South African plant whose leaves are used for a popular herbal tea / WED 4-7-21 / Native Caribbean plant whose fruit grows in clusters / Alec Baldwin on more than 15 occasions / Singer nicknamed Prince of Motown / Leader namechecked in Beatles revolution

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Constructor: Adrian Johnson

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: MARIO BROS. (34A: Video game franchise with characters found at the ends of 17-, 20-, 53- and 58-Across) — pretty self-explanatory:

Theme answers:
  • HORNED TOAD (17A: Small, spiny lizard)
  • GEORGIA PEACH (20A: Fruit appearing on a Southern license plate)
  • MURIEL BOWSER (53A: D.C. mayor first elected in 2014)
  • OOPSY-DAISY (58A: "Clumsy me!")
Word of the Day: SEA GRAPE (37D: Native Caribbean plant whose fruit grows in clusters) —

Coccoloba uvifera is a species of flowering plant in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, that is native to coastal beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean, including southern Floridathe Bahamas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and Bermuda. Common names include seagrape and baygrape.

In late summer, it bears green fruit, about 2 cm (0.79 in) diameter, in large, grape-like clusters. The fruit gradually ripens to a purplish color. Each contains a large pit that constitutes most of the volume of the fruit. (wikipedia)

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This is a puzzle that wants you to think it's cool / hip / young, but it's also a puzzle that thinks sipping an IPA is "hip" (wtf?), and its bones are creaky, to put it kindly. Let's start with the fact that a huge segment of the solving population will never have played MARIO BROS., and so the theme ... these solvers are just gonna have to take your word for it that these are "characters" in this "franchise." I think I played one incarnation of MARIO BROS. ... maybe some version of MARIO KART (my first answer, btw) ... in the early '90s when I visited my sister and her boyfriend in California. I remember a beanbag chair and, yeah, some kind of car-racing game. I've known about the franchise forever, of course, but somehow just putting PEACH and TOAD at the ends of some answers does absolutely nothing for me. This puzzle seems to exist because MURIEL BOWSER exists. I can't imagine anyone even being inspired to make this kind of old-fashioned, last-words-type theme about MARIO BROS. unless they first see MURIEL BOWSER's name and think "hmmm... should I?" (Answer: probably not). Well, MURIEL BOWSER is easily the most interesting thing in the grid, so there's one plus, but the theme concept is a. too boringly basic, and b. really is going to be meaningless to untold legions of solvers. And normally I'd say "so what, you learn something, blah blah blah," but what do you learn? TOAD? DAISY? Shrug.

[Warning: Profanity and sexual content]

Worse than the blah theme concept, by far, is the fill, which, as I said above—creaky. Big thumbs-up for LOU REED, but most of the rest, yikes. The way you know that things were not great from the jump is that I stopped before I even got out of the NW and took a picture. Five answers in and I was already thinking, "oof, this is gonna be grim":

Maybe you (mistakenly) think "Well, J's are cool, right?" but the only way HAJJI* is cool is if you squint real hard and ignore literally everything else in that corner. Just clogged with the kind of crossword dreck you learn to tolerate fine in small doses, but ... that's a dreck speedball right there, although a "speedball" is technically a mixture of cocaine and heroin, which at least makes you feel good, maybe? Temporarily? Anyway, I did not feel good coming out of this corner, and though JINGOISM is decent, once I moved over to the adjacent section and found only TVAD, ELLA, DADA, ALAI (ugh), I gave myself a little pep talk and settled in for a slog. This one even manages to make the longer answers kind of tedious. AIR ACES, ugh, it's not 1918, why is this kind of stuff still in the puzzle? SEA GRAPE is just some plant that your wordlist told you was valid. ECOTONE is a word I've (still!) only ever seen in crosswords, and I was quite proud of myself that I remembered that it was "TONE" and not "ZONE," which honestly makes much more sense. I mean, it's a "region" so ... "ZONE." Come on. Anyway, on and on the fill went, displeasing at every turn (YER REAIR EDAMIPASLRYEA, etc.). So you get your video game franchise, which is going to make some people think "oh, cool, how youthful! I played that!" but the concept is super duper basic and bland (just a last-words dealie), and the fill is oldish and unpleasant to work through. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

*In my neck of the woods, and so presumably other necks of other woods, HAJJI is used as a ethnic slur—a catchall, at least mildly derogatory term for literally anyone perceived to be Arab or otherwise from the Near East. It's the only racial slur I've ever heard someone say in public here (in reference to a gas station / mini-mart, "one of these HA(J)JI stores"). It's a complicated word because it's honorific in its specific, originally-intended usage, but in general use in the U.S. ... it's not great: Here's
Since the Iraq War began in 2003, haji has been used as an ethnic slur, much like gook was during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Some sources suggest haji is not always meant derogatorily and may be intended more as a colloquialism among U.S. soldiers. However, considering the sacredness of the pilgrimage among Muslims, such use of the term by non-Muslims is widely considered offensive.
You can find stories of cops and politicians and others getting in trouble for using the term an ethnic catch-all. I recognize that HAJJI is clued respectfully and correctly here, but the word really, really hits my ears wrong. I wouldn't let it anywhere near my puzzles if I were constructing.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Flying Pediatrician 6:46 AM  

I can’t wait to get home from my shift to show my son this puzzle! He’s going to love it!

Mini theme with two letter abbreviations followed by spelled-out words: TV AD, PR SAVVY, and SNL HOST. Not a fan of those. They seem like cheating? Anybody else have thoughts?

Conrad 6:48 AM  

I'm not familiar with any of the Mario franchise (I played the original Donkey Kong years ago, but that's about it). The only character I knew was Toad, and that was from summaries of the book Full Disclosure.

Other WOEs included ECOTONE (like @Rex, wanted zONE), ROOIBOS and SEAGRAPE, but all were fairly crossed. Spelled 1A HAdJI at first, but again easily corrected.

Lewis 6:48 AM  

This is a very impressive debut, crafted with veteran-worthy skill. What I love most about it is how fresh it felt, and now I see why – answers rarely or never seen.

HORNED TOAD hasn’t showed up since 1982, JINGOISM is here for only the second time. And, most impressive, are Adrian’s eight – yes eight! – NYT puzzle debuts, all worthy of mention: GEORGIA PEACH, MARIO BROS, MURIEL BOWSER, OOPSY DAISY, PR SAVVY, ROOIBOS, SEA GRAPE, SNL HOST. Wow!

Somehow, that toad, sea grape, and ivy, along with the edam and rye, not to mention the soothing triads in the background, all seem to center me in the midst of this puzzle's overall vibrancy, fully satisfying my Libra tendencies.

Oh yes, let’s see more from you A.J., please! You have definitely embedded yourself on my radar. Congratulations, and thank you for this!

Lewis 6:50 AM  

p.s. -- Today marks Will Shortz's 10,000th puzzle as NYT editor. Let the comments begin.

Zwhatever 6:57 AM  

Okay, wow. Just radically different “HAJJI” experiences. But if you spend 20 years in the largest Arab-American communities in the US I guess that will happen. I can imagine that ignorant ethnic catch-all being used as a pejorative because, well, racists are racist. But I’ve only ever heard HAJJI as a term of respect. My instant gut reaction to Rex’s observation is “fuck the racists, they don’t get to own this word.”

Anyway, the puzzle. I had the exact same thought as Rex when I put in MURIEL BOWSER. I also like OOPSY DAISY, but agree that the other themers are less than scintillating. As for the MARIO BROS theme, as PPP-centric themes it isn’t the worst, but it shares the the fault of every PPP-centric theme, fans will love it, the rest of the solving community will heave a mighty “meh.” I’m team Meh.

POE was a POET, but I think of him in more generalist terms, “writer” or “author.” Are people who only write POETry authors? To me you have to publish prose to be an “author,” but even as I write that it doesn’t seem to make any logical sense. Anyway, Tennyson, TS Eliot, Roethke,... POETs. POE is a writer whose writing includes some POETry. Anyway, a long way of saying that the POE/POET cluing wasn’t all that helpful to me and got a mild side-eye when I filled it in.

Re late comments - @Gonzaga Anon - My intended tone didn’t come through - I’m with you that nothing negative about Gonzaga was written
@Amtrak Dude - $16b > $2b seems pretty basic, and that’s a single year. Imagine the rail system we would have if the feds had put $10b/year more into rail since 1970.

Ranius 6:59 AM  

PR’d this one. I’ve played a lot of Mario games but honestly anyone with even a cursory knowledge of them (even pop culture knowledge) should be able to get some of the themers.

I imagine people like Rex who have never touched a video game will feel the same way about this puzzle as I do about baseball puzzles: that is, the lingo is indecipherable and it’s a boring slog.

SouthsideJohnny 7:12 AM  

It seems like the clue for HAH (“As if!”) is one of those things that only a crossword solver could love. I always think of HAH as something akin to laughter or smiling, similar to HAHA or LOL (uncle GOOGLE seems to agree). Does it have a special meaning with which I am not familiar - either verbally or in text-speak ?

