Pagliacci baritone / WED 4-28-21 / One greeting others with the shaka sign / Two concentric circles on golf scorecard

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE (58A: Easy-to-resolve situation ... or a hint to the progression found in 20-, 23- 43-, 46- and 58-Across) — the letter string "CASE" moves, over the course of five theme answers, from the front of the answers to the back of the answer; so "CASE" "opens" the first answer, "shuts" the last answer, and I guess does both (?) in the middle answers:

Theme answers:
  • "CASEY AT THE BAT" (20A: Poem subtitled "A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888")
  • CAST ASID(23A: Discard)
  • CANADA GEESE (43A: Some winter travelers to the U.S.)
  • "CHECK, PLEASE!" (46A: Restaurant request)
Word of the Day: shaka sign (27A: One greeting others with the shaka sign = SURFER) —
shaka sign, sometimes known as "hang loose", is a gesture of friendly intent often associated with Hawaii and surf culture. It consists of extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled, and gesturing in salutation while presenting the front or back of the hand; the hand may be rotated back and forth for emphasis. While the shaka sign has spread internationally from its Hawaiian cultural roots to surf culture and beyond, the hand gesture also bears a variety of meaning in different contexts and regions of the world. [...] The word shaka is also used as an interjection expressing approval, which may predate its use for the shaka sign. According to The Oxford English Dictionary the origin of the word is uncertain, but it may come from Japanese, where it is a byname for the Buddha. (wikipedia)
• • •

I like the grid, with its mirror symmetry, and I like the theme answer arrangement, with one stack of two followed by another stack of two. Reminds me of a Big Mac for some reason, which has nothing to do with the theme, but whatever. It's an interesting design, for sure. I don't think the theme quite works. It seems at odds with itself. When I was done, I thought, "oh, so the letters CASE both 'open' and 'shut' the answers, cool." But then I read the revealer clue and looked at the grid more closely, and that's not what's happening. Instead CASE moves, methodically, from the back to the front of the themers. I think the puzzle thinks this is a bonus feature, but for me, it just confuses matters. Makes the theme conceptually muddy. In one case (!), CASE opens an answer. In one case (!!), CASE shuts an answer ... the others are stuck in between, which ... if *all* the answers had been in-betweeners, that would've made sense to me (this is what I originally thought was happening). CASE "opens and shuts" its answer, great. That's what's happening with CAST ASIDE, CANADA GEESE, and CHECK, PLEASE. Conversely, if the themers were all answer pairs where CASE "opened" (in one case) and "shut" (in the other) the answer, that would've made sense too. But the moving of CASE along, one letter at a time, from the front to the back of themers, that doesn't have anything to do with opening or shutting, unless (and this is a stretch), you imagine the movement of CASE across the themers is some kind of visual representation of a door being shut (i.e. it's open ... and then when you close it, it has to swing across an arc ... and maybe the middle themers are the arc?). Conceptually this would have worked if all the answers had had a split CASE or none of them had. In the end, it's certainly interesting, but it just doesn't Snap!

And the fill, oh my, it's pretty crusty and rough and unpleasant (with the twin pillars NO ACCIDENT and FIRE ESCAPE being notable exceptions). At various points I thought the puzzle was trolling me, so comically crosswordesey were its crosses: E'ER x/w ERR? EKE x/w IKE? AREA x/w ARIA!?!? Gruesome. I mean, almost funny if the constructor ended up winning some kind of bar bet about how much of this garbage crossing stuff he could pull off, but otherwise, not that funny. And then there's TONIO x/w TOE AT (What did the log-splitter say after he missed the log? "Hey, where's my TOE AT!?"). There's no real reason so much of this short fill should be so tedious. The SW corner is a scrapheap of the most common stuff (none of it hugely objectionable, but all in a pile ... it smells of mothballs, for sure). 

Not much difficulty today. At one time, TONIO would've caused trouble, but I managed to memory-bank it at some point after seeing it one too many times in crosswords. I know the "hang ten" sign very well, but had no idea it was called a "shaka sign" (27A). That clue on "CASEY AT THE BAT" was tough (20A: Poem subtitled "A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888"); I'm at least vaguely familiar with every word of that poem, having read it or heard it recited many times, but apparently I never saw or heard the subtitle, which does not appear to have anything to do with baseball. This puzzle could've used a little more of that kind of difficulty, perhaps, but it was still Wednesdayish enough. 

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 6:20 AM  

6D TO EAT not "TOE AT"---Read the clue, "Rex"

Anonymoose 6:38 AM  

@Rex did a good analysis of the theme. It sorta worked but no "snap". My nit is the word SHUT. It's not a word used to identify a closing or ending. I wouldn't say "Don't give away the SHUT of the movie", or "Her life had a sad SHUTting". And never SHUT a sentence with a preposition.

bocamp 6:51 AM  

Thank you @Hal for a solid Wednes. puz! :)

Med solve.

Fairly straightforward; no holdups; quite enjoyable.

Had to solve the puz on my iPhone (what a chore, fat fingers galore); somehow the app is broken on my iPad (resulting from the installation of 14.5 no doubt)

No such thing as a BAD dog! 🐢

Always good to see CASEY.

CASEY AT THE BAT ~ James Earl Jones


yd pg -5

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

amyyanni 7:23 AM  

Another Casey fan here. As a kid, I could recite it. And I'm an Aries, so that clue was fun. Didn't get the theme until Rex explained it, thank you.

