Onetime name for China / SUN 4-18-21 / Google Photos precursor / Bridal adornment at Indian weddings / 1976 greatest hits album with palindromic title / Block where Sesame Street can be found

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Constructor: Johan Vass

Relative difficulty: Easy to Easy-Medium (9:15)

THEME: "A Rare Find" — I guess you are supposed to find a NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK, although the "stack" of "HAY"s is clearly marked for you (circled squares) so "finding" the "needle" is remarkably easy, which pretty much negates the premise of the puzzle ... anyway, there are a bunch of circled "HAY"s on top of each other (i.e. stacked) and then wedged in there is the letter string "NEEDLE" (inside NEEDLESS TO SAY). Also:

Theme answers:
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (25A: Popular action film franchise ... or what trying to find the item in this puzzle can be described as)
  • "IT'S A LOST CAUSE" (29A: "There's no use" ... like trying to find the item in this puzzle?)
  • GRASPING / AT STRAWS (50D: With 44-Down, making futile attempts ... and an extra hint to this puzzle's theme)

Word of the Day: ANGEL EYES (75D: The titular bad guy in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") —
Lee Van Cleef as 'Angel Eyes': The Bad, a ruthless, confident, borderline-sadistic mercenary, takes a pleasure in killing and always finishes a job for which he is paid, usually tracking and assassination. Originally, Leone wanted Enrico Maria Salerno(who had dubbed Eastwood's voice for the Italian versions of the Dollars Trilogy films) or Charles Bronson to play Angel Eyes, but the latter was already committed to playing in The Dirty Dozen (1967). Leone thought about working with Lee Van Cleef again: "I said to myself that Van Cleef had first played a romantic character in For a Few Dollars More. The idea of getting him to play a character who was the opposite of that began to appeal to me." In the original working script, Angel Eyes was named "Banjo", but is referred to as "Sentenza" (meaning "Sentence" or "Judgement") in the Italian version. Eastwood came up with the name Angel Eyes on the set, for his gaunt appearance and expert marksmanship. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, what a mess. This is a potentially interesting idea that was allowed to get out of control and that no one ever bothered to rein in. I'm not even sure where to begin. First, the "stack." It's awful. It's all cattywampus and contains all the grid's most awful fill: bygone place names, bygone carriages, a name that no famous person actually has, a name that only someone named HAYLEY Atwell has (??), and then SASHAYING and, lastly, shockingly, seemingly cheatingly, the "HAY" from the actual word "HAYSTACK." It's a horrid lumpy lopsided disaster. Visually repulsive and utterly unfun to solve. Then there's the basic premise, which, according to the puzzle's three (?) themers, is that it is difficult to find a needle in a haystack. A lost cause. Impossible, even. And I understand that that is what is commonly implied by the whole "needle in a haystack" concept. But here, it's so easy, there's practically a neon arrow pointing at the "NEEDLE." See all the HAY ... then see that gap in the HAY stack. Yeah, there's the NEEDLE, congratulations, Sherlock. Finding that NEEDLE is never, ever a problem. Easy. TOO EASY. It's the opposite of "impossible." So the physical expression of the theme is awful, and the concept makes no actual sense. The three themers are only barely related. Tangentially. Tenuously. And yet GRASPING / AT STRAWS is probably the best part about this theme. The wordplay there is at least clever. The rest, though, wow, light it on fire.

The grid also just looks awful. Nevermind that it's pointlessly the wrong dimensions (20x22 instead of the normal 21x21), it's also just go So Many Black Squares, and in bizarre configurations (with the bizarrest probably being those weird 9-square "U" shapes at the top and bottom of the grid). Made the whole grid look pock-marked and ragged, and made the solve feel choppy. Some of the fill was enjoyable. Weirdly liked "MM HMM," if only because it's so preposterous-looking it somehow lightened the mood (and the mood was pretty dark by that point). I also liked BONNY LASS. I had LEGAL before LEGIT (39D: Bona fide), which is my fault, and "YA FEEL ME?" before "YA HEAR ME?" which is, frankly, the puzzle's fault. I cannot say how much better (and more current) "YA FEEL ME!?" is. "YA HEAR ME!" has more of a threat quality to it. "YA FEEL ME!?" is asking for an amen, which is more in the spirit of the clue (83D: "Know what I'm talkin' about?"). Hilarious that you think I can remember a. PICASA (57D: Google Photos precursor) and b. ANGEL EYES—I've seen that movie a bunch, but still couldn't retrieve that bit of trivia (75D: The titular bad guy in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"). You gotta be a hardcore fan. Also, I got very thrown by the idea that ANGEL EYES was "titular" when I was staring right at the title and not seeing ANGEL EYES anywhere in it. But I get it now. He is the "Bad" of the title, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." This answer is hay-adjacent, so I pity it. Again, as I say, what a mess. Moving on...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:00 AM  

Really? Shaded squares? Or circles? Way to MAR a clever theme, editor people. Sheesh.
How much more fun would it have been to find the - I'm sorry, but obvious - stack of HAYs without being walked through them like a toddler. C'mon!

This PPP was obscure and/or dated to me.

Who on earth is HAYLEY Atwell?

I know SELA WARD (well, not personally, like @JOHN X likely does), but WTH is/was "Once and Again"?? If it's one of those network TV weepy melodramas, forget it. I'd sooner be struck smart than watch one of those saccharin torture slopfests.
Likewise, Anson Elgort(??) and The Fault in Our Stars. Same slop, larger screen.
If I want to open a vein, I'll watch this year's Oscar-nominated films end to end.