ROOIBOS is also new to me - the NYT clued it as being used for a “popular” herbal tea - is it really popular (sort of akin to Chai tea) ? Once again, Sir Google proved inconclusive.

bocamp 7:16 AM  

Thank you @Adrian, a crunchy mid-week puz! Enjoyed the adventure. :)

Med solve.

Moved easily thru this one, with only one "huh," attempting to grok the clue for 23D, CON. Finally, figured that if one is con about something, that would be a "reason" for being against it, and dropped the "o" in with trepidation. Typically, the clue for con would just read "against." Not having any idea about 27A ROOIBOS didn't help matters. Nevertheless, all's well that … :)

Frogg no. 2 ~ The Brothers Four

Well, she said "That's it, Clyde,
Better hit the road, farewell
That's it, Clyde, better hit the road, goodbye
That's it, Clyde, better hit the road
You ain't no frog you're a HORNy TOAD,
Farewell, goodbye, adios
Farewell, goodbye, adios"

Thx to SB for ECOTONE.

yd pg -2

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

pabloinnh 7:18 AM  

I think the last video game I played was Pong, so the MARIOBROS were not much help for me. Of course, being a sentient being, I have at least heard of the game and its protagonists, but the collection of answers associated with them might have been any random bunch of stuff. In fact, it IS a pretty random bunch of stuff.

The most fun I had was writing in HORNEDTOAD off the T. In fact, I don't think I really needed the T.

ROOIBOS is a complete WOE and is another in the series of what looks like a horrible Scrabble rack.

Learned VLOGS, because TBAD is not a good answer.

An OK Wednesday, and congrats on your debut, AJ. Certainly better than an Average Job.

Hungry Mother 7:19 AM  

On our walks along the beach in Melbourne, Florida, we see many SEAGRAPE plants, so I got that one which provided my W today. I had looked up the name of the plant just a few weeks ago. Easy one today.

John H 7:22 AM  

@Z I have to agree. Never occurred to ma that Hajji (Hadji?) could be racist. Very disappointed by this. If I couldn't use that word I would win many fewer scrabble games.

OffTheGrid 7:27 AM  

The theme was easy even though I never played those games. You didn't even have to know that PEACH, DAISY, BOWSER, and TOAD were names from the games. This was totally an after the fact type theme. Nothing wrong with that. I'd give this a C+. I had a DNF, couldn't get the V in TVAD (was looking for a single word) and VLOGS (not a familiar term but I've probably seen it before. This offered enough resistance to be interesting with several good clues. I'll never remember SEAGRAPE or ROOIBOS for next time.

kitshef 7:35 AM  

I’m guessing this played tough for a lot of people. If (like me) you don’t know MARIO characters, and if (unlike me) MURIEL BOWSER and ECOTONE are not gimmes … you have to deal with ROOIBOS, SEA GRAPE, ELLA, et al.

Glad YER was not given a generational clue, a la ‘zer’.

Watched the neighbor’s dog: PAW SAT
Thinking of what might have been: PAST ORS

SomeOneHasToBeMe 7:46 AM  

Last year, about 100 million people watched the Superbowl. To date, over 115 million of the PlayStation 4 console alone has been sold, not to mention an infinity of Xboxes, Wiis, Nintendos (over 80 million of just the switch consoles)

Now granted, not all those consoles have MARIO BROthers. But I guarantee you, 90% of the people who own a gaming console have a general idea that there is a MARIO, PEACH and BOWSER.

If it's fair to have an endless litany of "Legendary 70's Colts Receiving End Back (seriously he's a legend this is a total gimme)" clues, it's more than fair to have a Wednesday reference to the most popular franchise of an industry that generates more revenue in the US than the NFL, NBA, and MLB COMBINED. (NFL: 16 billion MLB 10.7 NBA 7.92 billion=34.62 billion. Video Games: $35.4 billion in revenue in 2019.)

I've never touched a video game either but I know who Mario, Peach and Bowser are the same way I know there's a John Elway or that Lou Gehrig played for the Yankees- cultural osmosis.

If I have to remember a list of juiced freaks tossing balls around, you people can learn what a BOWSER is.

This one played easy, so easy I forgot it was a themer. Probably would have saved myself a minute or two if I'd remembered that it was Mario themed and didnt muddle my way through the crosses on BOWSER.

Not a bad puzzle, some really fun answers and some really good clues for the reset of

MiddleAgedMilennial 7:48 AM  

I think Rex might be losing sight of just how old the Mario franchise is - and just how old its fans are. The game came out in 1985. Super Mario in 1988. Those 12-year-olds are 45 now. I know the crossword isn't a young person's game, but there are plenty of 30- and 40-something genxers and millennials filling these things out.

Anyway. I thought it was a cute puzzle. "Ecotone" was the only frustrating word and I liked that many of the fills had multiple fits.

Son Volt 7:48 AM  

Liked this puzzle. Casual observer of the MARIO world but really could have done this as a themeless if needed. HORNED TOAD on GEORGIA PEACH was really nice. A little heavy on the trivia - but I can deal with that. The doubles OO, JJ and VV are neat the latter forming that AVA, IVY, RYE stack.

I have heard haji used as offensive slang but more often to address a respected elder. Maybe Rex should check with the Muslim/Arab community before he cancels it. Surprised he didn’t bitch that HAJah was excluded.

I went for a run last night at the beach and observed both estuaries and back marshes - both ECOTONES. Not just a crossword clue.

Enjoyable solve for a Wednesday.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

Last week a celebration of 35 years of the Mario franchise ended. Whether or not you play the games, this is a substantial franchise and has had a cultural impact. We aren't all current with all of music, all of film, all of books, or all of any particular cultural area. Your unfamiliarity with it is only that, and no occasion for snobbery.

JD 7:54 AM  

Hmmm, "a puzzle that wants you to think it's cool / hip / young." (Cough) Adrian Johnson is 21 years old. If he's already washed up, there's even less hope for us geezers that I thought.

Loved this puzzle. SE corner was tough but the rest filled in pretty smoothly with a big bunch of fresh language. Yes indeed @Lewis, vibrancy it had.

And thank you to the offspring for being such committed Mario Bros freaks.

GHarris 7:55 AM  

I don’t know the Mario family or their game characters but that was all gettable from crosses. My problem was rooibos crossing tetris with tv ads and vblogs lurking in the vicinity. Geez Louise.

Ted 8:00 AM  

Great theme, creaky fill.

MEARA got me good, that last corner proving tough to fill just based on that one answer.

I bet Rex knew that they raise an Apple at Citi Field, but he refuses to acknowledge the Mario series and how pervasive it is?

Nah, dude. Nah. Put down the book and crack open a good video game. Mario was a HUGE deal, the franchise DEFINED home gaming.

Barbara S. 8:08 AM  

I’ve never played MARIO BROS., so the theme answers were unknown to me but easily gettable from their own clues and from crosses. EXCEPT that I had a one-letter DNF due to HORNEy TOAD crossing yODO. What a yODO *I* am! In retrospect, HORNEy would not have had an E if it had been right and yODO?? What you’d call the diminutive Master Jedi if he did something stupid? But only at peril to your own life, as he’d probably drop you on the spot. “Foolish and disrespectful you are.” Sigh.

I knew ECOTONE immediately from Spelling Bee. I knew ROOIBOS from tea drinking (pronounced ROY-boss and meaning “red bush”, Afrikaans). Interesting alternate clue for the problematic ANO (What makes God good?). All SYSTEMS go conjured Saturday morning cartoons and old TV sci-fi. I liked the clues for TV AD (show stopper) and ANTSY (Not sitting well?).

Food and drink mini-theme: EDAM crossing APPLE, FATS, PEACH, ANCHO, JAR of peanut butter, pork LOIN, SEA GRAPE, RYE bread, ROOIBOS, whiskey-based SOURS, AGED fine wines, HOT coffee, IPA.

Today’s quotation comes from DONALD BARTHELME, born Apr. 7, 1931.

Then Wanda proposed a toast. “Health to abandoned wives!" she said. "Well now," I said. "'Abandoned,' that's a little strong." "Pushed out, jettisoned, abjured, thrown away," she said. "I remember," I said, "a degree of mutuality, in our parting." "And when guests came," she said, "you always made me sit in the kitchen." "I thought you liked it in the kitchen," I said. "You were forever telling me to get out of the bloody kitchen." "And when my overbite required correction," she said, "you would not pay for the apparatus." "Seven years of sitting by the window with your thumb in your mouth," I said. "What did you expect?" "And when I needed a new frock," she said, "you hid the Master Charge." "There was nothing wrong with the old one," I said, "that a few well-placed patches couldn't have fixed." "And when we were invited to the Argentine Embassy," she said, "you made me drive the car in a chauffeur's cap, and park the car, and stand about with the other drivers outside while you chatted up the Ambassador." "You know no Spanish," I pointed out. "It was not the happiest of marriages," she said, "all in all." "There has been a sixty percent increase in single-person households in the last ten years, according to the Bureau of the Census," I told her. "Perhaps we are part of a trend.”
(From Sixty Stories)

Nancy 8:36 AM  

Ugly, ugly, ugly. Names up the wazoo. VLOGS not BLOGS, (whatever they are). How was TbAD a showstopper -- but I couldn't figure out a way to correct it. Have no idea what TETRIS is or how to play it. ROOISBOS!!!(Do some people actually know this?)

