Celebrity portmanteau beginning in 2012 / SAT 5-8-21 / Irish name that's a Slavic name backward / Wall Street catchphrase / Grocery store found in Michigan

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: no, but ...

Word of the Day: BONHOMIE (36D: Easy friendliness) —
good-natured easy friendliness an undying bonhomie radiated from her— Jean Stafford
English speakers borrowed bonhomie from the French, where the word was created from bonhomme, which means "good-natured man" and is itself a composite of two other French words: bon, meaning "good," and homme, meaning "man." That French compound traces to two Latin terms, bonus (meaning "good") and homo (meaning either "man" or "human being"). English speakers have warmly embraced bonhomie and its meaning, but we have also anglicized the pronunciation in a way that may make native French speakers cringe. (We hope they will be good-natured about it!) (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

Hello and welcome to another 23rd-of-the-month Zoom solve featuring my friend Rachel Fabi. "But it's not the 23rd of the month!" you say indignantly. Good point. I forget why we had to miss April 23rd. Oh! Right! My second Covid shot was April 21st and I knew I was probably gonna sleep for allllll of April 22nd, which meant no April 23rd Zoom solve (we do the puzzle the night before, right when the puzzle comes out at 10pm). So this is a make-up. Since I already spent a lot of time solving and talking to Rachel, and I'm going to have to spend some more time doing the technical mumbo-jumbo to prepare the video for posting, I'm just gonna hit the highlights here in the write-up. Thankfully, they are almost all highlights (as opposed to lights of the lower variety). The best thing about the grid is a little symmetrical shenanigans with two of the longer answers, which don't seem to have anything to do with each other, until you either say them out loud or look at them really closely. I'm talking, of course, about EIGHTY-EIGHT and NIGHTY-NIGHT, which not only have the same singsongy cadence, but which are actually identical in every way except the first letters of each word part (i.e. EIGHTY-EIGHT is just NIGHTY-NIGHT with the N's swapped out for E's). It is a very cute little wink of an answer pair. Not so cute that I exclaimed "AW, SO CUTE!" but cute nonetheless.

[This song is about the Greensboro Massacre]

We sailed through this puzzle with almost no hang-ups. AIDAN was by far the hardest thing for us to come up with, but it wasn't that hard; when we couldn't get it from the AI-, we just swung around and came at it from the back end. I guess there are no famous AIDANs. Oh, nope, looks like AIDAN Quinn *is* spelled that way. I thought he was an AIDEN? Is anyone an AIDEN? Anyway, that was our one trouble spot. We went back and forth over whether 23A: Day to post a throwback picture on social media: Abbr. was THU or TBT (TBT is the hashtag associated with this social media phenomenon, but as Rachel eventually pointed out, the "TB" in TBT actually stands for "throwback," and since that word is in the clue, TBT was never an option. We both think TBT is decent fill to use in a pinch, though. Speaking of pinches, Rachel's first guess for 33D: They may be used in a pinch was HANDS, which I was very willing to believe (but it's HERBS). When Rachel told me 40A: Cheap cab, perhaps was HOUSE RED, I had a split-second of thinking, "Wait, I've heard of Yellow Cabs, but HOUSE REDs!? What the—!?" but as soon as I formed that thought I realized that "cab" here referred to a Cabernet. Rachel also caught the fact that IGA, a familiar supermarket chain, was embedded in the word "Michigan," which is why that clue has a "?" on it (61D: Grocery store found in Michigan?). Whereas I just thought "Well, I know the grocery chain IGA, I guess they're based in Michigan, huh, ok, moving on!" 

More stuff:
  • 13D: Grade-A (TOP TIER) — thought this was one word all the way to the bitter end. Actually said "TOPTIER?!" out loud
  • 35D: Composition test (ASSAY) — this clue is particularly tricky, as the clue works perfectly for ESSAY as well
  • 26D: Pumbaa's friend in "The Lion King" (TIMON) — I have never seen this movie, which Rachel cannot believe. Rachel is concerned that TIMON crossing TERI might cause trouble for some people, since this particular TERI isn't that well known (30A: Actress Shields, mother of Brooke). But I reassure her that TERA is nobody's name and there really aren't any other options there but the "I"
  • 60D: Archery need (AIM) — Got the "A" and wanted ARM, which, come on, definitely makes sense. I would argue that you need an ARM more than you "need" AIM (clue doesn't say you have to be *good* at archery), but fine, yes, AIM
OK, here's the video of our solve. 

Good night / morning!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:13 AM  

Easy. GREED IS GOOD and WAIT A MINUTE opened this one up for me. prone before LYING and fIRstS before BIRTHS were my only erasures.

Loved the mini theme, see Steinberg’s comment at Xwordinfo for the whole story. A fine Sat., liked it a bunch!

mathgent 12:50 AM  

This had everything I want in a crossword. Crunch (but no mystery entries), clever cluing (the clue for 64A is just one of a dozen sparklers), delightful entries (BONHOMIE, KIMYE). I'm in awe.

According to Jeff Chen, this is David Steinberg's 101st puzzle for the NYT. Hard to believe. I remember his first. It doesn't seem that long ago.

Anonymous 2:25 AM  

I got tripped up by the assay / essay. Had no idea on the Lion King, so wrote in “no better” instead of “no matter.” Shrug

chefwen 2:33 AM  

I usually cringe a little when I see David Steinberg’s name at the top of the puzzle as we are often in two different ballparks, but I sped through this Saturday puzzle in record time. The playing fields have evened out. My only two hang ups were figuring out 16A and the last tow letters in BONHOMIE. I’m not used to sailing through a Saturday, that was fun.