But I digress.

And it's bad enough I have to trudge down into the dank dungeon of my brain to recall Boyz N the Hood at all, only to remember I left the protagonist's name in the attic. And by time I get there I've forgotten why and waste a day nostalgia-hunting in grandma's trunk.
ITSALOSTCAUSE is my middle name.

And don't even get me started on lookie-loo clues! Okay, so there wasn't a stampede of them, but as I've said before, even one lookie-loo is two too many.

As I fence in my lawn, let me just say "isn't NOISE ROCK redundant?"

It might surprise you to know that I actually liked this solve a lot - save for that shaded squares business - and not just for the theme. The fill was first rate, too. A little PPP heavy, but did it reach the 33% threshold? I'm thinking no.

An excellent debut, Johan Vass! More, please - and soon!


jae 12:04 AM  

Easy-medium. This was fun. Sparkly themers and not much dreck. Jeff gave it POW at Xwordinfo even with the odd looking HAY STACK.

A fine debut from a nonnative English speaker. Liked it a bunch!

Joaquin 12:05 AM  

Sunday NYT Xwords can be such slogs. This is the exact opposite of a slog - fun to solve with a clever theme/reveal. Unlike @Rex, I enjoyed this puzzle.

Except for MMHMM (which I nominate as the worst word in the English language).

Harryp 12:17 AM  

I must be going backwards, because although I finished this and yesterday's puzzle, they both took an hour and more to finish, when everyone else is setting personal records. Things like NOISE ROCK and TOWER OF HANOI just don't come as easily. That said, I still am able to enjoy the solve.

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

My big problem with this one is that, while I was filling out NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK, with the clue egging me on ("Where is it?"), the NEEDLE that we're looking for is *literally right there* above the answer I'm filling out. It was so obvious that it actually felt patronizing.

Best case scenario, the whole puzzle is meant to be sarcastic. But it felt more like the puzzle just thinks I'm a dummy.

PhysGraf 1:19 AM  

First time listener, long time caller... Agree that the "HAY" stacks should have been hidden but they wouldn't have helped me solve the puzzle and I would have found them afterwards and moved on with my life (or have gone to bed).

I don't know SIA from 80D so SEA sounded just as good to me because a TEE would also be an odd thing to wear with a tank top.

Early on, I thought we were getting a Sunday Rebus with 91D because daWN is also always breaking somewhere. Disappointed that it had to be DAY because I like DAWN more in a poetic sense and would love the challenge of a big rebus.

The odd 20x22 also made this more difficult to see on an iPhone.

Overall, the puzzle distracted me for an hour so I can't complain.

Thanks Rex (and all the regular responders) for entertaining me with this blog!

egsforbreakfast 1:34 AM  

I’m generally a fan of any clever theme, regardless of the details of its execution. However, I have to agree with Rex on the shortcomings of this particular execution. It was all so obvious by the third HAY, that it practically self-filled. If the gray squares weren’t highlighted it might have at least been a skosh of a pleasant reveal. It also would have been great, though perhaps impossible, to make the gray squares have meaning in the “down” direction. But the obviousness, combined with the unruliness of the “stack” and the use of HAYSTACK in the “hay” “stack” left me saying “what the hay?”

I was also, again like Rex, a bit turned off by the dimensions and layout of the grid, particularly the “u” patterns at the top and bottom.

I congratulate Johan Vass as a formidable constructor in a non-native tongue, and hope we see more.

chefwen 3:37 AM  

That’s a messed up looking HAY STACK, that puppy is about to topple over at a moments notice. And what’s with the two NEEDLES on top of each other, 99 and 103A, doesn’t that break some crossword rule?

Hate when this happens, but I have to agree with Rex on this one.

Lewis 6:15 AM  

I loved this debut puzzle from start to finish, LOVED it. As I was solving, I was thinking, nay feeling, “This is fun”, not so much with a “Whee!”, but with the realization that what I was coursing through felt fresh and different, with a hint of IMP.

There were the usual suspects for me liking this. Playful clues that brought smiles. Seeing that pile of HAYs and the visual pun of the NEEDLE. The skill at all the stacking – the HAYs, NEEDLESS TO SAY over NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE over IT’S A LOST CAUSE. The symmetrical far-apart GRASPING and AT STRAWS. “Huh?” answers like NOISE ROCK and ANGEL EYES.

But there was also an extra layer here, a je ne sais quoi quality that fed my love of it. Maybe it rose from left-field clues like [Odd article of clothing to wear with a tank top] for TIE, or [Bar rooms?] for CELLS. Or the supporting theme cast of answers strewn all about, or the bonkers block arrangement, or having a 20x22 grid instead of the usual 21x21.

I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. But this solve felt bright and never draggy, and I can’t wait to see more from this overseas Swedish-as-prime-language crossword geek. Thank you, JV, for a memorable one!

Coniuratos 6:31 AM  

POW crossing ADAM WEST was a nice touch. Overall a whole lot of meh, though.

Brit solves nyt 6:35 AM  

Quite liked it. I’d much rather a constructor tried something interesting and novel on a Sunday that doesn’t quite land than the common slogfest through terrible puns or ten words on a boring theme that make it easy to lose the will to finish solving. Extra kudos for the fact this is not the constructors native language, that must be amazingly difficult to do. It’s bad enough being English where the phrase is ‘clutching at straws’ not ‘grasping at straws’ and having to translate or work out what the US English is as you go along, but when it’s not even your first language, wow!