SouthsideJohnny 7:27 AM  

I’m scratching my head over the clue for 17A (NINE) - what on earth was the motivation for that monstrosity of a clue ? There are an infinite number of was to clue the word NINE - why write an entire paragraph ? The puzzle was certainly not lacking for trivial content and PPP without going off on that tangent. Definitely a quick chuckle out of that one.

Done in by TONIO today cuz I just didn’t know what a SOPHIST is - it’s weird since in retrospect it sounds like it may have the same origin as “sophisticated” but apparently means someone who is simplistic (or specious ?). Nice to see AESOP dropping by with some regularity these days - nicer still are the creative (and not gimmicky) ways that he has been clued as well.

A couple of nice bookends representing the modern era (INSTA) on the one hand and a tribute to the more seasoned of us with SGT Pepper, who may be “familiar” but I’m guessing will be a stretch for anyone under the age of say 35 (heck, maybe even 50).

mmorgan 7:51 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, reasonably pleasant to solve, but after I finished it, I just stared and stared at it trying to see what progression reflected an OPEN AND SHUT CASE. Nope, couldn’t do it. I saw the first CASE of course, and thought it then became CAST, and I lost track of it entirely in the next two themers. So the theme itself was entirely lost on me. Oh well. Does this mean I didn’t solve it, even if I got all the answers?

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

Quicker than Monday here. Was hoping Rex would feature “Louisville Lip” by Freakwater.

Frantic Sloth 7:56 AM  

I kinda liked this one. At first, the full point of the theme eluded me (shocking, I know) because I thought all it was was CASE split between the beginning and the end of each themer.
"And they're not even consistent", says I. D'oh. Hello? It's a p r o g r e s s i o n, numbnuts.
CASE (open)
C......ASE (shut)
Of course the "definitions" for shut and open are wholly subjective, but I'll go along for the ride.

Grey Lady goin' gansta with ASS-backwards?
Is nothing sacred anymore?
Gof, I hope not.


Nancy 8:01 AM  

Before I got to the revealer, I glanced at the theme entries to see if I noticed a pattern, and I didn't. But since I was solving as a themeless anyway, I didn't much care. Now that I see the theme, I say yawn.

Biggest discovery: Who knew that CASEY AT THE BAT had a subtitle? And what a high falutin' subtitle! Why you'd think that CASEY AT THE BAT was an EPIC. I mean it's a fun poem and all that and it has withstood the test of time, but "A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888". I mean, really! Should we make it our new National Anthem?

The puzzle was filled with a lot of clues you've seen hundreds of times before, along with three nice ones: VODKA; ASS; and FIRE ESCAPE.

FIRE ESCAPE was the nicest surprise in the puzzle. Now that I think about it, what an unromantic-sounding place to have one of the greatest romantic scenes in all literature.

Zwhatever 8:04 AM  

What is it with AESOP and his morals lately? It seems like he has appeared with some sort of variation on the “moral man” clue about a half dozen times in the past week. And we can’t just blame Shortz, because this combo has appeared in other puzzles, too, having nothing to do with Shortz or his editorial team. Can we let AESOP be a little more hare and a little less tortoise for a bit, constructors? And maybe change up on the cluing?

ERR/E’ER is the one that caught my eye. But then you can’t miss the others. And having SSN at 1D didn’t exactly inspire warm fuzzy feelings, but if it had crossed SST I would have bet on the bar bet explanation. This is this constructor’s seventh NYTX, I’m a little surprised this much ese was accepted.

We are vain and we are blind / I hate people when they’re not polite. {Still Demme’s greatest film IMHO}

mathgent 8:11 AM  

Like Mudville, no joy.

Twenty-four threes, clued dully. Nonsensical theme. Very little sparkle, only SOPHIST and the clue for EAGLE.

Rex was far too kind to this piece of ... trash.

Son Volt 8:18 AM  

These letter progression gimmicks don’t do much for me so this played pretty flat. Liked the CASEY AT THE BAT entry but there was little after that. CANADA GEESE? Cool to see both BYRNE and REM. Grid layout forces all the short gluey stuff that hinders the flow here. The 47a row - ALI, MEA, ERR and SAN is brutal spamming the center of the puzzle.

Quick solve - just not overly enjoyable on this Wednesday.

Barbara S. 8:19 AM  

Well, heck, I thought Rex was too hard on this puzzle. I thought the movement of the letters CASE to open the first themer, and then through a series of precise steps to shut the last themer was just fine. (And I did notice it on my own, but not till after solving.) My only criticism is that the puzzle may be too easy for a Wednesday.

I think my only error was bABBle for JABBER. That gave me bAMB for 10A, an interesting word that made me tilt my head quizzically to one side. “Nickname for Thumper’s pal”? Anyway, that got fixed fast. Yikes, we got the “moral man” joke again for AESOP – people, please, wait at least a week. Likewise the NYTXW’s strange fixation on TIARAs has been much in evidence recently.

