Bygone Chevrolet division / THU 8-26-21 / Capisce in '70s slang / Jargony rationale for business merger / First space probe to enter Saturn's orbit / Actor Williamson who played Merlin in "Excalibur" / Pink alcoholic drink / Predecessors of Lenovos / Real first name of Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: CROSS-COUNTRY (40A: One way to run ... or a hint to four geographical intersections found in this grid) — four pairs of regularly-clued answers cross at a mystery letter that belongs to neither answer; that letter, when entered, forms the names of countries in both directions. So ... when the answers cross, each one turns into a country. The mystery letters are R, I, N, and A, which can be anagrammed to make IRAN, but ... I have no idea if or why I'm supposed to be anagramming at the end, so maybe I'm just seeing things, or trying to make the puzzle do more than it's doing...

Theme answers (the red letters are the extra letters, where the theme answers cross to form countries):
  • SURINAME / MALI (21A: It comes first in China, but second in the U.S. / 4D: Bad start?)
  • NORWAY / RWANDA (9A: "Not a chance!" / 11D: Title character in a classic John Cleese comedy)
  • NIGER / BENIN (68A: Media exec Robert / 58D: Hippie happening)
  • PANAMA / TONGA (72A: First airline to complete a round-the-world flight / 57D: Grab by pinching, as an ice cube)
Word of the Day: CASSINI (1D: First space probe to enter Saturn's orbit) —

The Cassini–Huygens space-research mission (/kəˈsni ˈhɔɪɡənz/ kə-SEE-nee HOY-gənz), commonly called Cassini, involved a collaboration among NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to send a space probe to study the planet Saturn and its system, including its rings and natural satellites. The Flagship-class robotic spacecraft comprised both NASA's Cassini space probe and ESA's Huygenslander, which landed on Saturn's largest moon, TitanCassini was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit. The two craft took their names from the astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens.

Launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur on October 15, 1997, Cassini was active in space for nearly 20 years, with 13 years spent orbiting Saturn and studying the planet and its system after entering orbit on July 1, 2004. (wikipedia)

• • •

I really like the underlying idea of this puzzle, but it is really lacking in follow-through. The whole mystery/extra-letter thing just isn't well-explained or coherent enough. These are unclued letters, so what do I do with them? OK, I see a country there ... why? Why this country? Am I even supposed to be rearranging these letters? Because they aren't in any clear grid order (top to bottom or left to right). I guess you can kind of read "IR" across the top and "AN" across the bottom, kinda, sorta, but the puzzle just felt like it fizzled out. Once I got the revealer and figured out what it meant, I enjoyed seeing the countries come into view. But this puzzle kind of lost its identity somewhere. It looks like a meta puzzle (a puzzle that has another puzzle to solve after you've filled in all the squares). If you've done many meta puzzles, then you probably immediately looked to the extra bits (R, I, N, A) to see what you could do with them. You might even have circled them, if you solved on paper (or printed the puzzle out, as I always do). And if you looked at those letters, you probably saw IRAN very quickly. The question was: "Why?" Also, "Is that all?" Metas tend to have titles that hint at what you should be looking for. Also, when you get the meta answer, typically, you *know* got it. There's a tremendous feeling of "Aha!" But here, without a title to point you in the right direction, without puzzle notes, there's no "Aha!" There's just a "huh?" The theme had all these swoops and flourishes but it just couldn't stick the landing. As a solver, I'm just left alone with a bunch of possibly random letters, with no instructions and an eerie sense that either a. I'm missing something or b. that's all there is. Neither a. nor b. is particularly satisfying. 

The only other thing I have to say about this puzzle is: RULY? Truly? (55A: Neat and orderly). I want to say that I am gruntled about ruly, but that's actually the opposite of how I feel ... I think. Is "gruntled" a word without the "dis" in front of it? Because I know RULY is not a word without the "un" in front of it. Come on. Try using it in a sentence today and see if anyone understands what the hell you're saying. "What RULY children you have!" "How dare you!" The grid is oversized today (16x15), in order to allow the revealer to sit securely in the center, so your sluggish time might be partly due to that. I've never heard of CASSINI, a name I am familiar with only when it follows OLEG (a crosswordese legend), so getting started on this one in the NW was a bit of a challenge, despite many of the shorter answers up there coming easily. The MALI / SURINAME crossing wasn't working, obviously, and was made tougher by the fact that MALA- seemed like maybe it was a real prefix ... (?) ... look, you give me four letters, I'm going to assume the answer is four letters long. But I stumbled down to the center, got the revealer, and then the premise was (mostly) clear and everything was easy from there on out. 