Z 6:46 AM  

I just read Chen and, wowser, damns with faint praise then gives it POW? I guffawed at Chen’s, Not everything worked perfectly, but I admired that a debut constructor shot for the stars. These kinds of brave ideas are what the NYT Sunday need. Remember Key & Peele’s “Obama Translator” skit? Well, I put that last comment through my “Chen Translator” and what came out was This is a potentially interesting idea that was allowed to get out of control and that no one ever bothered to rein in. Seriously, I have to believe that the only reason this puzzle was accepted was the novelty of a non-native speaker making it. Which, of course, isn’t really all that novel.

Sunday’s traditionally are aimed at about Thursday levels of difficulty. This felt like a tedious themeless Monday to me. I started at JAKE in the NE, worked down the side, got NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK off the -TACK, filled in all the HAYs off that, growled at the HYENAS —> SHAYNE clue, wasted a few precious nanoseconds with nFl over rOc before getting AFC and MOA, then finished at the laughably pretentious NOISEROCK (“punk is too corporate”). No challenge, literally nothing of interest to me, and an incredibly choppy grid. The reason I don’t make grids is because this is the kind of puzzle that would result. You’re welcome.

I typed in HAYLEY and Atwell comes in after Hasselhoff and Williams. Still, Atwell is more crossworthy than all the SHAYNEs put together (would have loved a Biff Wellington clue).

Jon Alexander 7:07 AM  

Meh....first their is SHAY then saSHAYing followed by SHAYne

Less of a hay stack and more of a shay stack

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

I never heard the expression, "Ya feel me?" until I read Rex's write-up. Must not hang out in hip-enough places. Puzzle was OK. Comme ci, comme ca.

Lolcat Lisa 7:19 AM  


Anonymous 7:30 AM  

The theme was quite disappointing.

Going through the early theme answers I was getting excited because I thought there was going to be really difficult and reward to find the “hidden” part of the puzzle.

Then you get to the end and realize that the “mystery” is literally the word NEEDLE inside the stack of HAY clues, which could not be more obvious to see. Plus the grid feels redundant with the word NEEDLE also being in the theme answer directly below it, so it almost looks like there are 2 needles in the hay stack.

CuppaJoe 7:41 AM  

This one had me rolling off the recliner at 4 am, not the puzzle, Rex’s write up.

Chief Impact Officer 7:46 AM  

This is a great puzzle. Re: Shayne- The fact that no one “famous” has a name doesn’t make it any less of a name. Google it. There are plenty of Shaynes.

RoccoChaz 7:50 AM  

ANSEL crossing ELTON, ENOLA and LIN? I have a PPProblem with that.

Anonymous 7:54 AM  

You can look up the popularity of baby names over the years on Shayne was in the top 1000 of boys names in the U.S. every year from 1980 through 2005, peaking at 484 in 1990. Clue works.

Barbara S. 7:57 AM  

I didn’t love this theme but I’m happy to give it marks for originality. I can’t judge how easy or difficult it would be to construct – perhaps somewhat easier because all the HAYs are offset rather than being directly on top of one another. I wish they looked more like a HAYstack in shape, but I realize that would probably have resulted in a lot of nonsensical answers. Interesting that three of the five HAYs are immediately preceded by S. I find BAYS slightly disconcerting: it’s so near the HAYstack yet not part of it. I like all the long theme answers: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, [IT’S] A LOST CAUSE, GRASPING AT STRAWS, NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK, but this idea/execution didn’t quite gel for me. Kudos to the first-time constructor, though. I have a Danish friend who's a big fan of crosswords. And now here's a Swede.

I really don’t like 112A MMHMM. Perhaps theme constraints made it necessary, but yikes. It’s hard to find much that’s sparkly here. Maybe CATHAY, BONNY LASS, and OSSIFY, maybe HAYLEY Atwell, an actress I like. Funny to be reminded of the campy ADAM WEST. I ATE IT raised a smile. Two unusual weapons in one puzzle: OAR and JAWBONE.

One day while Samson was walking alone
He looked down on the ground and he saw an old JAWBONE
He lifted up that JAWBONE and he swung it over his head
And when he got to moving, ten thousand was dead.

I remember seeing “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in Florence (of all places), only the cinema’s marquee read “Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo”. How incongruous was that: watching Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach shoot it out surrounded by the monuments of the early Renaissance. Lee Van Cleef really was the consummate western villain – badness oozed from every pore. I’d forgotten his name was ANGEL EYES as Il Brutto – that’s just delightful.

Today there’s a poem by Bob Kaufman, born Apr. 18, 1925.

Walking Parker Home

Sweet beats of jazz impaled on slivers of wind
Kansas Black Morning/ First Horn Eyes/
Historical sound pictures on New Bird wings
People shouts/ boy alto dreams/ Tomorrow’s
Gold belled pipe of stops and future Blues Times
Lurking Hawkins/ shadows of Lester/ realization
Bronze fingers—brain extensions seeking trapped sounds
Ghetto thoughts/ bandstand courage/ solo flight
Nerve-wracked suspicions of newer songs and doubts
New York alter city/ black tears/ secret disciples
Hammer horn pounding soul marks on unswinging gates
Culture gods/ mob sounds/ visions of spikes
Panic excursions to tribal Jazz wombs and transfusions
Heroin nights of birth/ and soaring/ over boppy new ground.
Smothered rage covering pyramids of notes spontaneously exploding
Cool revelations/ shrill hopes/ beauty speared into greedy ears
Birdland nights on bop mountains, windy saxophone revolutions.
Dayrooms of junk/ and melting walls and circling vultures/
Money cancer/ remembered pain/ terror flights/
Death and indestructible existence

In that Jazz corner of life
Wrapped in a mist of sound
His legacy, our Jazz-tinted dawn
Wailing his triumphs of oddly begotten dreams
Inviting the nerveless to feel once more
That fierce dying of humans consumed
In raging fires of Love.