And the worst clue for CON (23D) I've ever seen.

If all puzzles were like this, I'd shoot myself.

Zwhatever 8:40 AM  

Sometimes I read comments and wonder if we read the same blog?
@JD - The puzzle is not the constructor. AJ can probably do an Animal Crossing puzzle but I doubt that Shortz would publish it (My rule of thumb, if you can interpret Rex's comments as a swipe at Shortz or the constructor they are probably a swipe at Shortz). MARIO BROS is essentially ancient history in video gaming. OTOH - I suspect it is far more generally familiar than Animal Crossing because of its longevity. Still, the game is older than the constructor so there's just a wee bit of dust on the puzzle cartridge (which makes me wonder if AJ has ever seen a puzzle cartridge).
@MiddleAgedMilennial - Rex specifically mentions that he played the game in the early 90's.
@SomeoneHasToBeMe - Rex mentioned that he knew the entries and even pointedly mentioned MURIEL BOWSER. His these solvers are just gonna have to take your word for it comment is generally applicable to Pop Culture. Since video games aren't his thing Rex is a little bit more demonstrative in his criticism, but only a wee little bit.

ROOIBOS - "an earthy flavor, similar to ... tobacco." Hard pass.

Nancy 8:41 AM  

What a great quotation today, Barbara!!! The high point of my puzzle-solving morning -- not that the puzzle itself presented any competition.

algiardello 8:43 AM  

Amen to your gut reaction on Hajji.

ghkozen 8:48 AM  

A quick Google shows that the Mario franchise has sold over 680 million games. Thats tens of millions more than the number of Beatles albums sold. With sales numbers like that, if a huge segment of the solving population has no idea who its core characters are its their own fault. Like it or not video games are just as fair game as movies, tv, music, and sports. They should be in the puzzle more, not less.

LostInPhilly 9:00 AM  

Fully agree with all the commenters supporting Mario! I come here mostly Rex's snark, which I am generally in total agreement with, but you can't complain about the NY-centric, classist, old white male myopia of the NYT xword (usually spot on!) and then hate on Mario, the most widely beloved and globally recognizable video game franchise of all time, as a theme. Generally speaking many, MANY more people will be familiar with Mario and its cast than, say, the random operas, composers, Broadway plays, and, yes, even Shakespeare references that normally gunk up the grid and give xwords a reputation as a hobby for the olds; people who we'd like to see doing xwords and who don't precisely because cultural icons like Mario are so rarely centered in this space. Not to mention, as MiddleAgedMilenneial (great handle, btw! I see you!) that the first Mario Bros. game came out in 1983 but is as fresh and relevant as ever. My 11yo nephew is obsessed with the games, Mario Kart is the only video game my 36yo video game-averse wife actually likes playing, and the only time I can ever remember my 70yo mother picking up an N64 controller was to play, you guessed it, a Mario game. It's a generational unifier and I would LOVE to see more content like this in future puzzles.

Pete M 9:03 AM  

Started with TEA instead of IPA and spent a NY second imagining why a giant ADELE would be rising over Citi Field...

Joaquin 9:05 AM  

I thought I was the only one, so I'm happy to see there are others who have never played any video games. But so what? Crosswords include all sorts of stuff I have never done. Not to mention stuff I've never even heard of (looking at you ROOIBOS).

Side note: @Rex suggests he wouldn't let the word HAJJI "anywhere near (his) puzzles". I believe if we cannot use HAJJI, even in a respectful manner such as in this puzzle, then the word-terrorist have won.

RAD2626 9:08 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Liked all the oddly placed consonants at the start of answers. Made you pause and think you must be wrong with your crosses. Shocked that GEORGIA PEACH and SEA GRAPE have never appeared in a puzzle. Lots of both here in Florida. Not shocked that ROOIBOS never has. Did an OOPSY DAISY on it.

LOU REED not exactly fresh. St. Vincent or Kid Cudi are fresh. Although Reed’s version of Sweet Jane is still haunting.

Very nice debut. And congrats to Will Shortz on an unbelievable milestone. Malcolm Gladwell would be proud. Truly an Outlier.

TTrimble 9:15 AM  

Rex was over-the-top harsh on this puzzle. I hope Adrian Johnson, if he reads Rex, thinks to himself/herself, "well, consider the source". I don't see that much in the way of "dreck". I did however find it easy for a Wednesday (and not medium).

ROOIBOS and ANCHO are cool. So is JINGOISM.

Don't know HAJJI as a slur (I mean, anything can become a slur due to semantic shift -- a good recent example is 'special'). For what nostalgic interest this has, it's homophonic with Hadji, the name of the friend of Jonny Quest, a Saturday morning cartoon for kids that I liked many moons ago. I just learned that his full name is Hadji Singh, and he wore a turban, consistent with his name which sounds like a Sikh name. He was a cool little dude.

I'm more used to "oops, a daisy" than I am OOPSY DAISY.

I second @MiddleAgedMilennial (you want another 'l' before -ennial?): MARIO BROS has been around quite a long time. I'm probably not far from the median age of commenters here (definitely older than Rex), and I and my wife had fun playing back in the day, so my guess is that a huge percentage of solvers have played games under that umbrella. Although I don't know enough myself to recognize immediately the answers that belong to the theme, except for BOWSER.

TETRIS is another old-school video game.

A huge percentage of the ales put out by microbreweries are IPAs, so if you're hip to the offerings of microbreweries, then you probably have sipped some IPAs. The cluing is not quite as far-fetched (or "wtf?") as Rex would have it.

I'm not a robot.

oceanjeremy 9:27 AM  

Regarding Mario Brothers: It's very current, in that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Super Mario Maker 2 were released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019, just two short years ago.

It's impossible to overstate how huge this franchise is. There have been almost 250 Mario Brothers games released in its four decade history. Here's a list. Bowser, Peach, Luigi, Mario, Yoshi, Koopa Troopas (and more) appear in every one of these games.

Every iteration of Nintendo includes new Mario Brothers releases. Meaning gamers who have just been born will still be playing Mario games as soon as they're old enough to pick up a controller.

Sorry, @Rex, you missed the mark there by a little bit. ;)

I found this unexpectedly hard in the SE, but I was solving groggy just before bed (after the melatonin and antihistamines I take for sleep were already heavily kicking in). I was almost waylaid by HORNEyTOAD but realized yODO was not a thing. So I fixed it after filling in the grid then scanning for mistakes. My other almost-undoing was just a stupid typo, I had IPr crossed with MErRA. So when I started error-hunting it took almost a full two minutes to find it, hiding down there at the very bottom-right corner of the puzzle.

Frustrating, but the fault was all mine.

oceanjeremy 9:35 AM  

Oh, one more note: ROOIBOS tea is one of my favorite things in the world, especially since I have given up caffeine for several years now (it tastes amazing, but causes me generalized anxiety). ROOIBOS is a naturally non-caffeinated beverage that isn't sweet, flowery or fruity (blech). @Z - I wouldn't characterize it as a tobacco flavor at all. It's a nice, deep savory taste.

Far too often you'll find it in a tea blend with other flowery/fruity herbal teas, which is a waste of its flavor in my humble (but correct) opinion. I recommend Numi's Rooibos Tea. Unadulterated rooibos. Delicious stuff, great as a morning beverage.

Numi also makes a Rooibos Chai tea that's delicious, if you want a chai tea flavor without the caffeine.

Oldwhiteguy 9:35 AM  

Badly clued with inappropriate use of been tenses and lotsa clunky fill

Nancy 9:38 AM  

*"Super Mario Bros. is totally predicated on violence. Jumping on top of enemies’ heads to squash them; dropping them into pits of lava; punching them; stealing their shells and kicking them to knock over other enemies; shooting fireballs and hurling objects at them all count as acts of violence, if cartoon violence rather than graphic violence. Mario even fights Bowser’s children on warships armed with cannons and bombs." --Quora

*(The result of my Google research this morning into Mario Bros -- a game that thankfully I know nothing about. A game that I don't want to know anything about.)

This description is my rejoinder to @Someone Has to Be Me; @ghkozen, @Lost in Philly and @Ted -- those Rexites who are justifying basing an entire puzzle around this video game because it's so very popular. Worse, some of you are pushing for MORE video games in MORE future puzzles. And some of you are even comparing knowledge of Mario to knowledge of (gasp) opera, Broadway plays and Shakespeare!