the moment I figured things out

Somehow, none of the other country crosses gave me trouble. Nothing else about the grid seems terribly remarkable. Oh, noooooo idea who NICOL Williamson is despite *owning* "Excalibur" on Blu-ray (9D: Actor Williamson who played Merlin in "Excalibur"). I probably do know who he is, at least by sight, but seeing that name come into view was a total surprise. The long Downs in this grid are nice. I need to wrap things up now. Still have work to do before my 8:30am class because it's the first week of school and some big part of me is still in denial. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Del Taco 5:54 AM  

Mostly fun puzzle
also got hung up on RULY
and I never heard of BENIN

Loren Muse Smith 6:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 6:11 AM  

My mind is mush after yesterday, so it took a minute to absorb the actual trick here. Very neat that Ashish found countries that can cross at a letter that, when removed, results in two other viable expressions. Rex - It didn’t occur to me to consider the four crossed letters. They do spell IRAN, which is the CROSS-COUNTRY capital of the world no it’s not just kidding hah.

Never heard the word NETTY, but I’ll add it to the rotation. I learned the word aggy yesterday from LaQuan – seems it’s a shortened form of aggravated Man oh man am I going to learn some great words this year.

“Mirror” before INWARD. Defensible. I would argue that a mirror can provide extremely useful self-knowledge of the spinach-in-the-teeth variety.

I had no idea that there was an adjective that meant “kissing-related.” Huh. So I looked into it, and in Merriam Webster, all the definitions that relate it to kissing are marked as humorous. So to osculate is a funny euphemism for to kiss. I have to tell you, given that Mom and I suffer through the sloppy spectacle that is kissing on The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise, it follows that the definition of osculum is: a large aperture in a sponge through which water is expelled. Ick.

***{Palaver alert}*** THE BEEB. . . After my kids finished the nifty little questionnaire I had for them, I was just working the room, chatting. About half were wearing ankle monitors and were pretty much focused INWARD – not the unRULY bunch I had expected. This one guy, Kevin, asked me how to pronounce herb. Ah. Cool. He had noticed that British people pronounce that H. He had in fact noticed a lot of discrepancies between British English and American English. Told me he liked to try to mimic their speech and knew the term anglophile. I taught him what a glottal stop is (the initial consonants in Uh uh. Say it. Feel those little throat taps?) I told him that in Cockney, in words like little and bottle, you replace those inner Ts with glottal stops. So you have a liʔil boʔil of beer.

I’ve calmed down. This kid in an ankle monitor was saying liʔil boʔil over and over and was pleased. From what I can see day one, most of these guys are just regular kids playing with the cards they’ve been dealt, and they’re receptive, eager(ish), lovely.

Lewis 6:56 AM  

Oh, I’ll easily take NETTY and RULY and whatever else people nit about in this puzzle as the price of admission I gladly paid for the journey this puzzle provided me. I’ll pay it again and again for such an experience.

For me this was a Puzzle. Figuring out the theme (which happened in the NE after getting the revealer in the middle), eyes wide open on high alert in search of the other three when they are not symmetrical, all the while contending with tricky cluing.

Each country cross I found was accompanied with an inner “Yes!”, and I had to combat extra hard in the SE and NW, but after filling in the last square, I felt happy, proud, and satisfied, just what I look for in a crossword.

Ashish, you took a grid of empty squares and turned it into one terrific adventure for me. Thank you, sir, and bravo on this!

kitshef 7:08 AM  

IF we had not been told there were four crosses, I’d have wound up with BEE IN crossing EIGER, but the search for the fourth cross saved my bacon.

Weird clue for HORN. Maybe a NYC thing, but a horn seems no more important to a taxi than to any vehicle.

Also, I’d wager that for most Americans, the surname comes third.

Don’t grok the theme. Specifically, I don’t understand why the countries are clued as thought the crossing letters don’t exist.

SE corner was a beast. Didn’t quite trust RRR, couldn’t believe RULY or NETTY would be right, and never heard of IGER.

Anonymous 7:14 AM  

It's just terribly sad that Nicol Williamson, once called the greatest actor in the world by the playwright John Osborne (geez...Google him too!), is now forgotten. Tempus fugit and so do so many wonderful people and events in this age, where nothing really matters unless it was on TikTok three minutes ago.