Ann Howell 3:20 AM  

Not bad for a Saturday - had a couple of snags, like "NO BETTER" at 34A and as Rex pointed out, ESSAY at 35D. The SE corner took the longest to fill, mainly because of MASHED PEAS - wanted mushy peas, so put in MUSHED PEAS. Anyway, loved BONHOMIE and HOT MESS and the clue for NIGHTY NIGHT was AWSOCUTE...

Conrad 6:05 AM  

I spent all night drinking HOUSE RED and I ended up HOUSERED. I was even TOPTIER than before.

Space Is Deep 6:08 AM  

I never time myself, but this was one of the easiest Saturday puzzles I’ve done.

Joaquin 6:11 AM  

I rate this puzzle the max: 5 @Lewises.

Lewis 6:26 AM  

Well, my wordplay-loving brain is still doing Snoopy dances after this. Oh, I could talk about lovely answers in this grid, of which there are a good selection, and I could talk about how junk-free the grid is, which is a given with David. But no. Let me focus on the wordplay, where David shows once again why he is TOP TIER.

David loves to play around with the letters in a word, such as with that Irish name that’s a Slavic name backward, and that question that becomes another question when its first letter is moved to the end. That is vintage David. But he shines at least as brightly in his clue wordplay, and let me just mention the clues for AUTOTUNE, HOUSE RED, ACT, TIGHTEN, WREATH, IGA, EGO, TDS, ASSAY, BIRTHS, and HERBS – those first four being world-class. I won’t even get into the EIGHTYEIGHT / NIGHTYNIGHT mini-theme.

David is wired for wordplay, and today, for me, it was “Hah!” after “Hah!” after “Hah!”. Splendid work, sir, and thank you for starting my day on a blazing high!

pabloinnh 6:43 AM  

Thought this fine Saturday was OHSOCUTE, which was wrong, as it's AWSOCUTE as I eventually discovered. In fact, it was like doing four Saturdays that were all very nice, at least that's how it played for me, with the quadrants going in more or less separately. Nothing wrong with that, as they were all way cool.

Hand up for the ESSAY/ASSAY mixup but that was about it, except for wondering for a bit why an ECO trip would be something you'd do by yourself. Oops.

MASHEDPEAS made me think of the English fondness for mushy peas as an accompaniment to fish and chips. Huh? And EIGHTYEIGHT is one of those pieces of trivia I just know, so nice to see that.

Thanks for a fun Saturday, DS. Delightfully Sparkly, and over much too soon.

SouthsideJohnny 6:57 AM  

Cool clues for NBA ALL STAR, HOUSE RED, NO PETS and TIGHTEN. Many of the clues were appropriately Saturday-level tough, but the answers for the most part are straightforward and pretty much make sense (with KIMYE being an outlier, lol). Good puzzle, and it seemed very fair, especially for a Saturday - judging from the early comments, that seems to have as much to do with the talent of the constructor as anything else. Hopefully he’ll contribute a couple that are earlier-in-the-week appropriate as well.

Hungry Mother 7:10 AM  

Boneheadedly (for my SB friends) stuck with eSSAY and failed. DOH!

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

Loved it. Dumpster fire for HOTMESS… just perfect.

Anders 7:32 AM  

With ESSAY confidently in place and no Lion King knowledge apart from what I've picked up from crosswords (NALA), I also went with NO BETTER/...TIBON?. It definitely felt suspect, but seemed the best I could do. When the app didn't accept my completed grid, I zeroed in on that crossing and got a nice aha when the correct answer finally clicked. Have to say that if solving on paper I might have just left it without that extra information the app provides.

Lobster11 7:41 AM  

Same as error as @anonymous (2:25 a.m.): No idea about TIMON, took ESSAY for granted, and wound up with NOBETTER instead of NOMATTER. Made perfect sense to me. I was imagining an eye exam where the doc clicks from one lens to another and asks "better or worse?"

bocamp 7:47 AM  

Thx @David for this excellent Sat. puz; crunchy, fun NOSH! :)


Got ESTER, IRATE and EATSOUT; then hit and miss, using crosses to fill in the rest. Had some difficulty with the upper left quad until NBAALLSTAR appeared. The remainder fell into place nicely.

Enjoyed playing CHARADES with family and schoolmates back in the day.

NIGHTY-NIGHT ~ Alvino Rey & His Orchestra with Yvonne King (1949)

yd pg -2 (missed one from the List, and one gimme escaped me)

Peace ~ and Good Health to all πŸ•Š

Mike Herlihy 7:50 AM  

@Anders - same here. TIBON, NO BETTER, ESSAY.

Son Volt 7:53 AM  

Really nice puzzle - a little quick for a Saturday but no complaints. The long stacks were fantastic - especially the mirrored EIGHTY EIGHT and NIGHTY NIGHT. Never saw Wall Street - high dislike of Michael Douglas but was able to back into it. Grid caused a few too many shorts - SEE, ACT, AIM etc. HOUSE RED x BON HOMIE with the adjacent AUTOTUNE was solid. Kosher REUBENs yesterday and NOSHES today - oy vey.

Highly enjoyable solve as is today’s stumper by Matt Sewell.

Flying Pediatrician 8:11 AM  

Haha! That’s perfect. I agree: 5 @Lewises. Very fun puzzle, unlike recent Saturday HOT MESS Express fare!

Privileged to be a neonatologist, where BIRTHS are not once-in-a-lifetime events; I see several a day. It’s a miracle every darn time. Have a great weekend, all!