The shaka sign is interesting. If you hold your hand up to the side of your head, Isn’t that the same as the gesture “call me”? Ah, “Vesti la Giubba” – the bitterly laughing, bitterly crying clown. One of those moments in opera. I’ve always thought Leoncavallo was a fabulous name – it sounds like a first name and last name in one, but no, he’s Ruggero Leoncavallo, which has even more of a ring. (Composer of Pagliacci if that's not obvious.) I once had a colleague who used to say "MEA culpissima". She was a smart, tough lady, but the way she’d take responsibility for ERRing was endearing. Good grief, a female lobster is a HEN! And, guess what (I looked it up), a male lobster is a “cock”. Sometimes our language goes over the top.

Hey! Today we have a guest-quoter. Many thanks to @Whatsername for this passage by HARPER LEE, born Apr. 28, 1926.

“Those are 12 reasonable men in every day life, Tom’s jury, but you saw something come between them and reason . . . . There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads — they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

“Doesn’t make it right,” said Jem stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee. “You just can’t convict a man on evidence like that — you can’t.”

“You couldn’t, but they could and did. The older you grow the more of it you’ll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into the jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
(From To Kill a Mockingbird)

Zwhatever 8:21 AM  

@CDilly52 - Glad to see you’re back. Mother-in-law had both knees replaced in her 60’s. Recovery took longer than predicted but she’s in her mid-80’s now and she is still walking and biking without problems.

@Southside Johnny - If you want to know more about SOPHISTs, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a good place to start (though a bit meatier than the Wikipedia article) Pirsig argues (as I recall, it’s been awhile) that SOPHISTs got a bad name because we basically know about them from Plato, who hated them.

@Anon6:20 - But if he did that he couldn’t include his lumberjack dad joke. I think you can do ok with a dook if the reason is a horrible joke.

TheMadDruid 8:22 AM  

@Anon 6:20 Pretty sure Rex was goofing around. Puzzle was fun but the trick did have to be explained to me. D’oh!

agarlock 8:23 AM  

It's a joke....

TJS 8:24 AM  

I'm starting to feel sorry for Rex. I mean the poor man has to come up with something to say every day when I would just be writing "this one sucked too."

Geoff H 8:24 AM  

I could not at all figure out what the “progression” was supposed to be after solving everything and staring at the revealer. I was looking for a word ladder or something, which I guess this is *close* to. Theme landed with a resounding thud for me.

TTrimble 8:25 AM  

Fastest Wednesday solve in quite some time. Almost no hesitation as I moved through the grid. My time was either better than or a near match to that of yesterday, which may have been easy for a Tuesday.

Good catch by Anonymous 6:20 AM. ("What did the hairsplitter say after he missed the point?")

I actually thought the theme worked pretty well. Is there a common 15-letter phrase that would capture exactly what is happening with the letter string CASE as it courses through the theme answers? Seems to me Rex is being unreasonably picky here.

The answer BYRNE reminds me of what Clare wrote yesterday regarding Once IN A Lifetime: 'I cannot help but start singing the start of the absolute classic deserving of all the awards, “Everyday,” from “High School Musical 2.”' For my part, I cannot help but think of The Talking Heads.

CANADA GEESE invariably reminds me of my son, who I thought might become a writer one day. (Well, who's to say -- he's only 20, and he's certainly a competent writer when it comes to research and essays.) One of the many ideas that came out of him when he was very young, maybe 7 years old, was a story about two young ducks who had been orphaned when the rest of their family was shot by hunters, and who were adopted by a flock of CANADA GEESE flying south. I found the idea deeply affecting and dearly wanted him to develop it further.

Have a good day, folks. Enough JABBER from me -- I'd better get cracking.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Was I the only one who got surfer mixed up with alphas? I don't know if you all are familiar, but the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is the oldest historically black frat (and the best) and they're well known to use a symbol that looks identical to a shaka when greating each other

Verdant Earl 8:36 AM  

Silly nitpick, but does anyone refer to a television as a TV set anymore? Got momentarily stuck there until I hit the down clues.

Joaquin 8:42 AM  

Sometimes @Rex makes me want to scream. Today I thought he was overthinking the entire puzzle and I was ready to yell at him. And then ...

"(What did the log-splitter say after he missed the log? 'Hey, where's my TOE AT!?'").

Probably the best line Rex ever wrote.

Jim in Canada 8:59 AM  

Well, hey... at least we know where Monday's puzzle ended up. I think maybe they accidentally got switched. I breezed through this one like nobody's business and Wednesday is usually where I start to stumble. Agreed the clue on CASEY AT THE BAT was brutal, but I had CASEY AT T from crosses and filled it in without even reading the clue.
Also had CAST AS.... and C-NADA G... and CH-CK PL... so the long across themers were basically gimmes.
The revealer was another that was already so filled-in with crosses that I didn't read the clue.

The only proper name I knew wad David BYRNE, which is usually a sign that I'm going to die a slow, painful death in the grid somewhere, but the crosses were all gettable, so not only could I still finish, but I learned a few things.

Got nothing but love for this one.... except it should've been a Monday.

Frantic Sloth 9:04 AM  

Rex's DOOK joke! 🀣🀣

Maybe this isn't exactly news, but shaka sign also the letter "Y" in ASL.

@TTrimble 825am 🀣🀣🀣 "Good catch", better quip!

Mill City Architect 9:07 AM  

What’s with the NYTXW repeatedly using RIOT as a synonym for a funny person, a party, or a good time, lately? I live in Minneapolis near Chicago and 38th, and a RIOT around here is anything but. Clueing RIOT as a funny for misdirection is just old and crusty. Knock it off, Boomers.

pmdm 9:10 AM  

Usually by Wednesday I need to research to get the entries, due to PPP that I don't know. Not today. For that reason alone, I would rate today's puzzle easier than the typical Wednesday puzzle.

