time”, even though “psec” appears nowhere in the page.

Birchbark 9:40 AM  

This puzzle has 196 letters. "J" appears once, much less frequently than its average distribution in the language (.005 here compared to .15). "Q" appears twice (.01), very close to its average distribution (.095). Even the two "Zs" (.01 here compared to .074 average) are close enough for government work.

I fell completely for the SNIPE HUNT prank on my first Boy Scout campout -- outlasting all of the other Tenderfeet by orders of magnitude. As instructed, I found a spot in meadow and rested a flashlight on the ground, watching the light in the tall grass, waiting for the snipe to appear. I could have gone on forever, it was so mysterious and intense. All senses heightened. Finally a generous-souled older scout found me and clued me in.

Back at the campfire, I knew the strength of laughing at myself when it's right to do so. And in reality, it's not a bad thing to stare at a little patch of light in the tall grass at night for a long time, letting the senses perceive what they will. In all likelihood, I left to soon.

JonB3 9:46 AM  

psec = picosecond

It is equal to 10 to the minus 12 of a second.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

So, who knew that SHAQ is Big Aristotle without crosses? And when, by whom, was he so named?

Who says UNSHAPELY except as a dig against phat wimin? Lots of objects, buildings in particular, are ill-proportioned, but not ever deemed UNSHAPELY.

Frantic Sloth 9:55 AM  

I have Lawrence of Arabia to thank for AQABA, (Hi, @Greater Fall River) otherwise I might have been trapped in the JIBE/JIvE hole with the others, and what would we do for food while waiting to be rescued?

@Z 624am 🀣 Maybe a better flux capacitor. Maybe just don't use a flux incapacitor.

@bocamp 752am You mean "Mockingbird" isn't the correct name?? Fun video, though!

@Nancy 930am With you on HOPSCOTCH and actually tried to fit "Pictionary" in there. Feel better now? ;)

@Birchbark 940am If there's a better SNIPEHUNT anecdote, never mind - there isn't. 😊

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

"Have you ever wondered how much a Steinway piano costs? The cost of a new 5’1″ Steinway S piano is $69,700. Larger Steinway pianos like the 9′ model D cost $171,000. Smaller Steinway pianos like model A, B, L, M and O cost between $74,300 – $129,000. Used Steinway pianos average 48% of the current MSRP prices."

so, yeah, a couple of grand.

Douglas 9:57 AM  

I enjoyed this as a fairly easy Friday. Got a little stuck in the Northeast but plowed through it. I think Rex adds up all the scrabble values of the letters in his puzzle and feels like the lower the score the better. I like a few Zs and Qs in my puzzles - makes some clues easier to solve. Maybe Rex would be happy with a puzzle of all vowels? Now THAT would be a construction feat!

SourGirl 9:58 AM  

This was so crazy. This morning I listened to “Paul Sinha’s General Knowledge” on BBC 4 and he actually covered the previous and current names of Kazakhstan's capital. Apparently Astana translates to “Capital”.

JD 10:07 AM  

Died in that Astana, Acts, Shaq, Tofu, Squib section, having only Taft and Parti. I must've walked past the television a thousand times during a football game and never heard Squibkick. Go figure.

Skins and Wizen, it's a chore getting old. Shut off from my prepared food foraging path I lost 10 pounds during the extreme parts of Rona lockdown and look a little like Yoda now. Wizen crossed my mind a few times.

The puzzle reminded me of childhood though. Snipe Hunt and Hopscotch. And I love my MINI Cooper (named Scoop). So fun was had.

RooMonster 10:09 AM  

Hey All !
I liked this puz. As themelesses go, this was pretty good. Had trouble in NE and SE corners. Funnily/stupidly had woOdenHORSE first. Har. It was made of wood, so not totally inSANE. Put IRAnI in first, but erased it when I got woOden, then with IO starting 16A, wondered if Kirkuk was a city in Iowa I never heard of. Actually typed in Iowan! Good stuff. Know AQABA from puzs, but WIZEN was a new one, making me doubt TOPAZ for a bit. Straightened it all out eventually.

SE, did you know KELLY RIPA has the same amount of letters as KATHIE LEE? Well, boy howdy. Wanted SEES for 52D, but took it out because of RIPA. COACHFARE sneakily clued. And wanted something like bigpianos for STEINWSYS. ☺️ Plus Tabasco Sauce, natch. But also straightened out that mess. Ended up 100% correct!

Rex's "scrabbliness" is ridiculous. Letters are in crosswords. Who gives a fig which ones? It's whatever makes sensical words crossing each other. (F) It's not like (F) I go obsessing (F) over which letters are (F) or aren't in a grid. (F) Sheesh!

@Unknown 9:12
Well, technically MINI IS in all caps if you do puz online. 😁

@Birchbark 9:40
Interesting stats. Anything for F's? (Not like I obsess over them or anything.)