You're kidding, right?

I think it's been established by those who study these things that violent video games don't actually cause violence. But that doesn't mean that they don't lead to such things as the coarsening of American culture, the "dumbing down" of American youth and the glorification of violence, if not the practice of it. I'm a tolerant sort of person, so if that's the way you choose to spend your leisure time, go for it. But don't require me to expand my video game familiarity in order to solve a NYT crossword puzzle. Talk about a "breakfast test" that a puzzle theme doesn't pass! One video game answer is bad enough. An entire theme -- appalling.

Whatsername 9:40 AM  

I would definitely rank this as medium difficulty. I solved without even noticing a theme but it’s just as well since Pac-Man is the extent of my knowledge of video games. Not the most fun I ever had doing a puzzle, but it was a good solid effort and gamers probably loved it. Congratulations Adrian on your NYT debut!

And love him or hate him, you’ve gotta hand it to Will Shortz. 10,000 crosswords is an impressive record. Thanks @Lewis for pointing that out and for sharing your insightful critique. Whether I agree or not, I always find it interesting.

RooMonster 9:40 AM  

Hey All !
Great BOWSER pic, Rex!

ROOIBOS! Har! I've wanted to put that in a puz for a long time! And yes, of course I knew it, because when do you see a drink that starts with your nickname? I found a tea drink of it, like a cold 12 oz bottle. It wasn't terrible. I prefer to pronounce it ROO(schwa)BOWS. ☺️

Roughish fill due to the stacked themers. Not as bad as it could've been, though. Open NE/SW corners.

Have played MARIO BROS in my youth, used to be able to finish the game and save the princess! Was she PEACH? I can't remember if that was her name or not. Zelda was another fun game. It's amazing how far the graphics have come since MARIO. At the time, those were good graphics!

Will has been on a Debut rush these past few months. I guess it's true the "everyone staying home because of COVID" has more people constructing. I went opposite, and stopped! Har. Not like any of mine are good enough anyway. 😁

VLOGS are like BLOGS, but Video form, instead of written form. Video BLOG, shortened to VLOGS. I know... Kids these days! Har.

One F

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

MEARA....hasn't been seen since the 70s.
LOU REED....died nearly 10 years ago
But Mario Bros? Been popular for much of the past 35 years..... yeah THAT's dated and obscure. I think it's Rex whose bones are getting creaky. I guess maybe i've been lucky in that I have not once heard HAJJI used pejoratively.

Ulysses 9:44 AM  

Search engines have cancelled the blog just because they feel like it.

tea73 9:47 AM  

I whizzed through this puzzle in half my usual Wednesday time so was surprised that Rex rated it "Medium". I did start with the hiccup of spelling 1A HAdJI. Always an issue transliterating Arabic. My son wrote a paper about the former ruler of Libya and found at least ten different ways to spell his name. I can't remember which one he decided to use. Mu'ammar Al-Qadhdhāfī? Apparently even the subject himself did not settle on one official spelling.

My kids liked video games but we only had half an X-Box for a few year. My son and his best friend bought it with their own money and it spent half the time at our house and half the time with his friends. They never owned a MARIOBROS game though I saw kids playing it at other people's houses. Only vaguely aware of the character names, but the puzzle was so easy it didn't matter. Actually the only character I really know is Yoshi because the dino shares a name with my sister-in-law which strikes me as really weird, since he is apparently male.

My parents brought back some ROOIBOS tea after a trip to South Africa. I did not care for it.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Come now. The Super Bowl is watched by 100 million people ( in this country)every year. year in and year out. So an apples to apples copmparison is actually: The Super Bowl has bee watched by 5 billion people to date. that doesn't include the other 70 games that are among the year's top 100 most watched programs** That's world's more than Play Station 4's sales.
Also, you're counting revenue earned by The leagues and their constituent teams. But of course, that isn't the only revenue generated by those leagues. There's all sorts of ancillary economic activity associated with them. Not just hospitality( concession, bars, restaurants, hotels etc) but also things like gambling in the form of fantasy sorts, (unlicensed) merchandise. There's also employment--from part time game-day jobs to fancy pants tv producers. But much more than its economic reach is sports, especially football, cultural hegemony. Sure, I've seen hipsters with a princess peach T shirt. But I defy anyone to head out in public and not run into dozens of folks wearing sports apparel--jerseys, t shirts, hats jackets and coats and more. Its simply ubiquitous. Save teh WSJ, all major media outlets have a sports section. Not so with gaming. I could on, but the point is, while video games are indeed big business, they simply aren't as big a deal as sports. That may well change. I know some folks who are extremely concerned about it. ( and if you have an idea about how to reach kids under, say 17, and get them engaged in watching one particular major sport every Sunday in the Fall, let me know. You're sitting on millions)

*71 of the 100-most watched tv shows in 2020 were NFL games. I believe it was 18 of the top 20. I'll check on that second stat)

EdFromHackensack 9:48 AM  

has Alec Baldwin really hosted SNL over fifteen times ? They make a big deal if someone gets to 5, but more than triple that?
Almost put hOE/hOEr but told myself - they can't be THAT stupid

Tom R 9:53 AM  

Never played any Mario Bros - lucky I dredged up the name from somewhere, so those theme clues were meaningless to me as they relate to the theme. Beyond that, this is the easiest puzzle I can recall for a Wed. It just rolled over and played dead. No resistance. More like Mon than Wed.

TTrimble 9:55 AM  

How is "Reason against" such a terrible clue for CON? The only thing I can figure is that you might have read "reason" as a verb and not a noun.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Never heard Haji used as a slur. But I love that because some of you havent heard it used that way, there's no condemnation. Who careses if you hail from an area with the highest Arab population in the country? Someone has just told you it's used as a pejorative. So it's not ok, right? I mean haven't our woke superiors told us many times that if someone says something is offensive we should take them at their word and abandon using the term? Seems to me that's the standard argument for chink and beaner etc. Even when those words re clearly clued as something other than an insult.
Yet today, because the slur is unfamiliar to them, there's no pushback. Hmm. Curious. Funny just how parochial some of you scolds are.

jberg 9:56 AM  

I think I may have played Donkey Kong a few times, way back -- it was on a 27 inch CRT TV set with a primitive game controller you could attach to it. But not since. I agree that it's perfectly legit for crosswords, but I have a sincere question: how does one learn the names of the characters in a video game? Is there dialog? Do they come onscreen with little labels? Or is it just from reading the game descriptions? Please answer me someone, I'd really like to know!

ROOIBOS, which she calls "bush tea," is the beverage of choice for the protagonist of the "Number One Ladies' Detective Agency" series. Inspired by that, I bought a 4-oz. packet of the stuff a couple years ago, but I haven't yet had the nerve to open it up and try it. Maybe its puzzle inclusion will lead me to do so.

TETRIS, on the other hand-- my first book, published in 1995, would probably have been 1992 without my serious Tetris addiction. I deleted it from my PC many times, but never threw away the floppy disk, so I kept reinstalling it. So it was kind of nostalgic to see it in the puzzle.

My three babies' first words were all 'mama,' if I remember correctly. I took it hard, but was told reassuringly that it was easier to make the "m" sound. @Loren, is that correct?

I used to go to Washington 3 times a year to supervise student interns, and certainly saw MURIEL BOWSER's name on campaign signs; but I knew she's the current mayor only because she was quoted so much about the city's declined offer to have the city police at the Capitol on January 6. So that was a big help.

To end on a more pleasant note, some fine white wines are not aged, but delicious all the same.

TTrimble 10:09 AM  

Sorry, don't mean to pile on. And just so you know, I barely know much of anything about video games; my only "failing" would be Minesweeper, which I find a pleasant brain workout. But the original Mario is actually pretty innocent stuff, so I'd take that Quora bit with a heavy grain of salt. (By the way, Quora sucks in my humble opinion.) I might add that there's plenty of the good, bad, and ugly to be found in operas and Shakespeare.

"But don't require me to expand my video game familiarity in order to solve a NYT crossword puzzle."

Well, obviously do as your wish, but it sounds like the same type of complaint that's so often heard here, along the lines of "what? you expect me to know who Demi Lovato is?" All of it happens to be part of the world we live in, like it or not, and as I was saying yesterday, inclusion of such a broad array is probably what helps sales and subscriptions. So I'd say here: better get used to it. Or else go back to puzzles from the Maleska era (nothing wrong with that, of course).

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Mario Brothers is creaky, but Lou Reed isn't? I don't get you.........

Nancy 10:15 AM  

@TTrimble (9:55) -- To be CON something simply says you're against it. It doesn't provide the "reason against". That must be done separately, as I am doing now: Explaining the reason why I'm CON the CON clue. If you see what I mean :)

Jeff 10:27 AM  

Yeah, you're just wrong about Mario Bros being "old". It's a franchise much more than a game at this point, and my 14 yr old and 20 yr old sons wouldn't even blink at this clue. Just how young are you going for? IPAs are definitely hipster beers too. I'm starting to wonder if you're culturally in tune as you might think. Maybe run these by one of your students, who may be in the same demographic as the 21 yr old constructor.