Today's puzzle seems to me to lend itself to being over-throught-out. And that seems to me to result in some harsh comments (offsetting the more enthusiastic comments. No matter. The weather forecast for today is quite nice, and finally being immune to the virus (so they say) I will happily visit the brewery beer garden in Elmsford. First time in a long time. And now I can ride my bike without a mask. Seems things are getting back to normal. Now if only I can visit the wineries in Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes without having to overstuff myself with food.

EdFromHackensack 9:13 AM  

Agree with the “TV SET” comment... seems like something my mother said in the 70s. Had blaCKPLEASE before CHECKPLEASE. Never got the theme until I got here and read Rex. I was looking for a word ladder.

OffTheGrid 9:14 AM  

The extra E's, A's, C's and S's in the theme answers really muddied the theme concept.

Rug Crazy 9:19 AM  

I think Rex was making a joke (to Anonymous)

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

CASE also appears in FIR(E)E(S)(C)(A)PE and SACRE

Shandra Dykman 9:41 AM  

I’m surprised Rex didn’t complain about David Byrne’s band name clearly being TALKING HEADS, no THE. They literally devoted the title of one of their albums to making this clear.

RooMonster 9:44 AM  

Hey All !
Mixed bag reaction by y'all. I thought puz pretty neat, but I'm totally impressed and awed at the construction aspect. Any idea how ridiculously tough it is to stack themers, and come out with decent fill?
Well, it's ridiculously tough! Not only are they stacked, but Hal had to adhere to his self-inflicted CASE progression, which means those letters are locked into place. Which means having to fill around the non-moveable letters, while still getting decent fill. Wow! I always cut constructors slack with Abbrs. and -ese with a grid such as this. When you have a theme idea, most of the time you can move around the themers at first so they fit better to get better fill. Those stacked 11s of CANADAGEESE and CHECKPLEASE have to have decent Downs going through them, with the locked in CASE letters. So an EER crossed with an ERR doesn't ruffle a single feather for me.

I'm impressed, in case you didn't get that. 😁

Another left/right symmetry. Doesn't it seem like that symmetry comes in bunches? Nice to pull off this particular theme. Lots of Blocks, but again, I overlooked that because of the great construction. 43 blocks. Normal max is 38. Just an observation.

*This* close to a DNF. Had RoOTS for RIOTS til the end. But really wanted SOPHIST with the O, but TONoo didn't look right. So thought maybe it was TONoi. Decided to erase the O of RoOTS, reread clue, lightbulb clicked, and saw RIOTS, and then the correct TONIO. And then the Happy Music. With a fist pump. ☺️

Didn't find it as easy as some, but still a decent WedsPus time. Neat puz, I can't DENY.

Two F's

A Grimwade 9:48 AM  

Don’t like the clue for CANADA GEESE. Those suckers are no longer winter visitors. They are here (Pennsylvania) all the freaking year.

Michelle Turner 9:52 AM  

That’s a great song!

Zwhatever 9:56 AM  

@Shandra Dykman - the clue is David of the Talking Heads. If it had been David of The Talking Heads you would have a valid complaint. {emphasis added}

GILL I. 10:02 AM  

Ay, dios mio, @Rex.....The theme works just fine....nothing muddy; look at Hal's symmetry. You open, you shut (Look at @Frantics little diagram) and you see the balance.
Little three's are the glue of the gods. We all need them. I'm betting a VODKA that you need a little EKE ELI EAR ASS to get a crossword to work. This did just fine in my little neck of the woods.
I have HAREM pants that would make @Loren shake my hand. SACRE blu.
@Barbara S....A cock and a hen walk into a bar..... (do you want to know what happened? AND....I think I watched To Kill a Mockingbird at least 28 times. Thanks @Whatsername.... and you for the quote.

COVID alert. My BFF and I went to a restaurant for the first time in over a year. It was interesting. We had to wait outside to be served and I asked if we could have a glass of wine with the wait. We were told NO...the waiter would not come outside. We were then seated inside and told we had to use our phone to scan the menu embedded on the table. It didn't work. We were reluctantly given a paper menu. We ordered and waited exactly 48 minutes for the worst meal I've ever had. (sigh)....I want to help. I want to give back....I'm going to stay home for another year until food starts to taste good again. By the way...I typed about 25% because awful food isn't the fault of the poor waiter. He did smile a lot!.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

@A Grimwade:
Don’t like the clue for CANADA GEESE. Those suckers are no longer winter visitors. They are here (Pennsylvania) all the freaking year.

"And we're building a wall on the border of New Mexico. And we’re building a wall in Colorado. We’re building a beautiful wall. A big one that really works — that you can’t get over, you can’t get under."
-- You Know Who

Should have started in Washington (the State, not the Damn Gummint enclave) and worked east. Mostly a straight line until the Great Lakes. "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!"

I guess he tried to build it along the wrong border? Eh?

Mohair Sam 10:26 AM  

@Bocamp (6:51) - Thanks for the link to James Earl Jones reading the greatest poem of all time. Good stuff.