Lewis 8:35 AM  

Here’s a Steinberg-inspired clue for IRON: [Nutrient that, backward, becomes a rich source of itself].

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

You’re being ableist. In fact there are some pretty well known archers without arms. It’s hardly a necessity. Aim? That’s absolutely essential.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

And before I’m accused of being a troll, look up say, Matt Stutzman. Then get back to me about how Rex wasn’t really being ableist. Just awfully ignorant.

Preferred Customer 8:49 AM  

Hi, isn't AGED OUT and ATE OUT in the same puzzle a problem?

Asking for a friend,

kitshef 8:57 AM  

This is a really great, albeit easy, puzzle. I wish to god KIMYE could have been avoided, but there were so few names today – I can live with that one.

Biggest holdup was wanting either SNootY or SNottY where SNARKY wound up.

Wanted ONE HALF for the days for Mercury to orbit the sun, but apparently they wanted earth days, rather than Mercury days.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Here's a better clue for 14 across: Old Olds

Barbara S. 9:01 AM  

I had the same problem as everyone else, trying to wrangle TIMON, ASSAY and NO MATTER into place. I liked the puzzle, though, and apart from that area had no trouble.

I love the EIGHTY EIGHT/NIGHTY NIGHT symmetry – didn’t notice while solving. But I did think that MASHED PEAS were probably a HOT MESS. I immediately thought baby food, but I take the point about British muSHy PEAS (hi @pabloinnh!). I liked GREED IS GOOD crossing LYING. Some repetition, but we’re cool about it now: AGE OUT and EATS OUT; NO MATTER and NO PETS.

Lots of wit and several fun misdirects: ACT (“III e.g. in Richard III”), THOU (“The old you?”), AUTOTUNE (“Correction for a wild pitch”) and WREATH (“Ring in the holiday spirit?”). I feel as if we’ve had a pun similar to the NBA clue at 1A in a previous puzzle.

In a break with tradition, I’ll eschew authors born on this day and give you the WALT WHITMAN poem referenced in 7D (“Walt Whitman wrote one beginning ‘Lo, ‘tis autumn’”). NOTE: The SESTET may or may not look like one because of the way Blogger formats poetry, but it is a 6-line stanza.

Come Up from the Fields Father

Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis’d vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter’s call,
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is sign’d,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay’d,)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch’d, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.

RooMonster 9:03 AM  

Hey All !
NE was a tough section for me. Only had AGEOUT and AGO, and couldn't come up with anything else. Tried PSST for AHEM, which got me ABIT for ATOM, no nevermind that "bit" was in the clue. Erased everything, and as is my wont after screeching to a halt solve-wise, took to Google and looked up Mercury's time around the sun. Huh, EIGHTYEIGHT days. Put it in, and look at that, my AGEOUT and AGO were right. With that, was able to finish up the puz.

Some nice clues in here. Clean grid. How old is Steinberg now, 24? I remember when he was just a snot-nose 15 year old. 😁 (Kidding, David!) 101 puzs published, dang. Good on you.

Didn't fall into the ESSAY/ASSAY trap, well, did at first, but knew TIMON, so that M helped to change the E to an A. I can see the problem if you don't know TIMON. I'm going to say either way is correct. If you finished with NO BETTER, you got a correct solution! Crossword purists be damned! Har.

Is BON HOMIE a French Homeboy?

No F's - I don't GET IT πŸ˜†

Unknown 9:05 AM  

ASSAY over ESSAY was brilliant.
NBAALLSTAR was clever.
Just a fine Saturday, in every respect.
Kudos to the constructor.

Teedmn 9:09 AM  

Well, alrighty then. The top half of this was much harder than the bottom due to a couple of early missteps. First was failing to remember the GREED IS GOOD catchphrase. I knew I'd know it with enough crosses but it didn't just fill in. So I started with AHEM crossing ATOM and wondering if 2D would be BIRTHS or DEATHS (I had the THS). 3D had to be AGE OUT but that made an AA in 1A. AHEM, that's gotta be wrong.

My problem is my inherent dislike of basketball and my love of science fiction/fantasy books. When I see court, I think of the law, then royalty, then tennis. Basketball, ugh. So I was waiting for a phrase describing a king or queen as the "supreme" member of a court. While I was waiting, I decided a wink was as good as a nod, which led to "assent" for 24A. 6D now ended in S but the clue wasn't plural so "horizontal" must be "X-axis" and hooray for the double X answer...

Those things required some sorting out which I did when GREED IS GOOD popped into my brain finally. I did throw in eSSAY initially for 35D but immediately switched it to ASSAY because, Saturday. Even with those messes, I finished sub-20 minutes, so a faster than average Saturday for me.

David Steinberg, it's seems like a long time since I've seen your name as constructor. This was a nice Saturday puzzle, thanks!

TJS 9:09 AM  

EASY ??? Maybe if two people are solving and one of them is Rachel. Not easy for me in any area, but in just under forty minutes I gotter dun. A true Saturday, and I enjoyed the challenge.
Dont forget to call Mom tomorrow.

Z 9:12 AM  

Hand up for being “slowed” by eSSAY, but I did remember TIMON so had the “Oh, that kind of ‘composition’” moment. I have to put “slowed” in quotes because I finished this a full 9 minutes faster than yesterday, while not particularly trying to hurry. Interesting that Rex and Rach focused on the I in TIMON when it seems it was actually the M that was natickier.*

I briefly thought we had diagonal symmetry again, but no, still rotational symmetry. @Math Folk - Is it possible to have both rotational and diagonal symmetry? And would it be at all typical or would the grid have to be highly unusual?