I thought the fill was fine, even that NW corner. And a few great words thrown in. Big miss on this review.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Ed from Hackensack,

Not only does Baldwin's world view and politics completely mesh with SNL's, he also lives only 40 blocks (and three avenue)s away from 30 Rock. 300 Central Park West. (the) el Dorado. Nice digs.

Also, are you from Hackensack? I'd give my right arm for a couple of White Manna doubles ( w/ onions natch).

Stimpson 10:33 AM  

Had a love/hate relationship with this one.

@Z - completely agree with your sentiment on hajji. I _have_ heard it used pejoratively primarily by military in Iraq/Afghanistan.

@Nancy et al. rooibos is popular enough that theres a celestial seasonings version and has 25(!?) pages of rooibos variations for sale.

Seems poor Rex wasn't allowed an NES growing up. Stuck with only pulp fiction books. :-P

Nancy 10:35 AM  

@TTrimble (10:09) -- So, I popped "Mario Bros/violence?" into my search box, and the Quora quote was the first one to appear. I'm sure there were many, many other such descriptive quotes, but this told me all I needed to know about the nature of the game. (I have no idea who Quora is, btw.)

I expect to get flak -- perhaps a lot of it -- for my comment, but I felt it really needed to be said. I have visions of historians at some time in the future examining the shards of our vanished civilization and stumbling, purely by chance, across the remains of an entire chain store's-worth of video games. "Have you seen this?" they will ask each other. "And this? And this?" "Ah, yes," one will answer, nodding sadly. "That sort of explains it, doesn't it?"

mathgent 10:39 AM  

Lewis liked it because it has entries which haven't been in the puzzle before. That's not enough for me. But I did like JINGOISM. GEORGIAPEACH is common. Some of us know ROOIBOS tea, so I probably should have heard of it.

Pretty dull. Not having played MARIOBROS was no problem because the names of the characters were easily deduced.

Like @jberg, I was addicted to TETRIS. I had it on a Gameboy and played it every day for two or three years. Now I don't remember it at all.

Guerin Wilkinson 10:44 AM  

Sea grape is the dominant plant species that stabilizes the dunes along the Florida coast, not some obscure whatever. It is in the buckwheat/knotweed family. Fat round leaves, attractive and vital to the ecology.

Ethan Taliesin 10:48 AM  

The euphemism treadmill continues. It's funny how the left (my side) are always the ones to suggest a ban the use of certain words, context be damned. The doubleplusgood illiberalism of the left.

I think it's really counterproductive because the only people who are going to purge these words from their vocabularies are those who wouldn't use them as slurs in the first place-- all the while making them more deliciously taboo for the jerks who will just use them even more.

The road to culture-war hell is paved with good intentions.

Steve M 10:50 AM  

Well Mario bros really?

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

hard to call the puzzle creaky and old when the author is a 21-year old college student!

TTrimble 10:53 AM  

@Nancy 10:15 AM
Think of it this way: when you list pros and CONs, as under a pro column and a con column, you're listing reasons for and against. Here the parts of speech for both "reason" and "con" are nouns.

Quora is a crowd-sourced information site. I said it "sucks" based on my personal experience and areas of expertise: much of the info is written by people who may proclaim themselves as experts but are really far from it. People upvote or downvote the answers, but then as often happens, they do so on the basis of their own background which may be similarly limited. (It's not wholly unlike a parable once offered by Richard Feynman: a poll is taken about what people think is the length of the nose of the Chinese emperor, whom no one has seen, and then people vote on the "best answer", or take an average.)

Linda R 10:54 AM  

@Nancy (10:15 AM) - You're still misreading the con clue. A con IS a reason against. You can see it at It's not the first definition but it's definitely there: "an argument or evidence in opposition"

jae 10:57 AM  

Easy. Add me to those who never played the MARIO BROS. video game. In fact most of my MARIO knowledge comes from crosswords, although I have seen screen shots of the game occasionally in movies. So, all the theme characters were unknown to me.


Pretty smooth with a couple of nice long downs, liked it even though it completely missed my wheelhouse.

Richard in NM 11:02 AM  

@Nancy 9:38am. You're kidding, right?

Luigi 11:04 AM  

@Nancy, Nancy, Nancy....Mario Bros games are less violent than any of the Warner Bros Looney Tunes I watched late 50s - early 60s. The video games that folks think significantly contribute to the violence mindset are Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, Doom, etc. Think of it as the difference between watching an old episode of Gunsmoke in contrast with a Tarantino Kill Bill. With that said, I understand why this puzzle didn’t rock your boat even though I enjoyed it.

GILL I. 11:05 AM  

I am FLUENT in a PEACH cobbler.....I will have some AGED EDAM with a slice of APPLE. I will add an ANCHO chili to my enchiladas and maybe drink some HOT ROOIBOS or maybe have a whiskey SOUR. Perhaps a GRAPE or two stuffed in the pork LOIN but I'll be damned if any MARIO BROS are invited to my feast.
After reading @Nancy, I'm glad our family never did partake. Is that why NUKE is right there in the middle?
@jberg...I'm no expert but my. children and my grandkids always started out with PAPA. The "M" sound was harder for them. We never allowed the word DADA in our house. ;-)
Only favorite entry: OOPSY DAISY.
My ANO runneth over.....

Unknown 11:05 AM  

I liked it, especially OOPSYDAISY. I have never played Mario Bros but have spent a fortune buying the games and other related merch over the years for my two, now adult, sons who also would regularly chat about it at the dinner table. So the theme came easily to me.

Noah 11:13 AM  

Hmmm, I literally cannot think of a more well known video game franchise than Mario. I can understand problems with the fill here but I cannot understand calling Mario obscure. It's quite literally the best selling video game franchise of all time. There have been 256 Mario games. Multiple games every single year since 1981 have featured Mario and crew. If you think using Mario is exclusionary what you're really saying is "video games have no place in crosswords."

Jesse 11:16 AM  

How this puzzle came to be: *creator notices Mayor of DC has last name Bowser...* "I've go an idea!"

The end.

Also, to be fair, the Mario franchise is alive and doing very well. The vast majority of young children are quite familiar with these characters.

Noah 11:25 AM  

Don't choke on your Grape Nuts, Nancy! Heaven forbid the NYT (high-brow) start dipping their toes into video games (low-brow, for plebeians). I, like you, don't care that video games are more popular than movies and sports combined (based on revenue) - I want my crossword to include only things that I (smart, classy, old) care about.

What happened to good ol' fashioned opera clues? Why can't we stick to the classics? Bluebeard's Castle, a lovely 1911 opera about a man marrying and murdering his wives systematically is what I want to see. Or at least something like Tosca, the wonderfully light 1900 Puccini opera which only includes one stabbing, just one measly firing squad and only one single spectacular suicide (not violent compared to horrendous animated hopping on imaginary Goomba heads!).

Pete 11:26 AM  

@TTrimble = Singh sounds like a Sikh name? Maybe just a little...

I didn't know any of the Mario Bros characters, but so what? It's not like I expect to have the theme help with the solve, 90% of the time they're just an irrelevant side show to the puzzle, and the 10% of the time they're not, they're not because the screw up the puzzle.

I didn't know what ROOIBOS is/was and, now that I do, I have another useless piece of info floating arounds my head. I'm frequently amused by speculating on how we, as humans, decided to start eating some particular item. Our starving ancestors saw a seagull eating a clam, so we ate clams. Someone sees an antelope eating some leaves in the bush, and we eat, or steep, leaves in the bush.

@Z - With you on the Hajji sentiment.

I could do without being reminded of that particular SNL Host in my morning newspaper. I despise him in a way that isn't 100% rational.

Newboy 11:28 AM  

Rex’s review is confirmed by the constructor note at xwordinfo. Sorta a one trick pony perhaps, but still....Congratulations on your debut, always an impressive feat for any constructor. As you note “ I hope there was enough ROOIBOS, PR SAVVY, TEACH ME, JINGOISM, SNL HOST, etc. to make it an enjoyable solve.” I taught POE for years and had never considered the POET occupation at a conscious level; I have to add that to the SEA GRAPES & ROOIBOS for future reference. All in all, well-done Adrian.

Masked and Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Only Mario Bros folks I knew comin in was Mario, Luigi, and Kong. There was a damsel in the game for Mario to save from Kong, but I do not recall ever hearin of her name. Was she maybe DAISY?

Best thing about the puzgrid , at our house, was definitely the ultra-rare use of weeject slabs: weeject stacks stacked on top of each other, in the NW & SE. Weeject Kong. Primo.
staff weeject pick: POE the POE-T.

Just for the record, didn't know: SEAGRAPE. ROOIBOS. ANCHO. And the new ELLA on the block. M&A brainpan was also pretty vague on MURIELBOWSER and ECOTONE. Sooo … learned lotsa new stuff and lost lotsa dear nanosecond friends.