@Nancy (8:01) - Love your idea of making "Casey" our National Anthem. I'd join you in your campaign to make it so if only he didn't (spoiler alert) strike out at the end. Very un-American.

RAD2626 10:33 AM  

I liked the puzzle but had no idea about the theme til I read about it here.

There was a wonderful crossword about ten years ago that had the last two lines of “ Casey at the Bat” in a diamond shape around the puzzle. I cannot find it. Does anyone know who the constructor was or where I might locate it? Thanks.

jae 10:34 AM  

Easy-medium. This seemed harder than it turned out to be, the bottom was easier than the top. SACRE was a WOE as clued. Clever and the theme worked OK for me, liked it.

Speaking of Citizen Kane, the movie Mank on Netflix is excellent!

JD 10:38 AM  

Through the puzzle the Case is open and the Case is shut. It would've been much better if it started out open and ended up shut, but it still works for me.

Downs were easier than acrosses, helping to fill in those long answers. Canada Geese was my favorite.

Re. Casey and the long title. I've always thought the piece was satirical. Checked, found this (with a little aha surprise embedded). Thayer wrote Casey.

"It all started in 1885 when George Hearst decided to run for state senator in California. To self-promote his brand of politics, Hearst purchased the San Francisco Examiner. At the completion of the election, Hearst gave the newspaper to his son, William Randolph Hearst.

William, who had experience editing the Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard College, took to California three Lampoon staff members. One of those three was Ernest L. Thayer who signed his humorous Lampoon articles with the pen name Phin."

Carola 10:38 AM  

I liked the fact that it was an OPEN AND SHUT CASE but impossible for me to figure out before the reveal. Cute idea, nicely done. I also liked FRESCO and SOPHIST + JABBER. Yikes! for FiRE ESCAPE next to ARSON..

@RooMonster 9:44 - Thank you for the detail on the constructing achievement.

Whatsername 10:39 AM  

Well today we have another visit from AESOP and he brought his MINT but no Julep. After he CAST that ASIDE, he met up with a SEΓ‘ORA wearing HAREM pants. He wooed her while they they dined on GEESE liver and he dreamed of sharing their romance on INSTA. But she had other ideas. After the first SLAP, he said CHECK PLEASE. I’d sooner sit at home in front of the TV SET than spend another minute with this NEEDY chick. The constable ruled it was NO ACCIDENT when SURFER girl fell down the FIRE ESCAPE and broke her TIARA. AESOP knew the moral of the story was going to be an OPEN AND SHUT CASE and was last seen headed for CANADA.

This was an interesting grid which always intrigues me and I’d say the theme was terrific if you like this sort of thing. For me, I get it but I think I’d rather have a quote puzzle than a word progression any day. But it was entertaining and made me think, and I had fun composing the nonsensical tale so thanks Hal, for that.

Diane Joan 10:42 AM  

Got the puzzle, in spite of my lack of opera knowledge, but did not get the theme until I checked this blog. Thank you Rex for clarifying it. It looks like it will be a great day in the NYC tristate area. Hope everyone in the area gets a chance to get outside to enjoy it!

Newboy 10:42 AM  

Thanks Hal. I too thought today a pretty straight forward solve and can see Rex’s critique on one level, But I always like to recall this observation by Henry James,
“Moreover, it isn’t till I have accepted your data that I can begin to measure you. I have the standard, the pitch; I have no right to tamper with your flute and then criticize your music.”
Seems to me that the “progression” worked as the constructor intended: in that case, pitch perfect (& alas poor Casey).

Another Anon 10:46 AM  

@Anonymoose 6:38. I hope you agree that at the SHUT of the day, this was a decent puzzle.

Tim Carey 10:51 AM  


Masked and Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Ready-TOE AT. har. Open and shut my mouth.

Theme works. CASE closed [shut] --> CAS E opened --> CA SE opened in next position --> CAS E opened in next position --> CASE closed again [shut] [QED].

Didn't know: TONIO & BYRNE. Wasn't much sure about: INSTA & shaka sign users. Not enough of them cases to shut m&e down, tho. Fairly smooth solve, at our house.

24 weejects in search of a staff pick: Kinda partial to OLA. The UnC COLA.

Also really admirin that always luvly E-W symmetric(al) puzgrid, with the kickass giant black squares.

Thanx, Mr. Moore. Primo revealer idea.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


KnittyContessa 11:06 AM  

I flew through this one, finished in avg Monday time. Had no idea what the theme meant. (Solved pre coffee) Days like this I am very appreciative of this blog. Thanks Rex!

Malsdemare 11:16 AM  

@newboy, love the quote. Thank you!

@bocamp, I agree; I saw that "bad" and felt sad.

Mr. Mals has scheduled a knee replacement for next week, upending my travel plans. That's okay; he badly needs the new knee. But I foresee a tough future for me. He's already saying he doesn't have to wait 3 weeks to drive and he really thinks this is going to be an easy recovery. This from a man who can't walk more than 100 feet without breathing heavily. But the worse thing? I shall have to do the cooking and shopping! Merde!

I liked the puzzle, despite the bad dog and the riots (again; I don't really want perfectly good words banned from crosswords because of the reaction they elicit, but RIOT is tough to see without wincing.).