Guilherme Gama 8:07 AM  

Me: "Whee! What a fun puzzle! Great way to start a Sunday.


OK, let's find out why Rex hates it."

bocamp 8:15 AM  

Thank you @Johan for a most entertaining Sun. puz; lots of fun locating the NEEDLE in the HAYSTACK. :)

Easy/med solve.

Good start in the NW; worked counterclockwise, ending up in the G.L. area.

Didn't need any guesses on this one; found things I didn't know fairly crossed.
Shoutout to fellow Walla Wallan, ADAM WEST. :)

RuPaul Teaches Jack Whitehall To 'SASHAY Away' | The Graham Norton Show

yd 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Son Volt 8:16 AM  

I do like the effort - a Sunday that tries at least. Once the HAY gimmick fell the cheater squares really dumbed it down. I’m sure all the themers stacked like that did not make it easy to construct - but just thought the whole thing went flat halfway thru. Liked ITS A LOST CAUSE and GRASPING AT STRAWS - the NEEDLE part not so much. Nothing really wrong with the fill - just didn’t sparkle for me and at Sunday size it results in a slog.

Lived thru that post punk time - saw Dinosuar, Sonic Youth, Big Black etc multiple times but have never heard or used the formal term NOISE ROCK.

Interesting idea - but in the end a rough solve.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

I think the main issue was that they shaded (or circled) the word “hay,” making the rare find extremely easy. I would have felt more of an aha moment if they just let us see the word hay for ourselves.

Unknown 8:50 AM  

Loved it!

FearlessKim 8:53 AM  

“Hay-adjacent” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

I adore Hayley Atwell but take umbrage with SHAYNE

RooMonster 9:08 AM  

Hey All !
Pitfall of posting on your phone? Hitting your pic, and losing your post because it clicks to your profile. I. Hate. That. You know, cause what I comment is imperative to be read. πŸ€ͺ

Anyhoo, liked this puz, even though I had a couple of nits. There is A TON of blocks, 90 of them! Normalish SunPuz has 72-74 of them. Also noticed the odd looking grid, so I counted the Across and Down rows, and came up with 20x22. Hmm, says I, maybe it's like that because of the theme? But, no tisn't.

However, I did like this puz. Quirky enough for it to be in the Neat catagory. Plus, pretty decent fill, bordering on dreckless. It's tough to fill those Long W/E Middle stacks, especially with themers in them. So kudos for the fill.Couple of DOOKish looking answers if not parsed correctly, 27D, e.g., IATEIT.

EVEN THE HAY STACK area was fairly clean. CATHAY a new one on me.

Had a two-letter DNF. One stupid one, SCISSeR/ReY (how could you not see the O, brain?), one sorta silly one, ANSEn/nIN (confusing my Maya with my Anais). Writeovers I don't remember now. (Had a few!)

So my hate off to you Johan on a great debut! Nice fill, weird grid. It was LEGIT. MMHMM.

Two F's

Blue Stater 9:12 AM  

I'm with OFL's qualitative judgment -- this mess was definitely in the running for WOAT. But not for difficulty judgment. I went all the way through to the very bottom right-hand corner before I got so much as one answer, and DNF by a mile. These "puzzles" just get worse and worse.

Nancy 9:16 AM  

Why, if this isn't just the cutest thing! And if I'd missed the stack of HAYS -- and I would have, I always do, don't I? -- there were the gray squares to walk me through it. I did see the non-revealer NEEDLE, though.

This Swiss guy's command of English language wordplay and vernacular is remarkable and I commend it. His command of American pop culture is equally remarkable, but do I commend it? Not so much. I was not a happy camper in the NE -- which is the ANSEL/JAKE/WARD/ENOLA section. I'm always hoping that the PPP in any given puzzle will be as hard to find as a NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK. Remember that please, Johan, for your next NYT puzzle. I'm sure there will be more.

Other thoughts: Remind me not to see any movie where the bad guy is named ANGEL EYES.

There's really a MINI-OREO? Who knew?

IDS for the "liquor store requests"? I was thinking more about my requests from the liquor store -- maybe QTS? Ok, Ok, PTS if you're going to be chintzy about it.

A playful and well-crafted debut, Mr. Vass. Your English must be fluent indeed.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

I almost had a DNF thanks to 6A, probably the easiest clue in the puzzle. UNOS clued as a pizza chain is ubiquitous unless it isn't and I live in the isn't part of the world. THEE for THOU sat overnight until the lone brain cell assigned to remembering UNOS pizza had some coffee. Grrrr.

Nancy 9:26 AM  

@PhysGraf (1:19) alerts me to the fact that I had the same DNF s/he did: SeA/TeE instead of SIA/TIE.

Isn't it wonderful that I'm not the sort of person who worries her pretty little head about such things. You, @PhysGraf?

Rube 9:33 AM  

Have to side more with @lewis here. Why do people care what the grid looks like? Just solve the thing. It was easy but fun with some offbeat clues like somethIng as simple as 84A for TIE.