Congratz to The Shortzmeister, on havin edited his NYT x-word #10,000.

Thanx, Mr. Johnson dude … and congratz on yer NYT x-word #1.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


Carola 11:40 AM  

No idea about Mario and his mates, but I liked the theme answers + SCOURGE, ROOIBOS, JINGOISM, BOWSER x PAWS AT.
Help from previous puzzles: ECOTONE.

@jberg 9:56, you're one step ahead of me. I don't even dare buy ROOIBOS.

EdFromHackensack 11:50 AM  

@Anonymous 10:30 am . While Manna is the bomb, consistently on the “Top Burgers of NJ” list. Retro old school to boot. I actually am now living a few towns north up Kinderkamack on the Oradell/Emerson border.

TTrimble 11:57 AM  

@Pete 11:26 AM
Are you suggesting I'm making that up? Or were you being facetious? If the former, you might read this.

A 11:57 AM  

Happy National Coffee Cake Day!

Mmmm, coffee cake with a side of GEORGIA PEACHes, or better yet, Chilton County, Alabama, peaches - YES MA’AM!

Don’t play video games but the puzzle was flavorful and wacky enough to make up for some of the desperate-looking fill. Appreciated the imaginative, if silly, clue for AN O. Just now got the clue for MOPES. Lots of longer, interesting entries - JINGOISM, SCOURGE, LOU REED (or is it LOURÉED, like sautéed?). Fun seeing FATS next to LIEN. Learned ECOTONE.

Who won the church relay? The PASTORS, BY A NOSE!

I knew 7D would be either bLOGS or VLOGS (video blogs, right?) so when T bAD didn’t make sense I tried T VAD, which still made no sense. Then the light bulb went on. TV AD. T hee.

@Nancy, definitely try red ROOIBOS ‘tea’ if you haven’t had it- it has a full, sweet flavor and pleasant aroma. It has more antioxidants than green tea, is low in tannins and has potential as an ACE inhibitor. People are also using it in food and in cosmetics. I saw a recipe for Mussels in Rooibos-Pernod Cream Sauce - think I’ll see if my personal chef wants to make it!

@Ttrimble, I always want HAJJI to be spelled HAdJI because of Jonny Quest I remember being fascinated with Hadji, who was one of the few Indian characters on TV. He was the 7th son of a 7th son, so he had special powers like levitation, snake-charming, and hypnotism. The bodyguard was also an AIR ACE.

Thanks, Mr. Johnson, URAL RYEt!

TTrimble 11:59 AM  

And this as well.

Malsdemare 12:00 PM  

I shall comment just because I can, not that it will add anything to the conversation. I LOVED Mario Bros; if I hadn't finished my dissertation, Mario would have been where I fixed the blame. I remember late, late nights—more like early mornings—fixated on the damn game. Between Mario keeping me up nights, and my dissertation puppy waking me at five and thus forcing me to use those early morning hours to write, I'm amazed I got any sleep at all.

You can still find me playing Angry Birds, Monument Valley, Temple Run (along with some other mindless diversions) any time I have a few minutes to kill, though my days of wasting hours on the amusement are gone. I have no idea what facet of my character is reflected in these obsessions of mine—I can become equally immersed in statistical data analysis or genealogy—but I imagine it will come up in my eulogy.

I'm 75. Bite me.

Aelurus 12:04 PM  

Saw the theme early and not being Mario fluent, just ignored it and worked the puzzle, which was fun to solve. Favorite clues: 32A and 32D: POET/POE. Nose-crinkle clue: 48D for PAWS AT. GEORGIA PEACH reminded me of A League of Their Own, but, turns out, it was the Rockford Peaches. There may be occasional crying in cruciverbing, though. Another great baseball movie: Bull Durham.

Horned "toads" used to be abundant in my yard but sadly I've not seen these ADORB lizards out there in some time and was happy to encounter them in the puzzle.

@Barbara S late Sunday - glad you saw the Angelou quote with a baseball theme. I always look forward to reading your choices.

@A Sunday night - According to the blog, those plucky ospreys have had interesting encounters with weather lately, even, in the What Fresh Hell Is This department, having to clean up the nest after fierce winds and then snow on Easter Sunday!

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

For myself, I learned about the Hadj long before 9/11, and never saw it spelled HAJJ, nor participants as HAJJI. Can anyone care to enlighten? A different Americanization?

pmdm 12:07 PM  

As someone who years ago played video games quite often (starting with pong), I knew some (but not all) of the names. By the time of the home video consoles, I had moved my life on, I guess. Whatever, for that reason I enjoyed the puzzle a lot.

Given Will's milestone, there is a bit more out there than you can find on this site. Try out Chen's site (XWordInfo) if you are interested in learning more.

One of the things that caught my eye was the statistic that of the 200 or so submissions sent in each week, only about 20% are from women. If you want to solve a problem, you have to understand where the problem originates.

JD 12:08 PM  

@Z, I disagree with everything you said except “fuck the racists, they don’t get to own this word," which I love.

The puzzle is not the constructor? Aw c'mon, get serious. Even with editing you can see the personality. Geez Louise (I say that). Even all Rex is doing is taking aim at Shortz everyday, I still think he got seriously off track here.

The "kids" will be 28 and 31 this year so I know from Mario and it's place in history. See @SomeOneHasToBeMe, who wrote what I was thinking (football clues from the 80s, baseball, and long gone golfers ... uncanny).

Finding out that the constructor was 21, the title of Joyce Maynard's 1972 essay, "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life" popped into the ole noggin. Rex is wrong.

TTrimble 12:15 PM  

That was great -- thanks! Memories... Hanna-Barbera did not skimp on the intro music, now, did they? Compare the music for The Jetsons (I like the swangin' trumpet for daughter Judy).

The music for Jonny Quest reminds me a little of The Streets of San Francisco.

emily 12:35 PM  

Tetris & MBros I played w/ my kids, Tetris is fun! Rooisbos is an herbal tea, kinda similar to hibiscus. I had fun with this Wed puzzle.

Pete 12:39 PM  

@TTrimble - I well knew that all Sikh men should, and most do, take the last name Singh and women Kaur.

Knowu 12:39 PM  

People use other search engines?!?

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Ed from Hackensack,
For my money White Manna is THE top burger. So many times, places with great reputations aren't all they're cracked up to be. White Manna was better than advertised. My first time I was a little daunted but that fierce woman on the grill--I think she's a principal--kind of put me at ease when she b**ch slapped a pushy guy who jumped the line. Man, that place was packed and she knew exactly who was next. I couldn't peg her ethnicity. Then on one of those vapid travel or cooking shows White Manna popped up and there she was. Turns out she's Israeli. Guessing she knows Krav Maga. But I'm certain she doesn't need it. Her steely death stare is more than enough to control a room.

Don't know nothing about the land North of Rt. 4. But if your travels include the less tony towns, avoid White Manna in Jersey City. Its big and comfortable, but for some reason, nowhere near as good as that little joint on the river.

Cory 12:51 PM  


Your initial comment re: Mario Bros. along with your subsequent responses are concerning for the same sort of confirmation bias, willful ignorance, and poor source-vetting that has been plaguing social media with misinformation in recent years.

First of all, as another commenter mentioned, Quora is a crowd-sourced online question-and-answer forum that can be used and rated by anyone anonymously (similar to Yahoo Answers) - there is no formal vetting/editing process beyond that, and while you may get useful answers here and there, the information posted is often unreliable and susceptible to online trolling.

Now while I don't expect everyone to know what Quora is, the fact that you (1) typed specific Google search terms based on your biases (rather than just typing "Super Mario Bros."), (2) clicked on the first result you saw, and then, (3) once you saw the information confirmed your biases, stopped there without assessing the validity of the source (or learning more about the subject matter) and decided you knew enough to extrapolate a sweeping judgement. Your later response then doubles down with what seems like an almost self-congratulatory (or self-victimizing) "I expect to get flak... I felt it really needed to be said", subsequently followed up with a holier-than-thou speculative scenario as justification.

Now the primary issue I have here isn't even the quality or relevance of the theme - though I would argue it is absolutely fair game, as Mario is no short of a massive cultural phenomenon, being the best-selling video game franchise of all time (680 million+ copies sold) and one of the longest-running (original release 1981). Of course, you're more concerned about the "coarsening" of American culture (which I'll address later) - which as a comment evokes the sort of snobbery that push newer solvers away from the crossword community.

My issue is with your willful misrepresentation of the series. The Mario games, as another user mentioned, is one of the most "innocent" franchises out there - you play as a jovial, stocky cartoon plumber with a silly, high-pitched faux-Italian accent who defeats walking mushrooms by jumping on them (and they just go "poof", no blood or gore!) on his way to saving a princess from an large, evil cartoon turtle. Gender norms and damsel-in-distress tropes aside, it is hardly the violent shoot-em-up title you are probably imagining. It's been the the source of countless nostalgic childhood memories for me and was one of the hobbies that I shared and still share with my father (who will be 60 years old next year, mind you). And as I ended up going into the medical field for a career, you can take my anecdotal evidence of n=1 and rest assured that no, playing Super Mario did not turn me into a violent delinquent.