Feeling very cranky today and that comment really got to me. RIP Charlie Watts.

oceanjeremy 7:17 AM  

I hate this puzzle for ONE REASON. And it has an easy fix! Just clue 8D with “Lead in to political”** and BOOM. A million times better.

The theme is definitely shaky, but it was fun enough to suss out that I’d forgive it its trespasses — if it weren’t for that awful cross between 8D and 19A. It’s not quite a Natick, and I should’ve remembered GEO from crosswords past. But (1) I didn’t and (2) MHO was a WOE so as far as I’m concerned this puzzle can go stuff itself.

**”Lead in to political” is, I am certain of it, a good clue. An exact-phrase google search returns exactly one instance of these four words in a row in all of the catalogued internet. And that search hit was a news article that had nothing to do with crosswords. So as far as I can tell it’s never ever been used as a crossword clue. It removes the PPP-necessary knowledge, the drudgery of trivia, and sticks to word and wordplay. Huge missed opportunity there.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

RULY Carpenter was a former owner of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Astro Nut 7:29 AM  

1D clue seems off. It should be Saturn orbit or orbit Saturn, not Saturn'S orbit. Saturn's orbit refers to its path around the sun.

GILL I. 7:33 AM  

I truly abhor RULY and NETTY can eat my grits. Other than that....yes, I felt I was missing something. Like maybe the bottle opener at a wine tasting party.
Where did you go wrong? you ask. Just about everywhere. Like CASSINI needs Mr. Oleg. Please don't tell me I should know about a probe entering any part of my Saturn. Did I remember what I need for my pochoir prints? No....and I was an art major for Dios sake.....Did I know what Apposite meant? Lenovos and I took a walk in the CROSS COUNTRY of the dark THROES of a wet OSCULAR sipping a COSMO.
The PANAMA/TONGA gave me the kick in the derrière's and it was my only little HAH moment. So that's why it's SURINAME and MALI. Did you jump for joy? you ask....Not really. I want to dance and sing on a Thursday. This one got me good in my nethers.

Zwhatever 7:34 AM  

Ok Class, Anyone know what Mr. Z did not do after solving the puzzle? Any one? That’s right! He did not stop to consider if I-R-A-N spelt IRAN or RAIN or NAIR or ‘AIRN. My assumption is that these were the four pairs that could be made to fit symmetrically (the across half of the pairs are symmetrical) and that if the down answers could have been made to fit symmetrically they would have.

It was much later in my solve when the light flickered on, so I was wondering why this was playing like a Friday, with so many holes scattered about the puzzle. Then the light came on and the puzzle went from challenging to easy. I thought it was a nice little twist. Personally, any meta that involves anagramming loses “clever” points and picks up “trying too hard” demerits, so I prefer the extra letters to just be extra letters (unless they spell something like Switzerland).

@LMS - Your last sentence - But you already knew that, didn’t you.

Clean up on Aisle Yesterday with some spoilers coming so avert your eyes if you haven’t done the Wednesday puzzle

@Albatross Shell - I work on a siding scale. You win the “Typo that made me Guffaw” Award.
@Anoa Bob - To me, the more nonsensical the better when we’re talking word play in themers. Nevertheless, Traverse City has a whole festival devoted to the cherry, so pitter patter seemed not absurd at all.
@stephanie - Good stuff.
@iamjess - I missed that. I guess I must be a lapsed Pastafarian. May his noodliness forgive me.

Son Volt 7:35 AM  

Had fun with this - but still don’t understand how it all comes together. I see the CROSS COUNTRY aspect but nothing really explains the blank square between the two - the revealer is lacking. I CAN DIG IT but it just seems incomplete.

Like the African sub theme along with the THE BEEB and SCARE TACTIC. More issue with the OAF - FLA stack than RULY.

Enjoyable Thursday solve.

JJK 7:37 AM  

I did not get the theme at all until I read Rex’s blog, although i didn’t find the puzzle hard. I just had to leave blank squares where the (as I learned later) country names crossed. I knew something had to go in those squares, I just had no idea what. So this was really lost on me. I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the body of water that is the English Channel could be called THEBEE_. But then finally got that it was the BBC… And I am completely disgusted by RULY, NETTY, TONG as a verb. So this was not great puzzle fun for me.

amyyanni 7:50 AM  

Liked THE BEEB. That is all.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

If you were an old codger like me, you'd remember Nicol Williamson from his early 70s Hamlet film.

DeeJay 7:55 AM  

Like the Cockney accent, millenial Connecticuters drop the inner Ts.