Two F's

Barbara S. 10:10 AM  

I liked this and, strangely, it got easier overnight. I started before bed and got most of it, but was hung up in Washington and Oregon. I didn’t have any of the long acrosses in the NW, and was really asea in the section below it: didn’t know ASTANA, SQUIBKICK, SHAQ’s nickname or Mapo TOFU. Went to bed, got up this morning, looked again and everything fell into place. I’d had nSEC at 3D, which prevented me from seeing HOPSCOTCH, and a dumb typo in HtPERLINK, which prevented me from seeing that “Ill-proportioned” ended in Y. I started to get those early downs: CALZONE, OPTIMA, CLAP (no idea even now about TERPS) and bang, bang, boom – it was done.

I was a whiz at HOPSCOTCH in my youth. UNSHAPELY is an unsightly word. Two close family members have TOPAZ birthstones. I loved TAI CHI the year I learned it but sadly let my practice lapse. I remember a job I had where one had to PUNCH IN and all the ingenious ways people had of subverting the system. Loved TROJAN HORSE. Completely with @Greater Fall (9:24) about Lawrence of Arabia and AQABA.

Have this story about TUSHES. My mother was playful with words and often used to make things rhyme that didn’t. I remember one night when my sister’s Jewish boyfriend was over visiting that my mother sent me upstairs to bed with the injunction to brush my tush. She meant teeth, of course – she was just doing her rhyming thing. Charles’s face took on one of the strangest looks I’ve ever seen and he boldly asked for clarification. We all had a good laugh – and I think thereafter my mother dropped that particular expression from her repertoire.

Today there’s a poem by TRACY K. SMITH, born Apr. 16, 1972.

The Universe as Primal Scream

5pm on the nose. They open their mouths
And it rolls out: high, shrill and metallic.
First the boy, then his sister. Occasionally,
They both let loose at once, and I think
Of putting on my shoes to go up and see
Whether it is merely an experiment
Their parents have been conducting
Upon the good crystal, which must surely
Lie shattered to dust on the floor.

Maybe the mother is still proud
Of the four pink lungs she nursed
To such might. Perhaps, if they hit
The magic decibel, the whole building
Will lift-off, and we'll ride to glory
Like Elijah. If this is it—if this is what
Their cries are cocked toward—let the sky
Pass from blue, to red, to molten gold,
To black. Let the heaven we inherit approach.

Whether it is our dead in Old Testament robes,
Or a door opening onto the roiling infinity of space.
Whether it will bend down to greet us like a father,
Or swallow us like a furnace. I'm ready
To meet what refuses to let us keep anything
For long. What teases us with blessings,
Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great
Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,
To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

Our racket seems beside it. My stereo on shuffle.
The neighbor chopping onions through a wall.
All of it just a hiccough against what may never
Come for us. And the kids upstairs still at it,
Screaming like the Dawn of Man, as if something
They have no name for has begun to insist
Upon being born.

Whatsername 10:13 AM  

Certainly an easy Friday except for a few nouns and if you knew both AQABA and ASTANA without looking them up, well then I’m IN AWE. Knowing this crowd, there are probably several who knew both of those but had no idea about Johnny OLSON. The only thing that gave me pause was thinking that Mapo TOFU sounds like coagulated glop with maple syrup on it which definitely did not pass the breakfast test. UH OH.

So the TERPS are in the Big Ten now? Well stick a PRONG in my TUSH because that was news to me. And on the subject of football, I’ve been a fan since the first Super Bowl - which no doubt makes me WIZENed - but I also have a mind like a STEEL TRAP and I’ve never once heard of a SQUIB KICK. If that is in some way different than an onside kick, I wish some of you sports fans would explain it to me. While you’re at it, I’m also curious as to why that particular conference now has 14 teams and we’re still calling it the Big Ten.

jae 10:34 AM  

Easy. Very solid with a smidgen of sparkle. Liked it.

Needed all the crosses for the XYZ clue when Hauteval wouldn’t fit.

Saw Willie Geist on Colbert this week. He told a story about Tracy Morgan’s Lamborghini being stolen and used the word Lambo at least half a dozen times.

mathgent 10:34 AM  

I liked it a lot. Very lively. Smart cluing, nice variety in the fill, only eight threes leaving room for 12 longs.

@Birchbark (9:40). I was wondering if the uncommon letters were forced. You gave strong evidence that they were not.

Tell me about the expression "XYZ." Is it recent? I haven't heard it. Back when I was in grade school, kids would say "Your violin case is open." When you looked down, they would make a hilarious comment.

I like the imagery when someone says that he or she has a mind like a STEELTRAP. It's quick and it completely seizes the concept.

EdFromHackensack 10:34 AM  

Poor clue for WIZEN, IMO. Loved seeing STEINWAYS, I have one in the living room. :)

Birchbark 10:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 10:37 AM  

an on-side kick is executed as a SQUIB kick. depending on the announcers, the description may be used. I've heard it any number of times. with the change in the rules about kick-offs, fewer on-sides are attempted and almost none are recovered, so we'll likely hear of fewer SQUIB kicks going forward.

Frantic Sloth 10:48 AM  

@Whatsername 1013am Exactly! I'm pretty sure there are (or have been) others that make no numeric sense, but I stopped listening long ago.
Oh, and here's your SQUIBKICK.

Birchbark 10:52 AM  

@RooMonster (10:09) -- I count one "F" (.01) in todays puzzle. "F" is sadly underrepresented here compared to its .022 average distribution in the language. I blame the editor.