Now I agree with you that there are certain video games that absolutely do not contribute to much cultural enrichment - the Grand Theft Auto series come to mind, as well as the deluge of first-person shooter titles out there. But to paint video games as a monolithic entity would be a mistake. There are video games out there that are beautiful works of art and storytelling, those that raise awareness for mental health, and countless others that teach the value of and perseverance and collaboration. I am happy to talk with you (and anyone else) further on other platforms should you want to learn more.

Whatsername 12:55 PM  

@Nancy (9:38) “... that doesn't mean that they don't lead to such things as the coarsening of American culture, the dumbing down of American youth and the glorification of violence.” Amen, amen to that. Whether the source be TV shows, movies, cartoons, or video games, the effect is the same.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Women are over represented in NYT Times crosswords. Characters with same sex attraction are over represented on TV shows. And if you watch national commercials you'd be hard pressed to conclude that interracial couples were in the majority.
Not sure that woman accounting for less than 20% of NYT crossword puzzle submissions constitutes a problem. The only people who seem to want quotas are people like Rex who are utterly intolerant of positions and people whose worldview is different than theirs.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

people whose worldview is different than theirs.

As the behaviour of The Orange Sh!tgibbon (not my coinage, but I cleave) has exposed, the issue is the conflict between the reality and science based folks and those who cleave to fantasy realities. Some are religious fanatics, and some are just psychopaths.

burtonkd 1:10 PM  

@TTrimble, Nancy topic - I find it interesting that the search started with Super Mario Bros/violence. If I knew nothing of the game, that list looks pretty daunting, but the game plays more like a maze to navigate with moving obstacles in the form of brightly colored cartoony characters. First person shooters, on the other hand...

It is interesting that as big as the video game industry is, it still feels niche. Sports, even if it does have a smaller revenue intake, does occupy much more space in the world knowledge sphere. As an exercise to demonstrate that money doesn't decide something's prominence, remember that the cardboard box industry takes in more than the NFL. Anyone seen any recycled pulp producing executive trading cards lately?

Wheelhouses, eh? I'm surprised at the unfamiliarity of ROOIBOS.

For the DC mayor, I wanted Marion Barry, but one letter short. In the Pacific NW, the marionberry is a popular flavor for juice drinks and such. I thought it was a (nonIPA) hip reference the first time I saw one at a smoothie bar.

Aelurus 1:25 PM  

@jberg 9:56 - I also tried ROOIBOS after watching that excellent and too-short-lived HBO series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I like the tea but my favorite is a ginger spice tea I order online from tea-o-graphy, discovered at a small Taos breakfast place some years ago. Our server was the tea-meister and she created many different tea flavors, caffeinated and herbal, including a honey lavender. (Played a lot of TETRIS once as well.)

@TTrimble 9:15 and @A 11:57 - I remember in the '90s discovering Jonny Quest and thinking what a cool animated series. Then I discovered Space Ghost Coast to Coast and was further entertained for a short while by a talk show spoof with a mantis bandleader and superhero host. Then I discovered Scooby-Doo and was not amused and there ended my animation explorations. And @A - thanks for further rooibos accolades.

TTrimble 1:28 PM  

@Anonymous 12:43 PM
"So many times, places with great reputations aren't all they're cracked up to be." There's a little burger joint with advertised car hop service not far from where I live, called The Sycamore, that was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I've gotten food from there twice, but I should have learned from the first time. I'm at a loss to explain how it stays open.

Missy 1:37 PM  

Well done!🙌

Aelurus 1:43 PM  

@Lewis 6:50 am - Wow, 10,000th puzzle! Thanks for pointing that out. I remember one of the first Will Shortz Sunday puzzles I solved and was surprised at a theme that turned out to be...a rainbow rebus! It was great fun and BODE(d) a different focus. Do you remember that one?

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

A Mario clue is similar to something like "brown material used for shipping boxes." But don't require me to expand my paper product familiarity in order to solve a NYT crossword puzzle.

Also, to your trading card point, no, I haven't seen any for cardboard manufacturers(?) but I absolutely have seen them for video game characters and for professional gamers. While we're at it, let's talk about niche - no one except no one collects trading cards in 2021. Welcome the the 21st century gang.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

Someone should do something about fraud go-to places. Make a website. Or a newsletter. Debunk these fraudsters. I'm guessing some of these places were once great, but have lost a step, or eight. I don't know the Sycamore, but your experience is sickeningly familiar.

Anyone else care to chime in on places near you that are over hyped and under performing? Of course, the reverse is always better: places with no reputation that are terrific.

I'll start. Villa de Roma in Philly. Right on 9th street. top of the Italian market. No pretense, no bullsh** just good food. Nary a foodie in sight. which is getting harder to do in the Quaker city. A couple of years ago it became super hot in certain circles. The nonsense has died down, but a lot of crud and BS remains.

CreamyT 2:03 PM  

If it makes you feel any better, "horny toad" is a correct name for them. Sure, it wouldn't have the E, but an easy mistake to make!

Athough I think that name has fallen by the wayside. I can't imagine why.

Tom Q 2:08 PM  

I only knew ECOTONE because it was the title of a Six Feet Under episode -- a hiker had been killed by a mountain lion, and ECOTONE was the term given for bio-milieus that collide with one another.

ROOIBOS was strictly a random collection of letters to me. The crosses were all easy enough, but I double-checked them because the word looked so absurd I figured I must have something wrong.

Also never played Mario Bros, so there was a ton of rely-on-the-crosses for me today.

BarbieBarbie 2:23 PM  

In Deb Amlen's interview with Shortz on Wordplay today, he tells her that he reads all the crossword blogs except one.

Jeff Chen must be crushed.

Easy puzzle even though I never played Mario-anything.I thought the SEAGRAPES word-of-the-day was a mistake until I looked and realized I got that one all in the Acrosses so I never saw it. Maybe secretly I am 21.

burtonkd 2:28 PM  

@anon 1:55 - no problem on my end with Mario clues. Completed Supermario 3 in the early 90s, then quit that particular timesuck. My point with cardboard manufacturing was that no matter the size of the industry, sports names are more recognizable by the general population.

As far as trading card popularity goes, google "trading card market boom" and get back to me.

CreamyT 2:40 PM  

This criticism of "kids these days" has been happening since the beginning of civilization. I'm not being hyperbolic.

Aristotle: "They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things -- and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning -- all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything -- they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else."

Hesiod: "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint".

You have to admit, it's not hard to see older generations saying exactly this about current ones, or generations previous to yours saying it about yours. It's a tired, endless cycle.

Think of the litany of negative opinions on film, modern music, and television for the past 100 years. Culturally significant artists at the time who were critically derided. None of us alive today have not faced criticisms of their culture from the cultures before them. And for one more quote, that I think is relevant to all of this:

George Orwell: “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

Video games are culturally significant, there's no avoiding it. I alone financially support my wife and child. We own a house, we own a car, I make good money, I have a good career, I have a lot of friends, I get along with my family, and I play video games. It has no bearing on one's success in life. Please don't be so quick to judge, and please keep in mind how this cycle of condescension can be frustrating.

And also, I love seeing references in puzzles.

sharonak 2:53 PM  

My reaction to ?Rex's take on the use of Halli was, If it is being used as a pejorative, or just a careless ethnic describer, then it is good to put it in a crossword with the appropriate, respectful definition.

SharonAK 3:15 PM  

@ Nancy 10:15 I see what you mean, but you are missing the point.

When we say "the pros and cons" We could be saying" the reasons for and the reasons against"

It was a perfectly good clue.

GILL I. 3:38 PM  

@BarbieBarbie 2:23...."Jeff Chen must be crushed" made me laugh out loud....
You know, It's actually a shame he doesn't read the @Rex blog. He can skip over OFL if he wants to - after all, OFL doesn't read us either - (according to him). BUT, most of us don't sugar coat our feelings; we are (mostly) never rude and maybe he can learn a thing or two for future puzzles. I've read some of the other blogs; I like Diary of a Crossword Fiend, but it's no where near as fun as this one.
Sometimes we have to grow a few and take it on the chin. I know it gets tiresome when you're constantly berated but when you are who you are, you take the good with the bad.

Best little underrated dive in Sacramento is the Flip n Shake on Auburn Blvd. Order the Fireball burger with an Oreo milkshake. I might call Fieri and tell him to go there with his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This fits in all 3 categories.

bocamp 3:59 PM  

@SharonAK (3:15 PM) 👍

Between you and @TTrimble, hopefully @Nancy will be able to see that the clue works. I feel for her, since I also had difficulty with it initially. After a couple of minutes, I finally got the "reason" (noun vs verb idea), and put the noun version into play, along the same lines as the two of you did.