Really liked this. Part of that is that it is low in PPP (16 of 72, 22%, you won’t find many puzzles with less), but also that the cluing was TOP TIER. I do think Steinberg’s reputation for difficulty from obscurity is no longer deserved. It really seems like his more recent puzzles avoid some of the flaws that used to irk solvers, while still getting fresh pop culture like KIMYE into the puzzle. πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½

@Evan Birnholz announced on Twitter yesterday that his next two WaPo Sunday puzzles will be metapuzzles, so if you like that sort of thing you might want to seek out the WaPo Sundays.

*I do believe this might be the first comparative use of “natick”

mathgent 9:16 AM  

David Steinberg used to write very hard puzzles and we complained about them. I'm sure that he could still do that. But he has evolved and become more Patrick-Berry-like -- not ultra-hard but fun.

Frantic Sloth 9:22 AM  

I'll never understand how I can feel as though I struggled through a puzzle only to realize it was completed in several minutes below my average time. What is up with that??

how/WHO - More and more we're seeing those movie-moo clues where letters are shifted/added/dropped (S.A.D.) from one word to create another. Is this gonna be the latest "thing" now? Why don't we just do an entire puzzle of them, preferably in a tribute quote that is all done with lookie-loo clues and circles?

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

There was some stuff to like here:

The "dumpster fire"/ HOTMESS combo (like looking in a mirror. Well, maybe @JD's mirror 😘)

EIGHTYEIGHT (because who doesn't have all the planets' yearly revolutions memorized?)

SNARKY (whatever the hell that is)

A lot of the various eye-area motions throughout, but overall I must have enjoyed it since it "flew" by.
I just never noticed that while solving. 🀷‍♀️


Mr. Cheese 9:23 AM  

Had an easier time with this than most .Saturday’s but ... SO many delightful clues!!
I’ll smile all day as I recall each one.

mmorgan 9:32 AM  

On the easy side for a Saturday but a very pleasant and enjoyable solve.

RMK 9:39 AM  

Our contractor's secretary is named Tera, so you are wrong.


Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Concur with it being easy as my time was less than half of my Saturday average, and nearly half the time yesterday's puzzle consumed.

I've been doing more cryptic crosswords lately, so the Michigan clue offered no resistance.

Confidently plopped in DOMESTIC for 40A: Cheap cab, perhaps. Pride meant it overstayed its welcome, despite most of the downs not working with it. That O in BONHOMIE worked with either answer, which resulted in that corner being the last to fall.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  


Monday clue: Number of piano keys, typically
Wednesday clue: Bygone Olds
Today's clue: Number of days it takes Mercury to orbit the sun

JD 9:51 AM  

Dude, I loved almost every single across answer and the clues the got me there. Wait A Minute, I just flashed to Pumbaa saying to Timon, "Look at him, he's So Cute and all alone." And Timon, "Pumbaa, what's our Motto?" Hakuna Matata!

Wanted 12D, "It involves much ear-tugging and head-shaking," to have something to do with baseball and pitching. Probably remnants of yesterpuz© (@Masked & Anon).


DrBB 9:55 AM  

Biggest stumble for me was ESSAY for ASSAY. I knew it could be either, but for some reason went with the "E" version, even though being a Saturday I should have known the less likely sense of "composition" was involved. Kept me from seeing NO MATTER, and TIMON/TERI was a Natick for me, so I ended with NO BETTER cause of that dratted E. Fun puzzle anyway.

Gretchen 9:55 AM  

Nice Wednesday puzzle on a Saturday.

Nancy 9:56 AM  

It had to be NO MATTER and it also *had* to be eSSAY. And never the twain shall meet. I stared at those two squares for what seemed like forever. I took a deep breath and then wrote in ESSAY and the infinitely worse than NO MATTER replacement, NO BETTER -- surely a lousy choice for "shrug". I never thought of the "composition test" in anything but a schoolroom sense. Quite a masterful sleight of hand, David.

But this, Dear Reader, is one of the reasons I don't sign up for puzzle tournaments. In a puzzle tournament I might have shot myself for such a bone-headed mistake. Today it was just one big shrug on my part.

Other than the TIMON which was the other reason -- the pop culture-name reason, natch -- for my epic fail, I liked this puzzle a lot. Both the clues and the fill were consistently interesting. My faves were AUTOTUNE (clue); TIGHTEN (clue); CHARADES (clue); GREED IS GOOD (answer) and BONHOMIE (answer). Engaging and fun.

Amelia 10:25 AM  


I read his comments, I barely understood them, and came away wondering what cubicle he was talking about where?

That said, I saw the nightynight/eightyeight pairing when I finished and was delighted. Wondered if anyone else would see it and of course, that was completely foolish wonderment.

My recurring nit--and I'm talking to you, Mr. Shortz--can we compromise on NO QUESTION MARKS on Saturday when you presumably have no problem with people struggling?

Please consider this. The Newsday Stumper now Themeless doesn't have question marks and it doesn't bother me in the least to stare at a clue for a long time working my brain. I believe they would never have had a question mark for the grocery chain in Michigan, for example.

Please, I beg you.

Whatsername 10:25 AM  

I’ll echo what @Nancy said, engaging and fun. Loved the clues for IGA and HOUSE RED, both of which made me do a double take. For a minute I thought maybe HOUSER was some sort of new ride service like Uber.