My source for these stats is a Wikipedia article entitled "Letter Frequency."

Cheerio 10:57 AM  

ASTANA isn't that hard to conjure up if you follow the Tour de France.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Anonymous 10:37,
Ummm. I dunno. Squib kicks are almost always used as a form of defense to prevent a long return. They are almost always employed at the end of a half where field position is largely immaterial bit a long a return could be devastating. On side kicks are used for a different reason entirely. Their aim is for the kicking team to recover the ball and maintain possession. As a result squib kicks travel much farther than on side kicks, precisely because the object isn't for the kicking team to recover the ball.
I'll grant that sometimes announcers will use the verb squib to describe how a kicker is striking the ball on an on side kick. But the announcer would never, ever describe the kick itself as a squib kick. In other words he'll say " He's gonna squib it and hope for the best". A small but absolutely critical diction.

Nancy 11:00 AM  

@Barbara S (10:10)-- Things to Be Eternally Grateful For: That I didn't live where Tracy K. Smith lived -- i.e. under those unspeakably cacophonous children. Also, your "tush" story is surely one of the funniest personal anecdotes ever revealed on this blog.

Rex, what have you done to our Resident Philosopher, @Birchbark? Instead of thinking his usual deep thoughts about the universe and our place in it, he's felt compelled to spend much of his morning researching the "average distributions" of so-called "Scrabbly" letters. What a waste of @Birchbark's time and talents.

Carola 11:00 AM  

Easy and fun, except that the "easy" part lulled. me into inattentiveness and I ended my solve with matches at the table being SEtS. There were so many enjoyable entries. I especially liked the combinations of HOPSCOTCH + SNIPE HUNT and TROJAN HORSE + STEEL TRAP.

@Son Volt 7:14 - Your comment brought a pang: I managed to lose track of my treasured Nano on an airplane some years ago. Miss it!
@Frantic Sloth 9:20 and Whatsername 10:13- For knowing the TERPS it definitely helped to be a Badger. The conference expansion was all about money and media markets; sports-wise (in my view) it didn't make a lot of sense.
@Greater Falls River 9:24 and @Barbara S. 10:10- I was also curious about how many of us learned AQABA from Lawrence of Arabia. Three of us at least.
@JD 10:07 - "Skins and Wizen"! Made me laugh (better than crying about it anyway :) ).
@Mathgent 10:34 - Re:ZIPPER and violin case. I think you come from a more cultured environment than I - in Wisconsin, it was the barn door that was open :)

egsforbreakfast 11:04 AM  

If a clothes horse is a person who is excessively concerned with wearing fashionable clothes, then what is a TROJAN HORSE?

Last night we started watching the new Hemingway documentary that Ken Burns and Lynn Novick released on PBS. Learning a lot about STEIN WAYS of doing things.

Sorry, that last one was a bit forced. I’ll retreat with a thanks to Tom Pepper for an easy but very enjoyable Friday.

Cheerio 11:05 AM  

I thought this puzzle had some subtle bits of cleverness. Like having the answer to "Wild-goose chase" be simply a literal meaning of SNIPE HUNT. I appreciated "XYZ". It's been a long time, too long, since I have thought about the excellent phrase XYZ PDQ. FEW was a cute answer, and PREY as answer to "small game, often" is also quite nice.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  


bocamp 11:08 AM  

@TJS 9:03 AM

Ditto on the 'skidmarks'.

XYZ Affair

Best SQUIB Kick

High-count scrabble letters always welcome in my grid. :)

Got my first iPod Scroll Wheel in '02

Was a spot welder on the BMW assembly line in Munich ('69)

Was both a victim and perpetrator of the SNIPE HUNT.

Turkey in the STRAW (1942)

Sierra Hull & Sam Bush tear it up on the mandolins: Turkey in the STRAW

@Frantic Sloth 9:55 AM πŸ‘

Oh, HUSH! πŸ˜‰

td pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Newboy 11:11 AM  

I liked your grid Tom. As an older male solver, I skipped from HOP SCOTCH to STEINWAYS though noticing the gender balance problem potential which I assumed OFL would be ONTO like stink on feces. TERPS & BMW & SQUIB KICKs come easily for we who suffer testosterone poisoning, but non-ESPN subscribers might feel as though they were on a SNIPE HUNT (and Laker nicknames??). Thanks @Birchbark for the scouting report—so many memories, good & not so! Great puzzle to start the day and now off for a trail building workday under the blue skies of spring.

GILL I. 11:13 AM  

Parts of this I found to be dusty musty and other parts were "the spaghetti isn't sticking on the wall." I wanted to dance, but the SQUIB KICK ate up some TERPS and the SKIT RACKS made my ZIPPER PRONG get caught in the TUSHES of my UNSHAPELY TOGS. I need a life.
Well I love SHAQ but I hate TOFU. Tabasco is a SAUCE damn it, but I loved HOP SCOTCH. The SCOTCH not the HOP. Why do you keep time with a CLAP. I thought that was something you got when you didn't wear your STEEL TRAP.
Cheap seats used to be NOSE BLEEDS. Now it's COACH FARE?
I guess I'll have to look up a SQUIB and how he kicks. Is he the main squeeze for the TERPS?