Peter P 7:58 AM  

Easy, fun puzzle, but one question. The answer is clearly something obvious, as it hasn't been mentioned, but what's the deal with "BEIN" as the answer for "Hippie happening?" I don't get it. Is it "Be-in?" Is it "bein'" as a contracted form of "being"? I guess I'm not hip on my hippies.

In re: "ruly" -- yeah, that is a bit cheap, but if you want to get technical about it, it is a word that originally goes back to the 15th century, disappeared for awhile, and came back in the late 1800s as, apparently, a humorous back-formation of "unruly" (as the original "ruly" had disappeared.) If you search for "unpaired words" on Wikipedia, you'll get various examples, including "gruntled," "gusting," "trepid," and "whelmed." My favorite, though unattested, is "ert" as the opposite of "inert."

Zwhatever 7:59 AM  

@Astro Nut - “Saturn’s orbit” can be either “the orbit of Saturn around the sun” or “the orbit of CASSINI around Saturn.” For example, “CASSINI entered Saturn’s orbit on July 1, 2004.”

@RULY haters - I just took the comment as proof that Rex doesn’t read the comments. I’m pretty sure “gruntled” appeared yesterday in the comments. Also, RULY seems perfectly plausible and I can imagine myself using it as a pejorative, “It’s one thing to be RULY, but when you let your love of rules interfere with actual learning we’re going to have a problem.”

@oceanjeremy - Someone with an xwordinfo subscription can tell us exactly how many times “lead in to political” has been used, but I’m sure it is a positive integer. The short-lived GM division is probably several spots behind your suggestion and stuff like “logical beginning.” I get the need to vary clues, but I’m right with you that PPP based on a brand that didn’t last a decade and stopped production a quarter century ago is sub sub optimal (not a typo).

@Anon7:14 - Which is worse, Rex not knowing him or his career being reduced to his role in that schlocky movie?

jabes 8:03 AM  

Maybe you'll enjoy this:

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

@Z: They're both awful. Nicol Williamson's "Hamlet" was a high point in theatre.

Ann Howell 8:09 AM  

Painful! Which just goes to show that "one man's trash...", etc.

Liked the clue for 'THE BEEB', but that was about it... For once, actually looking forward to Friday!

DaveD 8:09 AM  

Iran is an angry (cross) country?

kitshef 8:14 AM  

@oceanjeremy - "lead in to political" has never been used, but "prefix with political" has been used a lot. More sneakily, "political leader" has been used once. Eyeballing it, I think the most common definition has been "Earth: prefix" - but all from the pre-Shortz era.

Angelcook5 8:19 AM  

The Human Be-In was an event held in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park Polo Fields on January 14, 1967
.It was a prelude to San Francisco's Summer of Love, which made the Haight-Ashbury district a symbol of American counterculture and introduced the word "psychedelic" to suburbia.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

Iran fits with the theme since its both a country and a sentence I ran. As in what you do in cross country

Donkos 8:23 AM  

I ran cross country

Zwhatever 8:25 AM  

@jabes link is funny.

@Peter P - Yes, a BE-IN like a sit-in, only where a bunch of hippies try to just BE together. Or something like that.

@kitshef 8:14 - Which makes me wonder how many cutesy prefix/suffix identifiers we’ve seen. I do prefer the cutesy to the blandness of “Earth: prefix” but do enough puzzles and creative risks turning into trite.

Brian Faw 8:37 AM  

Ruly isn’t a word

bocamp 8:42 AM  

Thx Ashish; very crunchy, challenging Thurs. puz! :)

Tough unsolve.

Dnfed at the OSCULAR / ILE cross. Had INE and failed to notice the 'N' didn't belong in OSCUNAR. Did manage to eventually suss it out, but too late; so, technical dnf.

Even so, a very tough slog. I just wasn't at all on the right wave-length.

As always, enjoyed the challenge and battle; no excuse for infantINE, tho. My bad.
yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

it was ONE MEG for me...

sixtyni yogini 8:58 AM  

What Rex said and then some.
Trying to be clever without elegance gets a NO r WAY from YT.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

I was expecting Rex to lay into this puzzle. The gimmick is clever, but it's not well-explained at all.