SO and I were wintering in South Texas a few years ago and considering a condo in one of the many over 55 communities. We were on the verge of signing up when I happened to notice a NO PETS clause in the contract. WAIT A MINUTE, not so fast, DUDE. NO MATTER where I am, my fur kids are going to be there too. Didn’t take me long to say a SNARKY NIGHTY NIGHT to those folks.

Enjoyed your 101st immensely Mr. Steinberg. Congrats and please keep ‘em coming!

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

There's a bunch of possibilities for 14A, as elucidated. The one used favours those who watch a lot of 'Science Channel'. An episode last week about the solar system made much of the facts that Mercury speeds around the sun (88) but crawls around itself (176) for a solar day.

Birchbark 10:37 AM  

@Barbara S (9:01) and Whitman's "Lo, 'tis autumn" SESTET -- what a poem to read aloud. The last stanza could have been written yesterday.

GREED IS GOOD is charming in its old age.

I first had "baseball" in place of CHARADES, picturing the ear-tugging and head-shaking signals.

Favorite clue was for HOUSE RED. Right up there with @Lewis's (8:35) IRON/NORI clue.

egsforbreakfast 10:46 AM  

This seems like the most overall positive commentariat in a long time. A few small quibbles by some, but very little carping. I am in the muchos thumbs up group as well. Even got the assay/essay choice right the first time. Absolutely delightful puzzle David Steinberg.

bocamp 10:47 AM  

Good catch by @Rex re: the juxtaposition of the 'N's and 'E's in the 'singsongy' entries.

Loved the cluing for HOT MESS and TIGHTEN. And, BONHOMIE is just a great word!

I also had ESSAY & NO BETTER, but the "B" stuck in my craw. Not recalling TIMON right off, I was pretty confident that the "B" wasn't going to work there, tho. So, the bulb went on, and I changed ESSAY to ASSAY, then BETTER to MATTER, and TIMON slid in to solidify the unknown TERI. What a wonderful clue, tho, for ASSAY.

@Anonymous (8:43 AM)

Thx for the shout-out to Matt Stutzman. Also, learned another meaningful word, 'ableist'. :)

The Armless Archer Matt Stutzman's Greatest Hits 🎯 | Paralympic Games

@Anonymous (9:47 AM)

Thot the same re: the IGA in MichIGAn being cryptic puzzlish. Just recently started with cryptics, so had a chuckle – and a thank you – on this one. :)

td pg -10

Peace ~ and Good Health to all πŸ•Š

Carola 10:55 AM  

All I want in a Saturday: a challenge, answers that range from not-your-everyday to delightful, witty clues, and...solvability. Despite getting EIGHTY-EIGHT right off, I couldn't do enough with the crosses to get any traction, so I did a fair amount of wandering in the wilderness until I happened on the dumpster fire. Bingo, had to be HOT MESS. That corner gave me what I needed to inch my way through the rest of the grid, the best kind of having fun while having to work. I hadn't noticed the bonus treat of the one-letter difference between EIGHTY-EIGHT and NIGHTY-NIGHT, yes, really SO CUTE.

Me, too: eSSAY before ASSAY. Do-overs: aGreed (before I GET IT) x elks (club). Help from previous puzzles: AUTOTUNE. No idea: TIMON, KIMYE.

Newboy 10:57 AM  

I’m joining @amelia in her plea for nixing the question mark with cluing. Having the puzzle simmer for a while before a subsequent effort is always more fun than just whizzing through. I’m still wrapping my head around David & Eric in adjacent cubicles—had to be an office you looked forward to getting to every day! Purely delightful grid, even with the ? Clue crutches.

longsufferingmetsfan 11:00 AM  

A difficult Wednesday puzzle masquerading as a Saturday, way too easy

Barrowma 11:04 AM  

What happened to ChuckD? Miss his comments.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

Rex has a problem with the NRA but not the NBA?
Yikes. He does know that China is engaged in genocide and that the NBA not only refuse to condemn it,they fire people who deign to question their businesses dealings with that evil regime.

GILL I. 11:26 AM  

OK...so I've read all the comments and without so much as a little thought, I've pronounced myself the only ninny hammer for 1A. Who else can be the Supremes if not the singers of BABY LOVE? Diana Ross didn't fit but MARY WILSON went in. I get up, pour myself a little HOUSE RED and start singing at the top of my lungs.
Ay, dios mio.....NBA ALL STAR? Nooooooo. I do these in pen and it doesn't erase well.
I got over my angst. I wanted to go NIGHTY NIGHT and not let the bed bugs bite. GREED IS GOOD got me fighting for an IGET IT moment. DUDE, sez, I....I think I've got it!
Except for 1A, this was fun, fun, fun. And my daddy didn't take the T-Bird way.
So I finally finished. I did SLAP the noggin a few times. I did Google for TERI because well, just because I didn't know Brooke's mom.
Did some of you not know TIMON? You HAVE TO SEE The Lion King....I don't care how old you are....you have to see it. TIMON is the meerkat voiced by the extraordinary, funny, talented, Nathan Lane. Just listen to the voice. If you are still sad because of COVID, go watch the movie......
I will add my two cents though on MASHED PEAS....They taste just the way they look. No amount of Buttigiegs's BON HOMMIE could get an AW SO CUTE to be uttered from my SNIP SNARKY SLAP mouth.
My BATTED HERBS runneth over.

Unknown 11:31 AM  

@ egsforbreakfast 10:46
I have noticed that a significant portion of the old-time regular bloggers here will take their cue from rex's blog, and so when he's negative, you tend to see a higher amount of nit picking amongst his faithful. Today he was as positive about a puzzle as I have ever seen, and the comments seem to reflect that reaction. Sets a nice refreshing tone for the morning.