Anonymous 11:14 AM  


Anonymous 11:15 AM  

It's because all 14 schools cut the Math Dept budget.

Masked and Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Seemed like a pretty good themeless, to m&e. Sure, it was slightly Peppered with scrabbliness -- but that's just part of the sparkle, as long as U don't get overly desperate, which this puppy didn't, IM&AO.
Shoot, not countin the NE corner (which had all solid fill) and SQUIBKICK, the scrabble twerkin woulda been minimal.

staff weeject pick, of only 8 choices: REY. Slightly better clue: {Good name for a Spanish chess player?}. Would then give U a nice runtpuz mini-theme, with MOE.


Thanx for the themeless fun, Dr. … er … Mr. Pepper dude.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Birchbark 11:25 AM  

@Nancy (11:00) - If it's any consolation, I saw the SNIPE HUNT as a meditation on faith and unlooked-for revelation.

Plus it never hurts to establish credibility with a few introductory statistics.

KnittyContessa 11:26 AM  

Way too many sports clues for me. Why is SHAQ the Big Aristotle? Never have I ever heard of a SQUIBKICK.

Does anyone say xyz any more?

Not a fun solve for me.

The Joker 11:26 AM  

STEINWAY made me think of an old gag. This works better orally.

Tim: "Have you ever had a henway?"

Tom: "What's a henway?"

Tim "Oh, about 3 or 4 pounds."

eddy 11:31 AM  

I'm really tired of coming here to be shamed. All of you telling me that today's puzzle was "easy", "Monday" level, "fastest ever"...I'm no slouch idiot solver and this one took me eleven minutes longer than average. Sometimes I do better than average, sometimes worse. That's the way solving goes. This one had plenty of PPP I just didn't know. The capital of an obscure Stan of central Asia? FORMER capital? Which it isn't, it's the present capital? Who didn't have to Google that? Admit it. Alright, you say, get the crosses and guess. Well, sometimes.
Rex perpetuates a myth, that puzzles have actual levels of difficulty, an objective standard. Bull. Nobody is a walking encyclopedia.

Whatsername 11:36 AM  

@Pete: How’s the hand? Healing nicely I hope.

@Frantic and @Anonymouses: Thanks for the kicky explanations. Sounds like the basic difference is that the SQUIB is intended for the other team to recover where an onside is not. I’m still just gobsmacked that in all the football games I’ve watched, from high school to pro, I don’t recall ever hearing that term.

@GILL: “I thought CLAP was something you got when you didn't wear your STEEL TRAP.” Best comment of the day. 🀣

Whatsername 11:41 AM  

@Joker (11:26) Your joke reminded me of an oldie from a quiz where the answer had to be the name of an automobile. “What question would a farmer ask when considering the purchase of a hen?”


I know. It’s bad. I’ll show myself out.

JC66 11:58 AM  


I liked @GILL's comment, too, but you obviously missed @egs' clothes horse/TROJAN HORSE comment.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

@eddy. You speak the TRUTH. Watch your back.

linac800 12:01 PM  

@eddy don’t lose hope and don’t be put off. Much like you my times vary considerably with respect to the experiences of others. I’ve never felt that shaming was intended.

I come here because I love to learn things, and I can guarantee that I learn something new every day from this blog and the ensuing lively discussion.

I try to embody the spirit of @lewis - look for the good and enjoyment and the ongoing honing of one’s puzzling skills, but appreciate the dynamics of the debate and opinions that flow.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

@eddy, et al:
puzzles have actual levels of difficulty, an objective standard

levels of anything need not be 'objective standard'. at all. it's called 'relative' or 'ordinal'.

I've been plowing through a book of Sunday puzzles, and have given up on the one named 'Mirror Mirror', from 1999. just visited xwordinfo out of sheer frustration. if you're also plowing through the same volume, skip the following:

"In this puzzle which I believe Will Shortz called "diabolical" when he accepted it..."
-- Charles M. Deber/author

he goes on to describe the trick, which is not copied here, spoiler ban and all that. let's just say, it's kind of not obvious. and, of course, the trick clue/answers are sprinkled such that crosses are also tricks.

IOW, it could be a lot worse. yes, there is, normally, a measurable (ordinal if not cardinal) increase in difficulty, Monday to Saturday. Sunday, at least in recent years, is scaled to be Wednesday difficulty.

yes, each puzzle will hit the 'general knowledge' level of each solver differently. some folks even keep track of authors' predilections, hoping to squash the tricks in puzzles. "I really like X's puzzles." or "I can't stand Q's puzzles." some think Shortz is doing a bang-up job; most (who jabber here) think otherwise. and so on. over time, two things happen: 1) some tricks become common enough that they're recognized and 2) over-used tricks get put away by authors/editor, only to surface rarely.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

I got to "Evidence of having gone on a run" with SKI______, and immediately wrote SKIDMARKS, and thought, "Ew, these guys are gross!" Turns out I was the one who was gross ;-)

david k 12:25 PM  

I conflated "skosh" with "scotch" so couldn't see calzone for a while and that slowed me down since no Italian words begin with K. Loved Shaq (I am huge fan of this guy who is so smart and funny and kind), squib kick. Did not love Kathie Lee, ski tracks, coach fare, or snipe hunt (ugh). I also get slowed down by the online solve because I haven't got the hang of the entry method. That usually costs me a minute or two. Today it took me 21 minutes. FYI for @eddy my solve experience is almost never like Rex's. I think he must have much better pattern recognition than most of the rest of us. Often it's not what you know but what you see. My two cents.