Johan vass' feat here is astounding. I was afraid it would be a poor puzzle because of the language issue but the clues gave no clue that the constructor learned ESL.

WestBay 9:43 AM  

You are hilarious.

JD 10:00 AM  

The creativity of the theme and the incredible amount of work it took to pull it off are really impressive.

Had it been only old saws expressing hopelessness or lost causes with a pithy revealer, it would have fallen flat. But building a stack of Hays with an embedded Needle made for a delightful finish.

Did it need more work to follow the rigid rules of Crossland? Yes. The cluing was off in more than a few places too (Tie/Tank Top/Huh?) But for me, that was part of the fun.

Not a Sunday puzzle fan, but this one made me stick with it.

Teedmn 10:10 AM  

My computer conspires to ruin my solves. I often end up with a typo when I know I had it correctly entered previously. Today that was OUI. But when I hit the check solution button, it read OUs. Mmhmm!

The other mistake in my grid is mine, ANSEn crossing nIN up in the NE. I even thought to myself, ah, a new way to clue nIN. Alas...

GRASPING (I first thought it should be clutching) AT STRAWS when looking for a needle in a haystack is cute (yes, I know HAY and STRAW are not the same thing.)

I found this a nice diversion. Thanks, Johan Vass and congratulations on your debut, on a Sunday, needless to say.

God dag pΓ₯ dig 10:16 AM  

The constructor was born in Stockholm and is quite Swedish

Z 10:24 AM  

A reminder for some, possibly new information for others, but we don’t ever know what percentage of clues are the constructor’s and what percentage is from the editing team. Over the years we have had many constructors rue the fact that their favorite clues didn’t make it through.

@Anon7:54 - I don’t think anyone is saying the SHAYNE clue doesn’t work. The problem, such as it is, is that the only real option for cluing SHAYNE is the anagram route. “Biff Wellington’s real first name” or “484th most popular boy’s name in 1990” might work for a Tough as Nails puzzle, but not for puzzles designed for the non-obsessed solver. Take out the Y and we have the go to novel/movie/tv series (although I’d love to see Napalm Death bassist Embury). Personally, I dislike all anagram clues, so I dislike any entry where that’s the only viable clue option. That is not the same as saying an anagram clue doesn’t work.

Birchbark 10:25 AM  

Vowelless MMHMM balances consonantless OUI nicely -- the yin and yang of yeses. Also, MMHMM is a palindrome.

SASHAYING in the HAY -- I wanted to find a hidden roll (crescent, dinner, cinnamon or even just "roll") somewhere in all that HAY, but not today.

The true NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK was finding my mistake, which delayed the "Congratulations" music. After triple-checking and and using Wikipedia to confirm spelling on the many proper nouns, I finally corrected SeA/TeE, the music played, and I can go on with the day. A TeE is an odd article of clothing to wear with a tank top, after all.

Mike G 10:26 AM  

ANSEL/LIN killed me. Never heard of either of them so this was a straight up consonant hunt for the last square.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Not a great experience. Too many black squares and the “U” shapes at top and bottom put me in a bad place before reading the first clue. Would have appreciated more/better variety in the “hay” stack. Usually I think Rex is too critical of puzzles. Just the opposite here.

JOHN X 10:35 AM  

Hey Rex, my name is Shayne! Well not my birth name (thank God) but it's an alias I use when I'm hitting on chicks. I give 'em that name and a phone number that is actually the local In-N-Out Burger.

I still call China "Cathay" as it reminds me of some commando work I did there some years back. I still call the capital "Peking" too. "Peking, Cathay" I like to say when I tell my commando stories down at the VFW bar.

Sadly, after a stellar Friday and Saturday run I had a DNF on this puzzle, at the SeA/TeE cross. Ordinarily, on the rare occasions when I have a DNF I usually kill myself to preserve my honor, but I can't today because they took away my belt and shoelaces. I'll probably go on a hunger strike instead, but I'll do it after lunch because Sunday is chili day and it's actually pretty good.

Chris 10:37 AM  

In today’s rant: where Rex Parker doesn’t know who the actress that played Agent Carter and then complains. Sigh.

Hungry Mother 10:39 AM  

Quite the slog, but I got it all, including the theme. Way too many names, obscenely many, kept me from having fun while slogging. I don’t come to the puzzle to learn things; I just want to wrestle with words and phrases.

Carola 10:40 AM  

Very cute, fun to solve. I liked the idea of the rare NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK that was IMPOSSIBLE to miss, and GRASPING AT STRAWS got an extra smile. I also liked the dreamboat pair BONNY LASS and ANGEL EYES near TRYST; ESSEN is in between: maybe they're in Germany and went out to dinner first. Winced a little at GUT GASH and RAT BITE. @Barbara S. 7:57, thank you for pointing out those two unusual ways of going after an ENEMY.

lilyinacrystal 10:49 AM  

I agree with everything you said except that "ya hear me" is the new version of "ya feel me"

Newboy 11:03 AM  

Circles? Moving on! Sounds like a reasonable mantra for future solves.

Doc John 11:04 AM  

I finished and then went through the puzzle looking for the one cell that was surely a NEEDLE rebus that somehow I'd missed. Nope.

thefogman 11:19 AM  

I loved it and NEEDLESSTOSAY Rex hated it. We can agree to disagree - and we often do. Life goes on. One of my very favourite puzzles was the one by David Steinberg from 2017 that formed an image of the Seattle Space NEEDLE when you connected the circled spaces. Rex hated that one too...