A 11:42 AM  

A ready TO EAT Wednesday - easy as pie. (Served up on National Bluebery Pie Day, which I fully intend to celebrate.) Took half my average time for the day. Two stumbles with FrEize before FRESCO and bABBEl before JABBER. Didn’t trust either one even while putting them in, for obvious reasons, so they got CAST ASIDE in a hurry.

This seemed like a puzzle with a sense of humor. The SELF-deprecating crosses like EER/ERR, IKE/EKE and ARIA/AREA got a chuckle from me. Same with TV SET - it actually brought to mind the huge console with the tiny screen at my aunt’s house in the 60’s. Don’t think I ever saw it in action. They watched the new TV, which sat on top of the old one. Wish I had a picture of that.

Rex was funny too. TOE AT - har. I did somehow remember that CASEY’s song had a long subtitle. Pretty sure I learned that from the NYTXW. Agreed that you had to resort to a bit of machination to make the theme work, but I didn’t mind. Begin with the full CASE to OPEN, then progressively shorter bits to open and longer to SHUT. 4/0, 3/1, 2/2, 1/3, 0/4. CHECK PLEASE.

Notable crosses/neighbors/mirrors:

Speaking of FIRE ESCAPE, I pulled a Rex and didn’t fully read the clue after “balcony scene.” My mind went right to Romeo and Juliet, so when I saw FIRE ESCAPE it was a bit of culture shock. Guess you could think of the vines they always have on the balcony as a kind of fire escape.

Thanks, Mr. Moore, SIR!

Zwhatever 11:49 AM  

This was in my Twitter Feed because it's about a former Ultimate player. I share it here for all the West Virginians who drop by.

@Malsdemare - Good Luck. There's a wide range of normal, so maybe hubby is correct. But if 100' is his limit I'm guessing not and I think the PT will tell him so. One positive - you live in the era of competent grocery delivery service, so you do not have to do all the shopping.

@Gill I - πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½ - I'm to the point where 25% is my minimum just because they are working, even if they don't smile, and I'm purely take-out or outdoor dining only still.

chirs 12:24 PM  

CASE opens and closes like a book in the themers, so the revealer would work better as 'open and closed case"

pabloinnh 12:24 PM  

Missed the theme and went with BABBLE, but a couple of things pleased me mightily.

First, CASEYATTHEBAT, which contains one of my favorite line of poetry:

"And the former was a hoodoo, and the latter was a cake."

Hard to find stuff like that these days.

Second, it's always gratifying to see CANADAGOOSE. Too many people who should know better insist on "Canadian goose", and I wish they would just not do that, as it irks me no end, and I am too polite to correct them, so they continue. They need to do more crossword puzzles, clearly.

Nice themeless Wednesday, even if it did have a theme.

Whatsername 12:37 PM  

@Barbara (8:19) No credit due for those classic and enduring words, but thanks for the acknowledgment.

@TTrimble (8:25) I love your son’s duck duck GEESE idea. Sounds the makings of a good animated film.

@GILL (10:02) You didn’t say whether you’d read the book - even better than the film IMHO.

Shandra Dykman 12:43 PM  

@Z The clue should read "David of Talking Heads," or, if you must, "David of the band Talking Heads." My complaint is valid.

bocamp 12:57 PM  

@TTrimble (8:25 AM)

The ducks and geese anecdote gave me a CASE of the warm fuzzies. :)

@RooMonster (9:44 AM)

Very 'impressive' post! Definitely makes me the appreciate the puz even more than I did before! :)

@Mohair Sam (10:26 AM) πŸ‘

@jae (10:34 AM)

Thx for the heads-up on 'Mank'. Got it cued up. Hope to get started on the 605 today.

@Malsdemare (11:16 AM)

Was definitely a downer. :(

πŸ™ for Mr. Mals and for your sanity.

td pg -1

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all πŸ•Š

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

I went with @A 11:42's FREize for 4D, which didn't look correct and shouldn't have since it is a spelling ERR. And once I had CAiE in place for 20A, I rethought 4D and CAST it ASIDE gladly.

Over at 30D, I had REM on my mind but my hand had ELO. The hand had the upper hand for a nano-second at least. And I thought 28D might be FIRst SCene (which makes no sense script-wise) but the CANADA GEESs told me to guess again.

CANADA GEESE, I know it's correct but it doesn't keep me from wanting CANADian GEESE. I keep telling myself that no one says the Minnesotan Twins so what's my problem, but for some reason, Canadian seems right. My co-worker agrees with me. It must be a regional error.

@TJS 8:24, you make me laugh.

Howard 1:24 PM  

I’m a boomer who lives in the Twin Cities and agree with you so don’t generalize about boomers. Like every other group we are each unique individuals.

Mark 1:30 PM  

The most informative and scholarly piece I could find on reasons for the "Republic" subtitle of "Casey" does not give persuasive answers. Best I could figure out, a couple decades after the Civil War temporarily split USA in two, the failed baseball pride in the 1888 poem satirizes certainties that we can keep our Republic. The "outlook" after Appomattox was not "brilliant," and any bragging optimism toward success was misplaced. Three strikes and you're out. There's even an idea, in the best article I found, that soon, during Roosevelt's presidency 1901-09, we changed from a republic to an empire.

Paul Statt 1:33 PM  

The new girl, Misty--who is both adorable and good--and I take exception to the clue "___ dog" for BAD. She may now be a sad dog now, but only until her next walk.