Speaking of Scrabbly letters, I've been doing the Boswords Tournament. I've been doing OK but I bombed this week. The constructor, Trenton Charleston, is the one who has the Scrabble letter obsession, which is normally fine. This puzzle had 10 "X" s in one corner. Needless to say, I never heard of CharliXCX or knew spelling of XERXES or know that DOXXIES has 2 Xs. I knew Exacta cause I play the ponies. I just don't understand the point of shoving as many X's as possible into one corner.
I'm blaming myself..but not really because this was kind of BS. Also I looked up CHARLI XCX and ouch my ears. Is this supposed to be music?

TTrimble 12:34 PM  

It's possible that "Scrabbliness" is encouraged by software like Crossword Compiler. I don't know whether there have been any changes, but when I had this years ago, it kept track of unused latters, so that one might come to have a feeling of completeness by using all the letters.

Pangrams don't bother me in the first place.

I had a bit of trouble (in the SE, as was the case yesterday), starting with the fact I put in SKI TRAilS before arriving at SKI TRACKS. D'oh! Fell into the obvious SaucE/STATE trap. Furrowed my brow over the *former* longtime morning TV cohost KATHIE LEE. But eventually all was good.

SQUIB KICK is completely new to me.

All I ever take that to mean is that Rex himself found it easy-medium or whatever. It's a truism that other people may experience it differently. Happens all the time in fact. It's true that I sometimes strenuously disagree with his assessment, but it's never anything to get upset about or feel ashamed about.

old timer 12:41 PM  

About halfway through, I said to myself, this is way easier than any Friday ought to be. But then I realized, it is simply because I am on to all the usual constructors' tricks. I immediately wanted STATE for Tabasco, for instance, and it did not take long to suss out TROJAN HORSE. Moreover, as an old-time Tour de France fan, ASTANA dropped right in.

STEELTRAP went in with only a cross or two, because my dear friend and roommate from my second year of law school always calls me the "STEEL TRAP Mind. Probably that is reflected in my crossword solves these days.

I did want PARTIED hearty at first, but it did not fit. PARTYDOWN is less in the language.

Let me point out that a person whose face or body is described as UNSHAPELY is far, far more likely to be a man than a woman. Men are in general not supposed to care about such things (at least straight men), while women have always devoted a lot of energy to taking what they have been blessed with and making it SHAPELY, or at least fascinating. Call that the Eleanor Roosevelt effect -- for who ever got tired of looking at her, long after her adoring husband passed on.

BTW surely the most UNSHAPELY of Presidents was William Howard TAFT. Who resembed a beached whale. But he too had a STEEL TRAP mind, and is the only ex-President to be rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court, the moment his party came back in power.

Nancy 12:41 PM  

@eddy -- I assure you that no one here wants to "shame" you; no one here will spend two minutes thinking about whether you were or weren't able to do a given puzzle; and no one here will care in the slightest whether you took 15 minutes or 15 hours to solve one.

And anyway, you don't have to tell us any of the above if you don't want to.

I hope you have a wonderfully successful life of puzzle-solving ahead of you. I hope puzzle-solving will give you joy, diversion from the many troubles of life, and, ultimately, great ego-fulfillment and validation. That is what I wish for you.

And now, as I face marching off this evening for my first Pfizer shot, (perhaps the last person of my advanced age to do so, but I had been waiting for the extremely elusive "one-and-done" J&J), filled with all sorts of unspeakable apprehension and praying that Mt Sinai Hospital will honor the gluteal inoculation that I hope I've successfully talked them into providing me, I promise not to think about you at all, @eddy. Honest:)

Pete 12:45 PM  

@Whatseername - Making progress, thanks for asking. Saw an ortho today, who's advice was almost directly opposite the ER Doc's. Since his advice made my life easier than did hers, I took his. Unconscious gender bias had nothing to do with it, I swear. Seriously, I would know if it did, wouldn't I?

johnk 12:49 PM  

I JIBE with that. I'm fine with dated, being a WIZENED solver who caught the bug from my father waaaay back in the 20th century.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

@EDDY - there are some crossword snobs here that post three times a day. They are high and mighty and should be ignored. Scroll past the inordinately long posts - they like to hear themselves pontificate.

foxaroni 1:24 PM  

Starting my fill at 1A with TICTACTOE meant it was a long, LONG slog to complete. Another hand up for crashing on SKIT____. @eddy, I have had the same reactions many times. After trying to solve for an hour, then coming here to see people complain it was too "easy," it gets very dismaying. I get wheelhouses and all that, but still....