Sadly, I know Nicol Williamson mainly because of his off-stage behavior. He was erratic and acting out during his Broadway appearance in "I Hate Hamlet," which culminated in his going off-script, audibly coaching his fellow actors on their performance in the middle of the show, and hitting Evan Handler, a fellow actor, on the backside with a prop sword, at which point, Handler walked off stage and quit the production. (Handler went on to play Henry Goldenblatt, Charlotte's husband, on "Sex and the City.") Williamson was a brilliant actor, but his personal demons have overshadowed that to some extent.

TTrimble 9:07 AM  

NETTY I knew from Spelling Bee, but when I looked it up before, it didn't mean "meshlike". It's a noun, chiefly British, meaning an outdoor lavatory. For all I know, that meaning is bog standard over there.

RULY I just looked up (People Also Ask: is RULY a valid Scrabble word? Yes, RULY is in the Scrabble dictionary). The first source I looked at says it's a back-formation from "unruly", which makes sense, but Wiktionary says not so fast, giving three possible etymologies. One of them reads as follows: "From Middle English rewly, reoly, reowliche, from Old English hrēowlīċe (“cruelly”), equivalent to rue +‎ -ly." I'm sharing this because I think Old English just looks and sounds so cool. Once I bought a DVD recording of Benjamin Bagby reciting, or rather performing, the entirety of Beowulf, accompanying himself on a medieval harp. With great gusto and dramatic effect. It's a very long poem, and from what I could tell trying to follow the text alongside, his mistakes were very few (though I'd like the opinion of an actual scholar).

Anyway -- curious puzzle. I totally missed putting the extra "mystery" letters together to form another country. Seems totally superfluous if what you really want is to hear the happy music, and by far it's the most kids-placemat-ty part of the puzzle, but okay. The part I had the most trouble with was the SW, where I had trouble remembering M.C. REN and the Japanese airline ANA, had trouble realizing that 69 Across was going to be two words (ONE MEG), and for reasons that escape me, trouble seeing MARGIN although I think it was fairly clued.

THE BEEB. How sad is it that my first association is not with the BBC as the English channel, that is to say this entity spread across a number of channels, but with The Bieb (sp?), the Biebster, the Biebinator, Justin Bieber. Additionally but secondarily, sad that the more correct association I have is with Austin Powers singing "BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, BBC 4, ..."

Closely following that is the earworm BEAT IT by Michael Jackson... Catchy-ass tune, that. But I'd happily replace it with Chicago's Saturday in the Park. CAN YOU DIG IT? Yes I can!

I don't mean to SCARE anyone with this, honest I don't, but I know OSCULAR from mathematics. Given a curve and a point on the curve, the osculating circle at that point is the circle through that point that hugs the curve as closely as possible. (Or kisses the curve, whatever.) Like this. Make the radius any bigger or smaller, and you miss getting that perfect fit. (Bachelor in Paradise contestants: put a little extra time and precision in your kisses, and you'll make out just fine. )

Except for the SW, I found the puzzle relatively easy for a Thursday. Tuesday's felt hard for a Tuesday and Wednesday's maybe a skosh hard for a Wednesday, but this evens it out. With that, I bid you A DUE.

yd 0
td 0

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Albatross Shell
Your post of 9:00 last night is almost nonsensical. Your grotesque misunderstanding of the catechism of the Church is so profound I'll skip correcting it. But if you are interested in it, read it. You may struck by its beauty. If you're not interested at least do us the favor of not spewing bigoted nonsense. Yeah, that bit about mumbling some words is a classic anti-Catholic trope-- most often seen in the phrase mumbo jumbo. I'm guessing, having read so many of your posts, that you were unaware of the grim history you were invoking. Now you do.

chance2travel 9:16 AM  

@Del Taco you break my heart. I was a peace corps volunteer in Benin from 1994 to 1997, teaching high school math in French. The cuisine is divine - pate rouge with fresh onions and tomatoes and a side of grilled chicken; igname pilée with peanut sauce; deep fried tilapia with a vegetable sauce and sesame balls. Or maybe you recognize it by its former name, Dahomey.

Although I'm ashamed to say I missed BENIN at first because I spelled Bob IGER's name with 5 letters, eIGER, which sounds reasonable. That gave me a lie-IN, which only failed me when I got MADETIME. I then wound up with BEe-IN, maybe a quilting protest?

Other reasons this was hard: Couldn't think of COSMO, tried rciAa instead of ASCAP. Just randomly wandered down the East side never getting any good momentum. Maybe it was a bad idea to start this before having my cappuccino.