Zwhatever 1:39 PM  

@Shandra Dykman - There’s nothing there I “must” do. The editors used the common capitalization convention to indicate that the word “the” was not a part of the band name. You insisting that clunky structure would be correct doesn’t make the clue wrong in any way, or, Gof forfend, your suggestions correcter.*

@Teedmn - It’s a pretty big region. You will hear “Canadian” and people correcting the offenders throughout Michigan as well.

*Yes, I was just looking for an excuse to use “forfend” and “correcter.”

burtonkd 1:55 PM  

I haven't really thought about Casey at the Bat in a long time. I remember being totally mesmerized, then devastated the first time I heard it.
With the subtitle, I think I'd better go back and read it to see if it is some kind of metaphor for our Republic. We've certainly struck out in recent history...

@TTrimble - hands up for thinking Talking Heads yesterday. If anyone hasn't seen Stop Making Sense, the Jonathon Demme directed concert video, do so immediately. I finally "discovered" this about a year ago, doh! Now on to American Utopia.

Speaking of movies, the new West Side Story advertised during the Oscars looks dramatic.

@pmdm - thanks for the tip on a beer garden in Elmsford, assuming you mean Captain Lawrence. Will check it out. Biking without a mask has been fine for quite a while if not officially.

I've been saying 42D as Bass-ackwards for so long, I almost didn't recognize it. Grey lady seal of approval, apparently.

Geoff H 2:24 PM  

CASEYATTHEBAT always reminds me of when Penn & Teller did a bit where Penn recited that poem while Teller did a straightjacket escape above a spike pit. I think it's on YouTube.

Lyn 2:46 PM  

Thank you, Rex. Without you, I would have never figured out the theme. I got "Casey" quickly, which led to "Casey at the Bat." So, I was thinking spring and baseball. Was Casey cast aside by his teammates? Did he leave to play in Canada? After he got the check? Absolutely no hope in figuring out theme such as it was.

GILL I. 2:53 PM  

@Whatsername 12:37. I did read To Kill a Mockingbird. It was required reading at Cathedral where I went to school in Havana. I didn't understand it, though. I knew nothing about racism in this country. The people I loved the most and who took care of me, were black. I would sing with them, I would play with all the kids, I was as they were. It wasn't until I came to the US as a 7 year old for the first time that I saw ugliness. I was with my mother at Sears buying underwear when I went up to a water cooler and saw the sign "Colored Only." I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I fully expected rainbow water to come flying out. A very big, fat, white cop grabbed me by the collar and asked me if I could read........The rest is history.
When I saw the movie, I cried; I understood and I watched again and again.
Lesson learned.

Nancy 4:35 PM  

@GILL (2:53) -- I'm not sure I've ever read a more eloquent, innocent, moving or devastating comment on American racism. Your child's-eye view is very powerful, @GILL, and very damning. Could you be the next Harper Lee?

Shandra Dykman 4:43 PM  

@Z: The band has no THE in its name. They named a whole album “The Name of this Band is Talking Heads” to make the point. So I’m right.

JC66 4:57 PM  


What @Nancy said.

Whatsername 5:30 PM  

@GILL (2:53) That’s a heartfelt testimony. Thank you for sharing. I love the movie too but the book is my all-time favorite and was one of my earliest “adult“ novels as a young reader.

oriordan 6:18 PM  

@GILL - thanks for sharing that. I came here at 22, blissfully ignorant about these matters (Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s being a pretty homogeneous place). I got my first inkling when I casually used the N-word not long after I got here (it having no negative connotation for me) and seeing the horrified looks on the faces of my dorm-mates. Of course I learned that swearing was far less acceptable here too ;-)

Zwhatever 6:43 PM  

@Shandra Dykman - Wow - way to double down. The editors used the common capitalization convention to indicate that the word “the” was not a part of the band name. Again, the editors already acknowledged in the clue that the name of the band is “Talking Heads.” Why is that so hard to understand? Why do you not grasp that “the Talking Heads” is not the same as “The Talking Heads?” Do we blame you or your 6th grade English teacher that this basic convention didn’t sink home? Here, just for you, a handy guide to capitalization; please read rule 8 carefully since you seem to struggle with it. Also FAQ 16 is good to remember, especially when someone has already kindly pointed out twice (now thrice) why a clue is not, in fact, wrong. I will gladly and frequently criticize Shortz for what I perceive to be any shortzcoming, but not about getting a clue wrong when they did not get the clue wrong.

SharonAK 6:51 PM  

@ Z, I see the point you are making about the Talking... but I don't think it is right in this instance. If the band name is Talking Headsthere is no reason to use the. That doesn't make them talking heads. I think David of Talking Heads would be correct.
For example, I don't thnk you would say the Abba.

TTrimble 8:39 PM  

Chaka Khan, even if an ALTO, can really hit the high notes, too. She's terrific.

And I have to hand it to Rex: he includes links to some good music in his write-ups. My own comments rib him a lot, but I've neglected to mention this particular good aspect of his reviews. The inclusion of Joni Mitchell and Chaka Khan today is much appreciated.

My earlier comment misnamed David BYRNE's old band -- I'll not make that mistake again. I think @SharonAK makes a good point.

albatross shell 8:41 PM  

It is so important to use "the" before the band's name. I wish I had seen the The Beatles. I'm glad I never saw the Abba. Or some times so people know that I know what the name of the band is: I just love the band The Band. But only for clarity's sake.