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

My husband often watches those reality shows which follow people who live off the land in Alaska. Many of the small villages or valleys have K's in their name. Kirkuk sounded familiar so 16A, from the I of SIT, became Inuit. 18A was TOPAZ. Those two didn't mesh, so of course I took out TOPAZ. Har.

I knew ASTANA had been in a recent puzzle but oh, I could not dredge it up. Thank you, Mapo TOFU.

Thanks, Tom, I liked your themeless Friday. I didn't find it as hard as your last NYT themeless, which was brutal as I recall.

@Birchbark, I read your Boy Scout anecdote to my co-worker and we both admired your sentiments.

@Barbara S, I sent a copy of the poem you posted to the same co-worker. I found it delightful!

Whatsername 1:30 PM  

eddy (11:31) I’m one of those who said this puzzle was easy today, but please believe me that shaming never entered my mind. I’m exactly like you in that “sometimes I do better, sometimes worse,” but I seldom finish a Friday or Saturday puzzle without help. Today was that rare occasion when I was flush with success and felt confident enough to say so. Every puzzle is different and every solver is different. The one rule I have is that I don’t ever time myself because I know I would suffer miserably in comparison. And comparing myself to others - in crossword puzzles or any other pursuit of life for that matter - would take all the enjoyment out it for me.

@JC (11:58) Actually I had read @egs’ comment at 11:04 but it sailed right over my head. I get it now. My STEEL TRAP mind doesn’t always spring quite as quickly as it should.

@Nancy (12:41) I was apprehensive before the first vaccine too, but having now had both plus the follow-up two weeks, it’s a nice feeling to be among the “fully protected.” I admit I felt a bit puny the day after both shots, but it was short duration and well worth it to at least begin to feel normal again.

@Pete (12:45) Good news. With an injury like that, I’d lend much more credence to an orthopedic specialist than to an ER doc who might be a proctologist for all you know. πŸ˜‰

JOHN X 1:36 PM  

@Eddy 11:31 AM

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

A-mouse 1:12 -- Some of us really like reading many of the long comments and enjoy getting to *know* the wide range of people. You have no call to speak for us. And don't try to make Eddy as sour and misanthropic as you are. If you hate the blog, why not leave the blog.

jberg 2:16 PM  

I was with @Nancy all the way in experiencing this one, right down to thinking about a Magic Slate -- I actually counted the squares to see if battleship would fit in. I think I needed the HOPS to get HOPSCOTCH. Also with her, and many others, having no idea what a SQUIB KICK is. I thought if would be a SQUId KICK, where one player kicks the ball while the others throw balloons filled with ink at the other team. Those are really hard to return.

But what's a pooch KICK? I thought the SPCA had succeeded in getting those banned.

The trouble with UNSHAPELY is that everyone says 'misshapen' instead.

@Lewis, I get your point about the puzzle's merits, but I'd be happier if it didn't have OPINE and EMOTE; just a personal preference, but I'm getting very tired of them.

But I'm happy anyway -- it seems to have stopped snowing here in Boston. After the first 30 minutes of that, the novelty wore off. Now I want to go play by STEINWAY, but I gave it to my grandchildren several years ago (it was a spinet, not worth many grand.)

kitshef 2:20 PM  

@Whatsername 11:41 - explanation please of the Chevrolet joke.

Re: Scrabbliness. By far the most common letter in the American version of Scrabble is E, so if you see a lot of Es in the puzzle, it is Srabbly.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

The only real reason to frequent blogs such as this is to engage with others over some topic, in this case a crossword puzzle. Pontificating is what we do. Every mother's son of us. For those that merely want the answers before tomorrow's paper, then xwordinfo is the place you ought to be. Green Acres.

Unknown 2:29 PM  

abbreviation for picosecond...

Eddy 2:47 PM  

I appreciate all of you who commented on my comment. I think it was John X who touched me off, calling this one Monday easy. I certainly know the solving experience varies. I normally tolerate comments with which I disagree. I used the word “shame” because I was unusually annoyed with Rex and others who thought this one was easy. Then John X (6:45) put my over. @Nancy: ha!

Anonymous 3:01 PM  


You'll quickly learn to take a lot of what @John X says with a LARGE grain of salt.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

I think it was John X who touched me off

John X is the biggest liar on this device. Stick around long enough, and s/he'll lie on you too!!

it seems to have stopped snowing here in Boston

child's play. in 1997 I was living in a SRO in Waltham, and woke up to 2 feet of snow on 1 April. I think that may have been the most single day snow in Boston metro ever.

JC66 3:07 PM  

or appreciate his sense of humor.

Whatsername 3:12 PM  

@kitshef (2:20) The answer to the question the farmer asked when he was pondering purchasing a hen ... “Chevrolet” is supposed to sound like “She ever lay?”

Like I said, I know it’s bad. I’m so sorry.

Zygotic 3:33 PM  

@birchbark 0.095% means Q appears in texts once out of every 10,000 letters in texts so we should see it roughly once every 50 puzzles. I think you must have missed that percentage symbol (this assumes 200 letters per puzzle so it takes 50 puzzles to get to 10,000 letters).