Steve M 11:21 AM  

Jeez give the Swede a break πŸ˜‰

Tim Aurthur 11:29 AM  

@PhysGraf & @Nancy, same DNF. Didn't know SIA and thought a T-shirt with a tank top would be weird enough.

JD 11:30 AM  

@John X, You made me love you. Like countless star struck women before me, Dear God, I didn't wanna do it. But you're fckin genius and I can't help it.

Every synaptic fire must be a nuclear explosion. Leave your brain to science, it's the least you can do.

In other news, people want to search for a needle but not necessarily sheep. Now I see.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

top 1,000 boys names is OK in a Wednesday level (not Thursday, in the last couple of decades)? what is it, 999? I wonder how many made up Afro-sounding boys names came in higher? I'd guess A TON.

relicofthe60s 11:38 AM  

Rex is obviously too young to remember HAYLEY Mills, who is still alive and arguably better known to most us that Ms. Atwell. And no mention of the awful crossing of the equally obscure ANSEL Elgort and ENOLA Holmes, at least one of which could have been clued more familiarly.

Legume 11:40 AM  

@Steve M:

In the spirit of NOISE ROCK, PHISH, Curtis Lee (betcha have to look that one up), SIA, and a "Good Eats" episode -
"Give Swedes a Chance"

Suzafish 11:42 AM  

Exactly. So much bile Rex!

sixtyni yogini 11:47 AM  

I always appreciate Rex’s acute critiques. He sets a high bar.

My bar is not so high. I liked this one, and might have been more critical or enjoyed it more if I had done it on hard copy. iPad prevents me from seeing, enjoying (or hating πŸ˜‚j the big picture on Sundays.

It was a nice unified idea- that much I got.
Happy Sunday!

nyc_lo 11:55 AM  

Also got naticked by the SIA/TIE crossing. I feel slightly better knowing I’m not alone.

Not a film or Tv fan 12:00 PM  

About 40 proper names. And Sunday is supposed to be the prime NYT puzzle of the week?

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

This puzzle mainly had the problem of the mystery being too obvious. Other than that, it was an excellent puzzle.

Rex Parker never betrays his ignorance of crossword as much as when he posts to this blog.

JenKlopp 12:04 PM  


JOHN X 12:23 PM  

@JD 11:30 AM

JD, I love you too, with all my heart.

Do you think you could go down to the bail bond office and spring me? I need a thousand dollars too.

I swear I'll pay you back because I love you and I mean that sincerely.


Masked and Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Cool theme idea. Woulda gone without the hi-lited HAYs, tho. Top puzgrid was hypin how hard the mcguffin item was gonna be to find, while the bottom half was hollerin "HEY!!! … HERE IT IS!".

22x20 puzgrid. More for yer moneybucks. Only 134 words, tho.
Luved the Big U's, in the puzgrid art.

staff weeject picks: AFC, MOA, SEE, SSN. The two weeject nooks' items. Also, admirable quad weeject stacks, on the puzgrid sides.

Best of the 134 words: FOOTLONGS. JAWBONE. ANGELEYES (I couldn't remember this nickname, for a while). SCISSOR. MMHMM (primo Ow de Speration moment).

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Vass dude.

Masked & Anonym009Us*

* includin the Big U's.


bigsteve46 12:28 PM  

Looking up something in a dictionary or almanac (now on-line) was always the ultimate no-no of crossword solving for me. But the increasing tsunamis of obscure pop-culture proper names is now so rampant in the NYT puzzles that I need a new rule. It has to be someone or something of virtually no importance or significance - cable tv sitcom, rap/pop music junk, actor Elgort, 2020 Young Adult series - that kind of crap - and very recent. I mean, I have to ask myself, "Is there any reason whatsoever I should know this?" And if the answer is a resounding "NO!" I can look it up. I still hold myself responsible for knowing outdated detritus. Anyway, since my NY Times daily subscription is now up to $79/month,I feel I've got the right!

dwc 12:29 PM  

The simple reason Rex hated it is because Will loved it. The petty jealousy of Rex knows no bounds

barryevans 12:38 PM  

Always happy to see Lee Van Cleef being acknowledged, whose acting career was in the toilet (plus he made a slow recovery from a major car crash) when Sergio Leone "discovered" him. Angel Eyes was the best baddie ever.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

I love Sela Ward from a really old show called "Sisters" I used to stay home on Saturday (or was it Friday?) nights to watch. I think "Once and Again" was after that so this is a really old show, like from the '90s. I'm always baffled when I see it as a clue. #vowels

jae 12:58 PM  

@bocamp - Unlike last week's, Croce's Freestyle #601 is definitely doable. Good luck!

ENOLA Holmes is an excellent movie on Netflix. It scored 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Liz1508 1:10 PM  

I liked it more than most of the recent Sunday puzzles. Got the Ansel/Lin cross wrong. Had bass for bays and didn’t recognize ossify as fixing it, but by then I was tired! Thanks Johanna!

Matt 1:23 PM  

I had BASS too, Liz! Trying to figure out what OSSIFIS meant for juuuuuust a little too long.

I agree that the shading (in print) was a real spoiler - but for a cute schtick I *liked*. The "theme" clues at top were a good distractor although I ended up solving the puzzle south to north.

Oh Please 1:26 PM  

Rex, you ignorant slut.

(that's a 1970s SNL reference...)

Why don't you check IMDB before deciding an actor is unknown? Hayley Atwell has been around for years - she's British & has starred in many UK projects, including the Howard's End miniseries.

More recently she has played Agent Carter in Marvel movies and on a U.S TV show.