Finally got the NE and NO-WAY crossing -WANDA and after considering and rejecting the idea of rebusing "a fish called", had the aha moment of "Oh, make the weird crossing things into country names!" SMH

Observation - 50% of the countries are in Africa. Benin and NIger actually share a border - that would be cool - make a puzzle where you only cross countries that abut.

I looked askance at RULY and NETTY but was jus thankful for anything that gave me traction.

Final note - I think 28 D should be how you ask if someone is proficient at touch typing - CAN YOU DIGIT?

Peter P 9:25 AM  

@Z - Ah, "be-in" as analogous to "sleep-in." Those wacky hippies! Before I grokked that the clue was one of the themers, I had "bed-in" there, thinking it was another word for "sleep-in." "Be-in" I have never heard of until now. Nostalgic 60s pop culture has failed me.

jberg 9:29 AM  

CASSINI is not just some rando astronomer, but the one who discovered that the ring of Saturn was actually the rings of Saturn, with perceptible gaps between them; the largest of these, which he discovered, is now named the CASSINI division. That's why they gave that probe his name. I knew all that, but didn't remember it, so I put in CASSIlI (I'd just been reading a news item about Brenda Casselius, our local Supt. of Schools, which is probably why), and found myself wondering if there was another LA team besides the Dodgers. SIR was no help, since it's much more formal than "Dear fellow." So DNF. Boohoo.

Nevertheless, I liked the theme a lot. I was just leaving blank spaces, but I looked at the clue again and saw that they were geographical crossings, saw NORWAY, and I was off. Lots of fun.

The BENIN Bronzes have been in the news a lot; after a long struggle they are being returned to their rightful home which, what with colonialism and all, is now in Nigeria.

@Loren, I was expecting something from you about the verbing of TONG; no one but @JJK seems to have noticed it. More seriously, I think I must have missed something. I had been wondering why the schools of Charlotte seemed to be so full of scary types, but from your post today I gather that you are teaching in some sort of special facility. My ex used to teach in a juvenile lock-up; discipline was never a problem, because the kids knew you could call the guards if you needed to. And, of course, being taught was more interesting than most of the other available activities.

I only rarely learn the names of actors in movies, and never saw Excalibur in any case. I got NICOL from crosses; had I noticed, I'd probably have filled in NIgeL.

Diane Joan 9:31 AM  

I looked "inward" and found that "meta" puzzles are beyond me! I puzzled over the square above "WANDA". Could I fit "A Fish Called..." in a Rebus? It was very innovative but I'm glad I gave up and did the reveal when I found I had errors. Forewarned is forearmed: "meta" solve is another possibility to look for next Thursday!

Unknown 9:33 AM  

So sick of gimmicks.

Nancy 9:37 AM  

Can you simply toss in an unclued and completely unaccounted for extra letter in order to make a country? Well, I suppose you can do anything that the NYT allows you to do. But I don't have to like it or think it's especially fair.

OTOH, this puzzle gave me a challenge and I do like a challenge. The reason I had a DNF didn't actually have anything to do with the strange theme. It was because I was 100% sure that the "measure of conductance" was OHM (19A); never changed it, and had no idea what I would have changed it to had I wanted to change it. This left me with JAoMER at 6D and GEm for the bygone Chevrolet division (well, why not? -- as you know, I know nothing whatever about cars.)

If I'd ever heard of a JAMMER...but I hadn't. Nor of GEO as a car division. Nor of MHO -- whatever that is.

Thought NETTY and RULY were ridiculous answers. But both came in and neither gave me trouble. And I learned that "Bat Appreciation Month" is OCT. And now I'm going to forget it. Look, you appreciate what you want to appreciate and I'll appreciate what I want to appreciate.

As I said -- challenging, but not entirely fair.

Unknown 9:43 AM  

Excellent Thursday puzzle. Clever and apt.

Peter in Chicago 9:43 AM  

The novelist Kingsley Amis cultivated an Oxbridgian accent in real life but spent a lot of time trying to capture the Cockney accent in print. So, for example, he has a pub owner waxing nostalgic about lost Cockney virtues: "We're a dime breed. Dine out like the dinosaurs." Or a character giving up on trying to assess the irrational behavior of another: "She's a fucky nuck-case." Amis was perplexed by the Cockneys' inability to pronounce the sound "th": "They all have tongues; many of them have teeth."

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

I'm grumpy about MHO, which is an obscure bit of physics jargon that became obsolete 50 years ago, when the unit was replaced with "Siemens." I was a physics major a quarter century ago, and I had never heard of this unit, which the NIST has said should be strictly avoided. The constructor should have taken this advice to heart.