@Eddy - As in many things I agree with Rex, who has this on his FAQ page:

6. Why do you talk about your solving times? You must think you are So Superior. I think I enjoy the puzzle more than you because I savor it blah blah blah x infinity...

I like to time myself on occasion, especially on early-week puzzles. I'm always in a kind of low-level training for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (again, above link). I don't care if you are faster / slower than I am, or if you don't care about timing at all. More power to you. Everyone does the puzzle differently. There are solvers of all different speeds who read this site. There's no reason for anyone to feel defensive / self-conscious.

For me, if I say a Friday or Saturday is “easy” what I’m really saying is “this puzzle felt like it took less time and had fewer stumbling blocks than every other Friday puzzle I have ever solve,” but having to write that every single day would be a tad tedious so it gets reduced to “easy.” Personally, I have gone from a Friday taking 30-60 minutes to a Friday taking 10-30 minutes. I’m not any smarter, but I now put something like ASTANA in the puzzle with barely a blink (maybe a little snarl, but not a blink).

JOHN X 3:38 PM  

Thank you for all your kind words.

My friends, I don't tell lies; all that shit actually happens to me. I lead a rich life.

As for my crossword prowess, here's my iPad stat page from today showing just what a liar I am.

Not only did I solve today's puzzle in 11:21, I solved it while I was coked out of my mind doing rails off a hooker's boob job.

Birchbark 3:57 PM  

@Z (3:33) -- I think we're both wrong on "Q" (.095% is roughly .001). But the point is taken.

I think I made variations of that converting mistake on most of the stats, and now we reach a different conclusion. "Q" appears ten times more often in the puzzle that its random distribution. "Z" roughly the same. J appears about three time more often than its average distribution. @Roo, my "F" calculation remains intact, so you can breathe easy.

But don't take my word for it -- just see the chart in the Wikipedia article on "Letter Frequency." I hope any who relied on my earlier calculations will heal quickly.

RooMonster 4:06 PM  

I once drive SHAQ from a house to the airport. You don't really realize how big he is until you stand next to him.
And yes, he was pleasant and quiet.

I find it surprising that @JOHN X is coherent enough to post as frequent as he does! Or that he has internet access in whatever particular jail he's currently residing in.

But, he does have some interesting stories. 😁

Dang, you got everything YesterBee? Even that ridiculous double letter one? Impressive.

RooMonster Ruminating Giy

Michael G. Benoit 4:32 PM  

I would expect to see NUR as a response to a ___-Sultan prompt, before we see the whole city in the grid.

bocamp 5:04 PM  

@RooMonster (4:06 PM): "The Ruminator Guy" πŸ€”

Yup; one of the 'tips' I didn't mention the other day: double up on letters and vice-versa, even when seemingly ridiculous. The English language seems to have some 'ridiculous' words. πŸ˜”

Signed: another ruminator guy. πŸ€”

td 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

GHarris 5:27 PM  

Were you told to bring a pillow case to the hunt and given detailed instruction on how to lure the snipe into the case and then shut it quickly dropping the flashlight inside? It was that detail that sucked me in. In my case, there were teams of two created, a counselor of each gender with the prospect of prolonged isolation in a dark meadow leading to a more amorous adventure.

Unknown 5:31 PM  

Rex, don't you think it's a tad hypocritical to consistently (and correctly) rip on every puzzle that tends to be a bit sexist or gender-biased, yet claim in today's puzzle that your "favorite mistake" was inserting the word HOE for 25D, even going so far as to screenshot it for us??

mathgent 5:37 PM  

I've asked around. We haven't heard anyone say "XYZ." I'll bet it's something a polite Brit says. My coarse friends would say "Yer fly's open."

Bruce Fieggen 5:49 PM  

@Nancy 12:41. Here’s praying you first check for SKIDMARKS before getting your gluteal shot.
The way my arm hurt for two weeks after my Moderna second shot I’m glad it was just my arm. I could always sleep on my other side.

Zygotic 6:08 PM  

@birchbark - Oops. Once every 1,000 words or roughly once a week. Pretty nifty trick I did there, rounding 0.095 to 0.01. You know what they say, “Maths is hard.”
I do like that the Wikipedia article gives the dictionary rate and the text rate, because my first thought was you must have been citing the dictionary rate to get such a high frequency. I also like that Wikipedia has such an article. It’s good to know we aren’t the only people in the world with such obtuse and obscure questions.

@mathgent - We said XYZ when I was a kid growing up in the 60’s. I never heard the “eXamine Your ZIPPER” explanation until much later in life, maybe even as late as the last ten years. This makes me wonder if the “eXamine Your ZIPPER” thing came later.

YKK anyone?

TTrimble 6:25 PM  

Well, I'm 0 for today and haven't given up on the previous two days. I'm -1 for yesterday, and have a 12-point deficit for the day before. But I had my second vax today. Let the battle commence!