@Anonymous 11:08 If we look hard enough, I'm sure we could find fault with just about anything that shows up in a puzzle. And I'm sure there are many woke people who spend energy doing just that. I'd prefer to enjoy the clever cluing and leave my politics for NPR.

Nancy 11:35 AM  

FWIW, I got HOUSE RED right off the bat -- off just the H--SE---, I think. And while my HOUSE RED of the moment is certainly the very definition of a "cheap cab" ($10!!!), not only is it not swill -- it's actually quite a beautiful wine. I've been looking for a chance to plug it and this is that chance. Ready?

It's Wellsley Farms (spelling correct) Cabernet from Paso Robles, CA. Why spend more? Good enough to give as a gift since no one who tastes it will believe it's so inexpensive. Better than many cabs at 3x the price.

BTW, I got my 2nd Pfizer shot yesterday at 4:30 p.m.. So far, so good -- no side effects at all. Actually, I felt a little worse -- very slight queasiness, very slight headache, general tiredness -- after my first dose. I suppose it's still early -- it's been less than 24 hours -- but I'm quite pleased right now. And once again, I was able to get the shot in the gluteal muscle, so the injection discomfort is very, very minimal.

KnittyContessa 11:35 AM  

I fell into the same NOMATTER/ASSAY/TIMON mess. I went over and over and over this puzzle and could not figure out where I had gone wrong. How could it not be Tibon when everything fit so nicely? I finally googled Lion King and it all became clear.

Aelurus 11:50 AM  

Not easy for me — devilish but wonderfully clever and appreciated cluing. Especially 65A SEE, “lead-in to stars or daylight”; 37D AUTOTUNE, “correction for a wild pitch” (could NOT get the baseball theme out of my head especially as it crossed BATTED); 2D BIRTHS, “once-in-a-lifetime events” (maybe the best). Finished but with a few look-ups, notably (or not) KIMYE and (abashedly) TIMON.

Favorite word: BONHOMIE (Ha! @ Roo 9:03). 46A mirror image AIDAN/NADIA was fun to work out.

And MASHED PEAS? After filling that in I Googled and found many recipes for this “soft, green food,” previously unknown to me, also called mushy peas (that sounds about right, like if you spill some on your kitchen counter and in a moment of inattention SLAP your tea kettle right on them).

@Lewis 8:35 – great wordplay clue for 25D IRON. Agree with @Flying Pediatrician – ditto the “5@Lewises” coinage from @Joaquin 6:11.

@Barbara S. Thursday late – yes, agree Jarrell is empathetic to the difficult plight of the woman at the zoo, who so dearly wants change. And today 9:01, thanks for the accompanying Walt Whitman SESTET.

Nancy 11:57 AM  

@GILL (11:26)-- I did see The Lion King. I loved The Lion King. I agree with you that everyone should see The Lion King. But I saw it back in maybe 1999. You really expect me to remember the name of a meercat from 20 years ago???!!! I mean really, @GILL, you're asking much too much :)

Joe Dipinto 12:08 PM  

Teri Shields appeared in exactly three movies, all starring her daughter, in the roles of "Motel Clerk", "Nurse" (one of five), and "Biker". She did get some media coverage back in the day for supposedly exploitative behavior as Brooke's manager. That's a totally bullshit clue. The usual Teri suspects won't do for a Saturday, I guess.

Is @Rex joking with his arm/aim musings? He might be. I mean, does he really think they would give "Archery need" as a clue for ARM? Lol.

David Steinberg is one of the paltry few regular constructors I like anymore. Bang-up job, as usual.

Shrug. Also, in honor of Johannes Brahms's birthday yesterday, as I think A pointed out: Nighty-night.

jb129 12:13 PM  

I liked this a lot - had essay iinstead of assay but an enjoyable Saturday puzzle.

old timer 12:14 PM  

Finished it (unlike yesterday, which was a rare DNF for me). Liked it. But oh, @Barbara S. That poem left me in tears. Not the Whitman I remember. They did not teach it in high school or college. In the throes of the Vietnam War, it was not quoted by the antiwar folks, though grisly stories and photos abounded. Walt's message is so direct, and at the same time so misleadingly bucolic, and I can imagine legions of professors and activists who saw that poem, and realized to quote it would arouse literally unbearable waves of grief. You warned me! But I could not have imagined how much the warning was needed.

Gotta say, the HOUSE RED at what once was the cheapest restaurant in San Francisco (circa 1970) may have had some Cab in it. Not at all a good wine, but it was part of the $3 meal, so I drank it. And of course did not complain, since it was essentially free. And I do complain if I am charged $8 or $10 (or more) today for a glass of plonk. Or Chateau Thames Embankment, to quote the immortal Rumpole.

I solve in pen, so am not fooled by the essay/ASSAY choice. I held off until the crosses made the choice clear.

JD 12:20 PM  

@Frantic, Not sure why my mirror, but I promise you that its surrounding 60 watt pink lightbulbs (hard to find these days) will assure you a rosy glow of youth no cosmetic could even approach. You may be interested to know that I actually did start dumpster fire once. Something about fireplace ashes still harboring the ability to ignite with just the hint of a breeze.

@Barbara S., Today's quote brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful.

Masked and Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Greetins, SPORT fans. M&A is happy to see that he weren't all alone, in strikin out with NOBETTER. I would like to hereby think of our little elite NOBETTER group as the ESSAY-all-stars. I mean, TIBON/TIMON -- potayto/potahto.