The things you don't know are not necessarily obscure.

bocamp 1:32 PM  

@jae (12:58 PM)

Well done! πŸ‘

Will tackle it after the SB.

Agree re: ENOLA Holmes; started it last week; will finish this eve.

pg -2

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Nancy from Chicago 1:38 PM  

I thought this theme was really cute, but I do wish the "hays" hadn't been shaded to make it a tiny bit challenging to find them and the needle. However, that decision is on the editor and not the constructor. He says in his constructor notes that he also has a themeless coming up, so I am looking forward to seeing more of his work.

TTrimble 1:49 PM  

Heh, my first association with ANSEL is "Potsie", but no, that's ANSon Williams. Whatever happened to ANSEL Adams? ANSEL Elgort is, I'm afraid, unknown and thus obscure to me. I suppose that first-name-of-Adams would not be fresh enough for Rex? It's all about the freshy-fresh.

So for example, YA fEel ME is held to be superior to YA HEAR ME (and the latter is supposed to be more threatening). So hip, so current, so fresh, so of the moment. Oh, puh-leeze. (My own opinion of "ya feel me"? Hate it.)

CATHAY. I think I got wind of that very OLDEN term for China when I was barely able to read. We had these slim volumes in the house called "Golden Book Encyclopedia", and I think I saw it there. Well before the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman sold our family the World Book Encyclopedia when I was in the third grade, that was a life-changing event for me.

I never knew of the album OLE ELO, but that's amusing. I like Electric Light Orchestra all right. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame only a few years ago.

Had BAsS before BAYS. I'm sure I was thinking "wide-mouthed bass", also called largemouth or big mouth bass. I wonder if the constructor was aware of that bit of trickiness.

I see the logic of much of Rex's review, in particular the grid shape which was visually weird and unappealing to me as well. But I didn't hate it like he did. Decent mix of trivia and the older with the newer.

Suzy 1:58 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle very much! Thank you, Mr Vass! To leave WS “in awe” is quite a compliment!! Please keep up the food work!!

What? 2:29 PM  

I had fun. Anybody care? I thought not.

JD 2:43 PM  

@John X, Comin' with lawyers, guns, and money. Just like I always do.

CreamyT 2:47 PM  

I like seeing unusual grids, but this one was a little clunky looking. Enjoyed the cluing overall. Went through relatively fast (hour*, good time for my wife and I on Sundays). I agree that the HAY blocks should not have been colored. It's completely unnecessary to see them, and that whole section becomes extremely easy because of it. I did quite like the 3 clues related to it though!

*DNF because of 2 squares in the NE. Naticks there for us. My only real problem with this puzzle was the assortment of crossing seemingly obscure names there. I get not wanting to go with NYTXW greatest hits of ELTON John or ANSEL Adams or maybe ENOLA gay (is that a common thing?), but to make every one of those that obscure is just annoying. Especially when the crosswordese LIN is in the mix as well.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

Not a high bar. Just a stupid, vindictive bar. Wouldn't recognize a clever concept if it bit him on the leg.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

anon 11:32- The clue gave on SHAYNE you the letters. to the answer. A TV Guide Crossword solver would likely have had no problem with it.

JFS 3:46 PM  

Pedantic nitpik: LIESL is indeed the name of the oldest Von Trapp daughter in the play & movie of The Sound of Music, but the fictional names don't match the names of the actual Von Trapp children. IRL, the oldest daughter was named Agathe.

Unknown 3:52 PM  

Johan, Male I presume.

bocamp 4:24 PM  

First thot TEE for TIE, but fortunately, learned SIA from an older NYT xword and have never forgotten her. She's come to my rescue many times since.

Agree with those who suggested ditching the shaded cells.

Never seen MMHMM spelt out; like it, esp juxtaposed with OUI.

The BONNY LASS Of Fyvie-o ~ The Corries

Pretty Little ANGEL EYES ~ Curtis Lee


So far, the 601 is playing normally hard. Haven't looked at the eastern half yet. 🀞

td 0

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Thane of 13th 4:25 PM  

My NYT subscription was up to $82. I went online to look at the details on my bill, and saw a $10 charge for something. I called up and found out it was for access to or newsletter on the food section or something that I never use. So I said take that off. She said wait a minute, came back about 10 minutes later, And suddenly my monthly bill is only $38 - $45 less!.

Z 4:50 PM  

@JD & @John X - How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?

PPP comes in at 44 of 134, right at the 33% excessive line.

@CreamyT - ENOLA Gay is the usual clue. ENOLA Holmes on Netflix was fun. Based on some Young Adult novels I believe.

@Oh, Please - I don’t know who plays Draco Malfoy, either. Sure, secondary Marvel Universe characters, LOTR characters, and Harry Potter characters are probably crossworthy, I’m not sure the actors who play them are. Still, better than HAYLEY Mills, but only roughly equal to HAYLEY Williams. The way I read Rex is that it is more the cumulative effect rather than any single answer that is the issue.

Ken Freeland 4:54 PM  

Had to guess on the OCALA-LAILA crossing, but got lucky this week... obviously Ocala is in the same neighborhood as Natick..

Sara Marie Claven 5:58 PM  

@Z the problem I had with the PPP was that 6 of them all crossed each other: ANSEL LIN ENOLA NEDEA JAWBONE ELTON (not clued as Elton John). I am always frustrated when you can't work out a word because it's not a word you know. One or two in one section, fine but this seemed excessive. If you start at the top, you got hit with that plus HENNA THE MUSES AND OLEELO in that top area.