TTrimble 6:26 PM  

No, the XYZ explanation has been around since I was a kid.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

At the risk of being corrected, xyz was a common usage in Bucks County, Pa in the mid 1970’s. I’m guessing much ear,over. But I can vouch for 1973 onward. It was widely known to be shorthand for examine your zipper.

bocamp 6:43 PM  

@TTrimble (6:25 PM) πŸ‘ for the vax and πŸ‘ for 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

JC66 6:45 PM  

FWIW, I'm 81 and have spent virtually my whole living in the NYC area and I've never heard of XYZ (eXamine Your ZIPPER) until today.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

The XYZ mystification has me mystified. It was a very common expression in my youth.
But usage varies. My question is about snipe hunt. Yes, I know full well that it is used as a gag or joke to have some poor soul hunting or at least waiting to capture a creature which can never be found. BUT...
Snipe are real things. Wonderful things. Cryptically colored and therefore sometimes hard to find, but they are real.
So just how is it that a phrase meaning a futile endeavor, is, well, not really anything even remotely futile.
I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of game laws. But I’m pretty good on Pa and NJ. Not only is snipe hunting a thing,bag limits are posted.
IMHO, this is akin to the hemi clues. People with no understanding of the subject riffing on it.
Z, I said akin. It is far from a perfect analogy. Of course, snipe hunt is part of the language. It is a venerable rite of passage in certain circles. It is however base.was. Stupid and moronic. Much like the idea that fans of a movie or song have some sort of ownership of it.
It is so bankrupt an idea it withers under any scrutiny.

Son Volt 8:23 PM  

Count me with the crowd that has never heard XYZ - usually just “your fly is open”. My favorite though is “I always thought you were crazy but now I can see your nuts”.

ulysses 8:28 PM  

Can someone explain TOGS for Outfits. The “G” was my last letter for what turned out to be a DNF due to the JIvE/AQAvA cross and I have no idea why it is TOGS other than it crosses with TONG. Thanks.

Anonymous 8:54 PM  

I feel stupid. While I solved this in below my average Friday time, I had to get 52D (Matches at a Table - SEES) with the crosses. I wanted to say 'sets' as set of dishes that match. When it came up 'see' I didn't understand the cluing. Could someone clue me in?

Other than that, I did notice a lot of old-timey words that I got only because I'm old-timey myself.

Nancy 9:05 PM  

@Bruce -- Had the shot at around 7 p.m. So far, no soreness at all. That, of course, may change tomorrow to some degree. But still it's apples and oranges. A shot in the rear end is about one one hundredth as painful as a shot in the arm. I have taken my annual flu shot in the gluteal muscle every year for 27 years. But that's always been from private doctors. For months I've been terrified that I wouldn't be able to get the Covid shot that way. Certainly the state-run sites did not seem at all amenable to doing it. They had no private areas and they didn't have trained nurses who know how to give it.

Waiting all these extra months-- until I was able to get through by phone to in-hospital staff who were not in some off-site phone bank -- people who were able to green-light the shot ahead of time -- is the smartest thing I've ever done. Knowing it would be done this way also removed 90% of my anxiety. Not all of it -- I am Nancy, after all -- but most of it.

The bottom line: If everyone in the world knew how much less painful a shot in the rear end is than a shot in the arm, no one in the entire world would ever agree to have a shot in the arm ever again. Trust me on this! You can take it to the bank.

Cassieopia 9:37 PM  

Totally jive with you on that. Or is it jibe? Needed an atlas to know for sure.

albatross shell 10:11 PM  

Sees, in poker. mathches the bet.

albatross shell 10:28 PM  

You are indeed correct, but the discomfort for most people is not enough to matter. Needles are small, and one hopes the nurses competent. Better safe than sorry, and I feel safer being vaxxed earlier. I do suspect they would alter the location if you just showed up and asked, but I certainly do not know. Just telling them you faint at arm shots would probably work.

albatross shell 10:31 PM  

TOGS are clothes are outfits or the other way around.

Monty Montague 9:23 AM  

Did anyone else really want "nose bleed" to be the "cost of cheap seats?" Or was that just me?

thefogman 10:18 AM  


spacecraft 10:47 AM  

I did notice, early on, the proliferation of rare letters, but none of it seemed overly forced. The double "U-less" Q-crossing was about as far as it went, but they're fine.

This might almost have had a theme: idioms. STEELTRAP, TROJANHORSE, SNIPEHUNT. I liked it. Hey, at 80 I'M musty! So be it. Here's a mini-poem:



Burma Shave 11:21 AM  


SHE wraps the FEW fore SKINS SHE SEES,
so RAPID, with VIGOR,
SHE’ll undo your ZIPPER,
a TROJAN is ON, and so is SHE.


Diana, LIW 3:13 PM  

A few errors along the way slowed me down. Cheated - cleared them up - and finished successfully. An odd lot, this one.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 6:53 PM  

A pot-pourri of clues and answers needing some patterns and LINKs, but finding few.

First, missed HOPSCOTCH--[for some reason, thinking about an “erasable” ice Curling court]--crossed by PSEC, instead of nSEC. That was only to start....Then SHAQ as “Aristotle”, Big or otherwise? He’s obviously no dummy, but c’mon. Then, how about trying a short KICK instead of a SQIB KICK? [UH, OH. So far, not doing too well here.] And, finally, IPOD “outmoded by the smartphone”? Really? Since when?

Okay as pot-pourri, but prefer some patterns and links.

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