Carola 9:51 AM  

Medium here. Not knowing what to do with the extra spaces in SUR?NAME and NO?WAY, I adopted a hopeful "just wait, all will be well" mindset - and it was, but it took me all the way to PANAMA x TONGA to get the idea. That allowed me to mop up the top two COUNTRY CROSSes and really helped with the last one, confirming that BE IN was right. I wasn't sure, though, what to make of the theme. I see that you can run CROSS COUNTRY and the two unclued COUNTRY names CROSS, but....??? I missed the pleasing IRAN fillip, but I'm still not sure how it all fits together. I was eager to read @Rex and find out what I was missing.

I knew CASSINI from the beautiful images of Saturn it sent back to us, Worth a look if you have a few nanoseconds :)

oceanjeremy 9:53 AM  

@Z & @kitshef: I read Z's comment ("Someone with an xwordinfo subscription") and lol'd. I have an xwordinfo subscription!!

I did note that "Lead in to political" hasn't been used word for word, though cluing GEO as relating to "political" has occurred ten times (including pre-Shortz era), or 13 if you count the two pre-Shortz occurrences related to "politics" (both in the 1960s).

Cluing GEO by way of logical, however, has only occurred three times. (Four if you count a 1984 cluing related to "logic," no "al.") Making @Z's suggestion of "Logical beginning" a hands-down winner in my eyes. I love cryptic crosswords, and this reminds me of them — though in Cryptic Crossworld it would be clued with an exclamation mark ("Logical beginning!"). And I feel in NYT Crossworld it should be clued with a question mark ("Logical beginning?").

It's so fun to wax about how amazing this clue (and therefore the puzzle) could have been. Makes me want to collaborate on constructing with @Z sometime.

(Full disclosure: I have never attempted to construct a puzzle, so please feel free to toss aside my criticisms as those of an armchair umpire / back seat driver. I mean, I'm still right — but I recognize that I haven't earned the authority for my word alone to mean much of anything.)

RooMonster 10:03 AM  

Hey All !
Well, another theme that *wooshed* over my head. Had three empty squares, not finding the fourth, as had BEeIN/eIGER in. Just couldn't tweak the ole brain into seeing adding a letter to the blank squares to form Countries. Nice theme idea, stupid brain for me. At least I noticed the 16 wideness.

Speaking of stupid brain, what in tarhooties is BE IN? Hippies BE IN? "I BE IN a groovy mood", or does it mean they are IN the conciousness of BEing? Or something.

So, had to Reveal Puzzle to see what I was missing. It added the letters, and then I saw the Countries. Aha, says I, neat if I had figured it out.

Had a tough time in the SW weeject (@M&A) stack, who is MC Ren? And ANA Airlines is new to me. ONE MEG. Oof.

Had JAMMRE spelt thusly, which was causing agita in that area. Slip of the keyboard. HORN. They should take the horn fuse out of All taxis. I want to slap cab drivers who live to honk their HORN. And it's usually their fault when you interact with them. A-holes.

ELEMENT neat clue. Had ELE_EN_ and thought "ELEVENS? WHA?" Har.

THE BEEB would be PPP any way you clue it. CAN YOU DIG IT?

Two F's

Tom in Nashville 10:13 AM  

Struggled with this. Picked up the theme but couldn’t get the fill. Not unfair, just hard for me. My brain was on a different wavelength than the constructor.

TTrimble 10:17 AM  

Not sure this will help, but...

An ohm is a measure of electrical resistance*, and named after a physicist dude. I think MHO is actually playing off of that, being "ohm" backwards, and therefore measuring something like the very opposite of resistance, which is called conductance. (Looking it up.) Yep, MHO is a bit of word-play, coined by Lord Kelvin.

(For those of you who are math-y, an ohm is a measure of voltage divided by current, and a MHO measures the reciprocal quantity, current divided by voltage; thus they're inversely related.)

*Roughly, how hard it is for an electron to move through a medium.

Pablo 10:20 AM  

At the end of the day, too many nits here to really enjoy it. Maybe I'm not the target audience, so I'll chalk it up to that. Glad some people could enjoy this, while others clearly couldn't.

For me, there were too many answers that left me with "huh?" instead of "aha" at the end. Among them JAG, ASCAP, MHO, DCON, THEBEEB (never heard of this for BBC, but maybe that's on me), OSCULAR, GEO, NICOL, and NOH. Fair enough, but all out of my wheelhouse, which made this a long solve.