Mirror symmetry. Two single POCs. I wonder if @Anoa Bob would think of the final Y at the end of the puzzle. You could make it a black square and just change a pair of clues. You could do that the O at the end of INDO too.

I noticed the slow disappearance of CASE, but not the slow appearance of CASE at the end of the phrases. Oh well.

CASE opens the first phrase.
CASE closes the last phrase.
This changes one letter at a time in a progressive fashion as the revealer clue indicates.
It is an open and shut case.
The revealer works. The theme works. Is Rex JABBERing or BABBLing?

Not an exciting theme. Solid and maybe stolid. I wonder. I do like mirror symmetry. I think on average they have been above average. Do they tend to the solid side even when they are average? Is there a difference in construction? They have more unused possibilities. And what is with the POC downward trend? Is it contructors or Shortz or both? Is it Rex or Anoa Bob or influence of other forces in the CW world? Or a naturally occurring lull?

Any ideas out there?

Kenny Mitts 8:48 PM  

@Z If the clue had asked for a member of a different non-the band would that also be okay? “Donald of the Steely Dan”? “BeyoncΓ© of the Destiny’s Child”?

Chip Hilton 9:20 PM  

I vote for @Shandra Dykman. @Kenny Mitts’s supporting testimony clinched it for me. Sorry, @Z. I think you, and the clue, as written, are wrong.

The Arbiter 10:21 PM  

I'm with @Chip, and @Kenny makes an excellent point. Shandra's right. The "the" should not be in that clue at all, capitalized or not.

Joe Dipinto 10:28 PM  

Am I late to the The Party? I was getting vacksyn-8ed. It was the most horrifying experience ever. I ALMOST DIED!!

Just kidding. The editors probably relied on Wikipedia to confirm the David Byrne clue (if they went about confirming it, that is). The Wikipedia entry vacillates on using "the" as part of the band name. It really wasn't part of the name, but people reflexively prefix it with "the" regardless, like with Ramones and Eurythmics.

But the Mamas and the Papas have been clued with an uncapitalized "the", and "the" was officially part of their name. It appears that unless "the" is the first word in the clue, the Times doesn't capitalize it in such cases. So...
Cass of the Mamas and the Papas
Stubbs of the Four Tops
David of the Talking Heads—¡WRONG!

Buenas noches all. If I don't post tomorrow, it's because I'm dead.

Shandra Dykman 1:45 PM  

@Kenny Mitts πŸ˜‡

egsforbreakfast 10:14 PM  

@ Joe DiPinto. If you’re dead tomorrow I’ll miss you. OTOH, if I’m dead tomorrow, I won’t. Hoping that neither situation arises.

kitshef 5:57 PM  

@Kenny Mitts - there is a difference in how we phrase these things for bands that are plural (Talking Heads, Eagles) compared to singular (Blur, Creed).

You would not say [person] of the Blur, but you would say [person] of the Eagles, with the lower case letting everyone know that the 'the' is not part of the band name.

wooody2004 3:21 AM  

The EAGLE, The REM, and The Talking Heads walk into a CAthouSE. CASE closed

thefogman 10:09 AM  

A half-baked gimmick with a bad AROMA.

spacecraft 10:39 AM  

Aha, so you saw that inserting BIRDIE into yesterday's grid elicited a like rating, so thought, "Might as well try it with EAGLE!"

Not so fast.

First of all, that majestic bird will never land in an aerie that contains the word EKE. The trash has to be taken out. There's other detritus in there too, but I just picked out the most tiresome one.

As to the theme, I don't think it's worth three paragraphs of OFC trying to explain it. The puzzle would actually suffice as a themeless, and forget all the CASE stuff. As such, it might even EKE out a par.

A bit too easy for midweek; it seems suited more to a Tuesday. We'll have to take our DOD from the clue set: Ariana Grande, with Wonder Woman a most honorable mention. Sorry, Hal, bogey's the best I can do. Open the pod bay door, Hal. Hal? HAL!!!

Burma Shave 12:05 PM  


in CASE you CASTASIDE my pass."

"SIR, it's NOACCIDENT, so geez,


rondo 12:12 PM  

@spacey - great post; you're in top form today!
Some playing with a word, but not much word play.
Tues/Wed theory STAYS in play. I rest my CASE.

Diana, LIW 1:32 PM  

I must agree with @Rondo about @Spacey's post - a CASE of spot on reporting.

Tho the puzzle was fine until I tried to figure out what the theme was trying to be - that took some of the shine off. And did we need to sneak in an eke!?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 2:38 PM  

A fun puzzle, a fairly easy one, with especially good long acrosses and downs.

Just a couple of pausers: TONIO/RIOTS cross and Volga before VODKA. (Thought there might be some Russian "spirit of the Volga" involved.)

No BAD ASS in sight, except maybe Burr the SIR.

Anonymous 10:15 PM  

CANADA GEESE ? I never knew. I always thought they were Canadian Geese. But in searching the net I see I am definitely in the minority. It must be a regional thing.

rondo 11:33 PM  

Not regional. The name is CANADAGEESE. Same as if it were Gray Goose..

Mark in Marquette 7:39 AM  

Yes, CANADA geese.

And the "Talking Heads" clue is wrong.

Notice that @Z didn't apologize for his nastiness once everyone explained why he was wrong.

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