Nancy 5:58 PM  

@Thane of 13th (4:25) -- I assume you get Home Delivery of the physical paper? Boy, oh, boy, will I ever study my NYT bill next month when it arrives!

Z 6:00 PM  

Big Scrabble News.

@Ken Freeland - Edina, Orem, Orono, Ocala... All huge tourist destinations in Crossworld.

Harry 6:02 PM  

Amused that I wasn't the only one tripped up by BAyS vs BASS. I was so fixated on BASS that even the fill of OSSIFs didn't reorient me.
< Hanging head in shame yet one for more day ... >

Z 6:08 PM  

@Sara Marie Claven - Yep. It seems to me there are two reasons that 33% is pretty consistently the line. First, what you experienced is more likely to occur, a cluster of PPP making a section close to impossible for some solvers. The second is that at 33% and higher the likelihood that solvers just don’t an answer is much higher. Conversely, when you know a PPP answer, especially a long PPP answer, it can make a section especially easy.

A 6:32 PM  

Happy Go Fly a Kite Day!

All of the PPP can go fly a kite, although most of it wasn’t too annoying, and I had fun for a majority of the solve. Just not fun at the end trying to find which PPPs were AMISS. I knew there might be A TON. Found all (including TeE/TIE) except LAIwA. I was at Six Flags on the Log Flume Ride and the Wet Slide.
Now this is a wet ride.

Welcome aboard, @PhysGraf! I made the same mistake for a good long time. Once I realized it wasn’t a TeE, I got a kick out of the mental image of a TIE with a tank top.

Agree with Rex and others about the NEEDLE being TOO EASY to find, and the oddly shaped SHAYSTACK. It NEEDed something.

I learned that BRA means ‘good’ in Swedish. And Wiki shays that the one-horse shay is an American version (Maine) of the French chaise.

Interesting clues:
One may be sworn
It’s constantly breaking around the world
Second person in the Bible
Doctor’s order
Bar rooms?
Key used to get out but, not in

This was a decidedly unmusical puzzle - just JAKE, SIA, and that NOISE ROCK. Fortunately, today is the birthday of soprano (and now opera director) Catherine Malfitano. Vogliatemi bene (with Richard Leech) from Madame Butterly, The Met, 1994 (YouTube also has her doing a very revealing Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, but, alas, no singing.)

Thanks, Mr. Vass, and congrats on your debut.

TOCraig 7:04 PM  

A better clue for HAYLEY would have been “Actress Mills.” Or better yet, “Craig’s daughter.” πŸ˜€

Anna 9:01 PM  

Yes, good puzzle!!!

tonyroma12000 9:43 PM  

decent puzzle. I always feel sad though when I can solve it without seeing the gimmick. That I blame on the editor. Once I saw needle under a haystack - actually written out (sad!) - I said "I guess there are other 'HAY's and sure enough found them. But hey! decent puzzle.

Anonymous 11:52 PM  

why you so angry, bro?

PhysGraf 1:24 AM  

Puzzles is puzzles Nancy! I learned more trivia and am not worried. Time to put on my TEE and then put on my tank top and go be me.

PhysGraf 1:25 AM  

Thanks for the welcome A!

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

I guess "bygone" is a synonym for "my age group is not familiar with it". which was ok on the sat puzzle, but not here. go figure.........

Lake Ontario Bob 12:17 PM  

Ansel. Not Anson.

tk 5:05 PM  

9:16 am Nancy:
Your comments are why I read this blog.

Liz1508 7:10 AM  

Yes, that’s what I typed in. Guess I was also tired of correcting auto-correct. Thanks, Johan!

MaharajaMack 12:32 AM  

Why do you Rex-haters read this blog?!?

MaharajaMack 12:32 AM  

Why do you Rex-haters read this blog?!?

tk 12:48 AM  

@MaharajaMack -- I read it for Nancy, like I said! But also for the LOL of his hysterical overreactions, which are clearly his shtick at this point. Like on the Comics Curmudgeon, we read it for Josh's overblown snark. That's his deal. His thing. Same with Rex. I enjoy reading it without having to agree with it.

spacecraft 9:51 AM  

I dared to guess Rex as the man's name meaning king; wrong there. And with ROY came instant recognition of the whole McGuffin. I agree though: this was too much. The fill took a severe beating to make everything come out, and it wasn't worth it. The constructor must have been GRASPING ATSTRAWS for some of it.

Even my all-time DOD SELA WARD, fully named, can't save this from bogey.

Burma Shave 11:43 AM  




rondo 1:09 PM  

HAY HAY HAY there, seemed like lotsa threes and PPP. Maybe there was, or wasn't but there was no flow here. Slip into the corners to get EELY.

@spacey - Must agree re: SELA WARD.

Even a RON in the puz doesn't CANCELOUT tedium.

Diana, LIW 5:41 PM  

I agree with @Rondo's assessment, though I probably enjoyed it a tad more. I think I enjoy puzzles so much because I'm slow, and I stop a lot. And I have a cat to help me.

Diana, LIW

Jokr22 8:43 PM  

Wondering if editors added shading... Elton, Ansel, Enola, Lin with Henna thrown into the mix almost did me in up top!

Cross@words 2:24 PM  

Think tee with a tank is odd? Watch a basketball game.

kitshef 10:04 PM  

There was a lot of good here, undone by the needless shading/circles, YA HEAR ME, and the ELTON/ANSEL/ENOLA Lattice of Obscurity in the NE.

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