Superb longball stacks in the NW and SE. Especially with that NIGHTY-EIGHT dealie.
Couldn't help but notice the cheater square in each of said stacks, tho. Quick fix: NBAALLSTARS and SMASHEDPEAS. Right, @AnoaBob? [Don't even get m&e started, on TOPTIERS & SHOTMESS.]

staff weeject picks: TDS & THU. Coupla toughly be-clued lil pups.
Primo weeject stacks in the NE & SW, btw.

Thanx and nighty night, Steinbergmeister dude. Been a while since yer last puz of 27 Oct 2020. U musta spent a lotta time (eighty nights?), workin on them cool NW & SE stacks.

Masked & Anonymo6Us

probable Saturday biter:

oceanjeremy 12:55 PM  

Fun puzzle — though I did feel it was too easy.

As a Cryptic Crossword solver I loved the IGA in Michigan cluing, as some fellow cryptic solvers have already mentioned. I also really felt WREATH was quite a cryptic-ish clue ("Ring in the holiday spirit?").

I fell prey to the eSSAY mistake early on, but caught it almost immediately. Appreciated the "composition" double-meaning. Solved with my fiancΓ©e, she got AIDAN without any crosses (I'm going to marry a smartypants, lucky me!).

@Frantic Sloth: That feeling you describe (struggle and frustration, only to finish the puzzle far faster than average)? I've been getting it a lot lately (though not on this puzzle — we finished in record time and found very little resistance).

@Nancy: You lucked out with your second Pfizer then! I got mine last Sunday and was still feeling brain fog and sluggishness on Thursday. Every body is different, as they say. :)

And I will leave you all with this: With just a few crosses I shouted "BONHOMIE!" and my fiancΓ©e said, "Bon homie?"

I replied "Bon Homie is my all-rap Bon Jovi cover band." She looked me in the eye, dead serious, and said "That is a terrible idea. You should never do that."

(So of course I'm already working on my adaptations. We just moved so I need to find my drum machine, but I know it's in a box around here somewhere...)

burtonkd 12:59 PM  

40D reminds me of the phrase I heard somewhere that Trump communicated in his Presidential 140 character dumpster fireside chat.

Lots of fun this morning.

Solving on paper, I see a lot more answers just by looking at the grid, then checking to see if the clue matches. Looking at you, BONHOMIE.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite French expressions is Bonhomme de Neige for snowman. Sounds so happy and elegant, my good man!

Know your Broadway characters: TIMON is in Lion King. TI MOUNE is from Once on This Island.

AUTOTUNE and EMU seem to be hanging around more than usual lately, the latter apparently being good for big eggs and Kalaya oil.

The recent vowelless puzzle was a fun variation, thanks Joe, I think, for bringing it to my attention.

Ethan Taliesin 1:00 PM  

I had SNIT for SNIP. MASHEDTEAS? Hrumpph, never heard of it.

Frantic Sloth 1:05 PM  

I completely missed the EIGHTYEIGHT/NIGHTYNIGHT thingee! Grateful to Rachel (who saw it first) and others here for enlightenment.

Luckily entered MATTER first and never looked back, so eSSAY for ASSAY never became an issue.

@Barbara S 901am A heartbreaker, hitting close to home, but so beautiful. Thank you.

@JD 1220pm Your mirror because it was a stupid, juvenile joke (my specialty) that was overly subtle (another specialty - odd for one who never seems to get subtlety), and totally missed the mark (my special specialty).

GILL I. 1:07 PM  

OK since we're talking cabs (Hi @Nancy), I'll add my two centavos. I'm an admitted vino snob and an admitted wino. Anyway, I was at Trader Joes and found this bottle called "Trader Joe's Cabernet Vinas Chilenas Reserva." It costs all of $4.30 or so. I was making sangria and so I thought it couldn't be worse than a "Two Buck Chuck." IT WAS DELICIOUS. I couldn't believe how smooth and, and, and just plain nice. No after, yucky moth taste...No oaky barrel taste; just plain delicious. I went back and bought a case. If you like cabs and you are close to a TD's, buy some and give it to your friends. They will think you've spent a fortune.....

bocamp 2:32 PM  

@Joe / @pabloinnh / @TTrimble

Fun acrostic today; unusually quick solve (I'll take it, tho). :)

pg -2

Peace ~ and Good Health to all πŸ•Š

TTrimble 2:51 PM  

Just a quick drive-by comment.

Thanks for posting that link to the Matt Stutzman video. I only watched a few minutes, but that is truly badass and I'll have to return for more. That Finnish dude also had the eye of the tiger (which you could tell even despite the fact he was wearing sunglasses).

@Gill I.
If MASHED PEAS are the same as mushy peas as I've had them in England, then I've found them quite tasty. Really good robust pea flavor.

I'm joining the like-this-puzzle crowd. But that will have to be all for now.

Except for SB: I was pg -4 yd, and don't feel a bit bad about it. For today I'm currently pg -7.

Z 3:20 PM  

@Gill I - I can’t recall ever having a wine with yucky moth taste. πŸ¦‹ I hear Gof has a real love of good moth feel in their wines, though.

Paul Harrington 4:05 PM  

Another no better/no matter fail here

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

SNIP does not mean impertinent.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  


you want moth taste? I got moth taste: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/05/giant-wood-moth-found-queensland-australia-school

GILL I. 4:25 PM  

@Z...Autocorrect can just eat my chile rellenos.

Joe Dipinto 4:45 PM  

@burtonkd – it was @JC66 and @Nancy I think who mentioned the vowelless last week. It did turn out to be fun.