@GILL I. (3:38 PM)

I wonder if maybe Will doesn't occasionally sneak a peak at the general commentary on this blog, just avoiding Rex's write-up. 🤔

pg -5

Peace ~ Empathy ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anoa Bob 4:15 PM  

MARIO BROS is the only video game name I knew. The others here were mysteries.

The SAVVY part of 48A PR SAVVY came into use via a sort of osmosis along the southwest frontier between Spanish-speaking Mexicans and English speaking Americans. "Sabe" is Spanish for he, she or it knows and since the sound of the letters "b" and "v" are almost identical in Spanish, it sounded like "SAH vay" to the Americans. They continued to use in the slightly sound-tweaked SAVVY form to mean the same thing . You SAVVY? I wonder if linguists or lexicographers have a term for that sort of thing.

The appearance of SEA GRAPE at 37D brought to mind our recent deep freeze down here in sub-tropical coastal south Texas, the worst I've seen in my 30 years in this area. I've seen it drop below freezing several times but it's usually for a few hours. This time it was below freezing for several days! Several plants in the area bit the dust, the SEA GRAPE being one. Our neighborhood had several enormous, very old rubber trees (they're beautiful and great for shade) and they also succumbed. Many others were heavily damaged, including ALOE VERAS, but they will bounce back. Don't know about the SEA GRAPE but I think the rubber trees are gone for good. Very sad.

Unknown 4:53 PM  

I had no idea haji was a slur...perhaps the left has a much larger roster of ethnic insults. At any rate, Johnny Quest is in trouble...

Zwhatever 6:39 PM  

@BarbieBarbie - 😂🤣😂🤣😂

@JD - Agree with you about a puzzle having the constructor’s voice. There are a number of frequent constructors where I don’t really need the byline. But that’s a different thing than opining that the puzzle is not the constructor. Going back to my earlier observation, there are a large number of huge and fresher video games that have made appearances in other puzzles, Minecraft, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Animal Crossing. MARIO BROS is all the things people are saying today, huge, still pretty popular, and old to the point of being dated, youthful only in the sense that video games are perceived as a youthful pastime, hip in much the same way IPAs are hip, i.e. hip 10-20 years ago. At this point a new MARIO BROS is the cultural equivalent of the latest Bond reboot.

@Anon12:04 - It’s actually spelt حَجّ so anything in English is just an attempt to approximate that. Wikipedia lists HAJJ, Hadj, Hadji or Haj as possible spellings.

@Nancy - First, we have all been there. Second, please list your reasons for and your reasons against the clue. Or, if you prefer, please list the pros and CONs.

@oceanjeremy - I have no personal experience, the quote was from the Wikipedia article. I tend to like a good dark roast coffee and high IBU IPAs, so maybe I would like ROOIBOS. But I’m in no hurry to try.

Best Burger - Miller’s Bar, 23700 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, MI

Scott 6:58 PM  

I guess y'all don't drink herbal AT ALL. Rooibos is common on my Chicago grocery store shelves. And never hearing of Tetris, TETRIS! SMH. Tetris has been around since the late 1980s. None of you ever had a Game Boy??? And if any of youse watched the inauguration, you'd know that ELLA Emhoff was a breakout star of the event. She's on fire rn!

JD 7:11 PM  

@Z, I'm back. It's a slow day in the salt mine. One of the millennials called and I ran it past her. She said that Mario is still popular and even has a new Legos kit that allows kids to build the course and interact with characters.

I think the thing is, if you want new then I'd agree. For me, this skews to the young and is firmly entrenched in their world, plus I was still able to pull it off. So win win.

Antetokounmpo_x2 8:23 PM  

Hmm, agree to disagree. Without looking, who won the NBA MVP the last year? What about the year before? Who won the 2015 NBA Finals? Who was the finals MVP that year? Surely these hugely important and talented individuals/teams are household names? I'll give you a hint, it's not Larry Bird or (believe it or not) Michael Jordan. It wasn't the Lakers in 2015 (or the Knicks!) There have been ~23204 professional football players in history. Mario, Peach, Bowser, and Daisy, however have been around nearly 40 years! Name one professional anything player who has remained the most central figure to their sport for 40 years.

To your boom point, look up Fazeclan (a gaming "team") on Instagram (10.9 million followers) and compare to the resurgent Topps trading card company (201k followers) and let's chat about what that "boom" means contextually. Sure, more people than last year are into trading cards - that doesn't make it a non-niche hobby. My only point is that if your metric for determining item popularity is whether or not trading cards exist of said item, you're living in an antiquated world. Also, why would there be trading cards of, uhhh *checks notes* cardboard?

GM 8:42 PM  

I was too old for Mario Bros (Pong was the video game of the day) but an unopened Super Mario Smash Bros just sold for $660,000.

Lady Di 8:48 PM  

Oh my god, I dip my toes in Rex Parker’s comments section for ONE afternoon. I don’t know whether you can turn pearls into diamonds but if you clutch yours a little harder I bet we’ll find out.

Lady Di 9:06 PM  

My Boomer dad was a Tetris wizard, people have had 37 years to learn about it by now. Woof.

Anonymous 9:08 PM  

GM ( and Antetokounmpo_x2)
And Tom Brady’s rookie football card just sold for more than $2 million.

Lewis 9:35 PM  

@aelurus -- I think I do, vaguely....

NotWayneGretzky! 9:45 PM  

One time a bluefin tuna sold for $1.76 million. Where's that famous Tuna in crosswords?

PS5 sales are around $2.6 billion so far. 5.21 million individual purchases.

55.7 million Nintendo Switch consoles (where you can play Mario) have been sold. Although I'm sure the person/group of people that purchased Mr. Brady's rookie card would knock football crossword clues out of the park, I don't think a single, one time sale of a collectors item demonstrates popularity.

But since you're a Pats fan, here's a gimme! Which cornerback intercepted a pass from Russell Wilson in the closing seconds of Superbowl XLIX securing a Patriots victory (and a Superbowl MVP for Tom Brady to boot)? Surely his card in the incredibly popular and currently BOOMING trading card industry must hold value?

JOHN X 10:16 PM  

I’ve never played any of the Mario games but I figured out the answers anyway. I learned a bit and I thought this was a very nice puzzle, very well done.

I would have liked to have played Mario Brothers, but in ’83 I was still a forgotten POW locked in a tiger cage, bound and gagged and blindfolded 23 hours a day with bamboo shoots jammed under my fingernails, subsisting on insects I could lick off the filthy floor with two cellmates who each had been dead over a year. I think playing Mario Brothers would have been a great way back then just to break up the monotony.

Loren Muse Smith 2:18 AM  

@Nancy – in the past four years, my school has had three students take their lives with a gun, (the most recent this past summer – a 9th-grader who once agreed to play my Let’s-Walk-to-the-Library-Like-Lemurs game) so your “If all puzzles were like this, I’d shoot myself” comment felt like a punch in the gut. I know it’s a common expression, but I bet there are better ways to express that sentiment.

SundaySilence 7:31 AM  

The same day as this puzzle, a Mario Bros speed record was broken!

Unknown 10:12 AM  

Isn't SNL three letters?

thefogman 10:07 AM  

No need to REAIR the grievances. Rex said it all.

spacecraft 11:23 AM  

There is a syndicated blogger who remains anonymous but whose favorite word is "pissers." I have to stand with this fellow today. The grid is absolutely loaded with them. And in all of OFC's tirade, there isn't even a passing mention of the worst of them all: ROOIBOS. And it's only Wednesday? Raise your hand if you knew that one.

Right. Me neither.

If you have to put ROOIBOS and PRSAVVY and OOPSYDAISY in your puzzle, trust me, whatEVER you're trying to do: it's not worth it. Double-bogey.

Burma Shave 12:08 PM  


I'm one who PAWSAT everything ISEE,


rondo 12:50 PM  

Maybe Wednesdays are becoming the new Tuesdays.
Same HAdJI and ECOzONE write-overs others had.
Even the corners are a SHAM.

@lefty - I'd like to think slick

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Pissers reached a critical mass in the SE, killing this puzzle. Rejected.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

From Syndication Land

I spent the '90s watching my two kids bond over Mario Bros games. How can you do a Mario Bros themed puzzle without Luigi???

leftcoaster 4:31 PM  

Not into video games, but the MARIO BROS characters popped up quickly enough, even if it took a bit of time to see D.C.’s MURIEL BOWSER.

Erred twice: Wanted an E instead of a V in VLOGS and an X instead of an S in ROOIBOS, the latter serving as word of the day. And of course the two errors had other ramifications.

Thought the puzzle was on the tougher side of medium.

Diana, LIW 5:21 PM  

A couple of real unknowns, so I had some lucky guesses - the ever popular ROOIBOS - sure! So I agree with @Lefty.

Lady Di

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