@bocamp – haven't started the acrostic but I filled in 7 of the themers in the main puzzle right off the bat with no crosses. :-)

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

To summarize what has already been said, there is a remarkably elaborate Natick of TIbOr, eSSAY, NObeTTER, and rSA. (RSA is also an encryption organization).

This is totally plausible and only wrong because TIMON and NSA happen to be the correct answers.


JC66 5:34 PM  

@Joe D

Glad you enjoyed it.

Without a clue 5:45 PM  

Been solving for 50 years. This was one of the most satisfying puzzles I’ve ever done. Clever cluing but not overly so. Multiple plausible answers that revealed themselves in the fullness of time. Relatively modern answers like hot mess and Kimye. Provided some resistance but no dead stops. Maybe mow Friday-level toughness but, for me today, Just right. More like this please!!

kitshef 5:51 PM  

@Gill I - What was your original word that got auto'corrected' to moth? I'm trying to decide between 'meth' or 'goth'.

Nancy 6:18 PM  

@kitshef (5:51) -- I'm betting it's "mouth taste". And, btw, this is unlikely to be the only such explanation you get in the next few minutes.

Joe Dipinto 6:32 PM  

@kitshef – Hint: GILL'S autocorrect didn't change any letters.

CDilly52 6:49 PM  

Fun comments today to go with a fun Saturday theme less! Not much time as I am up to my elbows in bread dough but I’ with the clever folks who gave this full marks and “5 @Lewis” raves!!

bocamp 6:57 PM  

@Joe Dipinto (4:45 PM)

Hah! Guess it doesn't hurt to be a musician, eh! I just don't have the ear for it. πŸ˜‚


Peace ~ and Good Health to all πŸ•Š

Z 6:57 PM  

@kitshef - Clearly it was a yucky Goth with a 25cm wingspan (@4:22 - Thanks for that, I think). πŸ¦‹πŸ˜ˆπŸ¦‹

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

TTrimble, bocamp,
Great that you acknowledge the truth of atheletes without arms, but why not call out OFL for his ableist comments?
If his slight had been a trans person or lesbian cartoonist, surely his hackles would’ve been up. Right? Is that in dispute?
So why the selective criticism of Parker.

GILL I. 7:54 PM  

The archips cerasivorana's are happily residing in my wine cellar.
My moths runneth over.

TTrimble 8:15 PM  

@Anonymous 6:57 PM
You've already left three such comments yourself, so your point has been amply made to the people reading these comments.

Anyway, there's little indication that Rex reads all the comments here. If you want his attention, you might have better luck over at Twitter. The chances of getting through to him would be increased still further if you supposed that once something like this was tactfully brought to attention, without accusations of being "ableist", he'd be willing to adapt his language to be more sensitive. We all have moments of not paying attention.

Joe 11:03 PM  

“Tera is nobody’s name”. Ha! How about T-O for a first name? Or Quanattila? Anything could be a name!

Jim 9:40 PM  

I was right with you. TIBON seemed as good a name as any, and NO BETTER and ESSAY worked fine with the clues.

KIMYE angered me. I understand the celebrity couple in mind, but have never heard them referred to as such.

thefogman 10:18 AM  

I too fell victim to the trap at 34A. Had NObeTTER, TIbON and eSSAY. Not fair, unless you happen to be a Lion King fan. Dsmn you Disney!

spacecraft 10:58 AM  

All this trouble over the ASSAY/essay thing and not a single word about MY natick! RE?/K?MYE had me at sea and miles from land. I don't remember why the letter I even occurred to me, but I just shrugged and wrote it in. And it was right!! That had to be, like, ESP or something. I had NO clue.

The rest of it was on the easy side for a Saturday, taking on the clues from a late-week perspective.

BIRTHS occur about every seven seconds, so hardly once in a lifetime. But FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL, yeah sure. Not counting those "born again."

Not an actual "theme," but...(14/64 across). Cute, almost of the "AWSO" variety. Anybody who can produce Brooke Shields had DOD chops, for sure. Welcome to the much-decorated TERI camp, Mom.

Glad to welcome also our esteemed constructor, back from whatever hiatus. We greet him with a birdie.

rondo 12:23 PM  

@spacey - David Steinberg is the xword editor for the Universal Crossword which appears daily on the same page as the NYTXword in the Minneapolis StarTribune and many other papers I'd imagine. You would recognize many of the constructors' names, ACME, CC, etc.

I had an inkfest there in the upper mid-section Iagree before IGETIT, therefore ELKS club before IRON and the apparently common eSSAY/ASSAY. A real mess there. The rrest, not so much.

Another TERI? OK.

DS never disappoints.

Burma Shave 12:30 PM  


I used TO GETIT years AGO
if I'd SPORT my CUTE NIGHTY right,


Diana, LIW 1:42 PM  

An absolutely perfect example of Will S's "write down an answer, even if you are not sure - it may lead to another correct one." That happened, over and over, to me today. Good old (but not TOO old) David S. King of the "close but no cigar" first answers, in my book.

Great Saturday, David!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 3:41 PM  

I’m a fan of David Steinberg, too, whether or not I make errors in his puzzles....which can happen often enough...like today.

Wanted prone before LYING, eSSAY before ASSAY, TItON before TIMON, and SNootY before SNARKY.

Otherwise, liked and plowed through the three-stacks, as well as the long downs.

KIMYE, WHO they?

spacecraft 7:04 PM  

My son informed me, when I told him the entry made no sense. It's--or now WAS, evidently--Kim of the Kardashians and Kanye of the Wests. WHO knew? These are people I go out of my way NOT to follow.

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