Then there were clues I just had trouble getting behind. ONEMEG? As in one megabyte? Never heard it said that way. The clue for WAS seems to imply something more specific than just WAS, but I can concede that one as technically correct. BENIN or BE IN still reads weird to me with that clue. Then MOP for "swab" I just can't get behind. Feels like a disingenuous use given how the two differ colloquially.

Otherwise, fine. Challenging for me, but technically fair. I just didn't find it too engaging or clever in how it was challenging, personally.

Joseph Michael 10:20 AM  

Solved this without understanding the theme. Then as I looked at the completed grid trying to figure out what it had to do with CROSS COUNTRY, an imaginary R appeared. I suddenly saw NORWAY crossing RWANDA and experienced an intense and satisfying AHA. I almost wanted to have a cigarette afterward.

Being geographically challenged, the countries of SURINAME and BENIN were lost on me, but I learned something new in the process. Two more places to go someday.

Ashish, you asked CAN YOU DIG IT? The answer is YEAH, MAN. COOL PUZZLE.

Now I need to get back to the BE IN.

kfja 10:21 AM  

What does The Been mean? Google isn’t helping me.

jae 10:28 AM  

Mostly easy. The nanosecond suck was figuring out what to do with the blank squares, which actually didn’t take a lot of nanoseconds. Mildly tricky Thursday, liked it.

JD 10:30 AM  

Wow! Brilliant, informative comments today.

Felt that I'd nailed it at NoRway/Rwanda, but done in by things like randomness of placement, countries I think of as hats, and long defunct airlines to name a few. For example, it would've helped if MaDtime and Tide would were countries, instead of NiGer and BeNin. Obviously not a criticism of the puzzle. My simple mind just wanted things to be more ruly. But that's really asking too much. So DNF.

"I Raise the flag as we sail the Coasts. I Ding the Netty Horn as we List, Made Time and Tide." From Typee.

RooMonster 10:32 AM  

Well, dang, if only I read all the comments before posting. Thanks to the BE IN explainers. Those crazy hippies!

Had a friend in Connecticut whose name was Chip, and he was most definitely a hippie. You guessed it, everyone (even himself) called him Chippie the Hippie.

Also, I was wrong again (surprise, surprise) about THE BEEB. Apparently, BEEB is the English TV Station, whereas BIEB is Justin. Ah. Got it now (he says confidently, knowing full well that next time, he'll mess it up again.)

RooMonster Mopping Up Guy

mathgent 10:35 AM  

Some think that NYT doesn't like to print grids that are16 wide and that they only do it if the puzzle is extraordinary. Not true. Today's is 16 wide and totally meh.

Also it's annoying. RULY. And the trying-too-hard SARI in the clue for 14D. And 24 Terrible Threes.

But some very nice posts so far this morning.

Conrad 10:42 AM  

I thought I had the theme figured out at 21A: The clue is a word, the answer is a different word with an extra letter inserted. I didn't realize that the answer *had* to be a country, and MALI looked like a "bad" prefix to me (as in MALIce, MALIcious and MALIbu). The next themer I encountered was in the SE. I wanted BE-IN for 58D, and figured the extra letter would be "E". And eIGER as the media exec looked okay. Moving on, I figured out what the theme really was, but forgot to circle back and correct BEeIN/eIGER until I got the "horsefeathers" pop-up.

Aunt Hattie 10:46 AM  

Wrote in RULY and immediately decided to wish LMS a roomful of ruly pupils. Sounds like she has one!

TOCraig 10:50 AM  

Yes, they do! I noticed this years ago when my kids called Newton Rd “New-n Rd”. Nice catch.

Unknown 10:51 AM  

Way too many three letter words. Not fun to solve.

Liz1508 11:00 AM  

I did not like it.

rjkennedy98 11:01 AM  

Crunchy Thursday. Like any good Thursday it took me a while to figure out the trick and then it was off to the CROSS COUNTRY races. I initially had LAST NAME instead of SUR(I)NAME which messed up that corner till SCARE TACTIC corrected it. Knowing the trick I was able to drop in NO(R)WAY with no crosses and then (R)WANDA. TONG(A) with just the T and PANAM(A). No way I could get into those corners otherwise.

My favorite was the clue for ONE MEG, which was great misdirection. Legend has it that Bill Gates once said that all they memory you'll ever need is 640 Kilobytes! Now we consider a full megabyte to be tiny.

What? 11:05 AM  

Maybe it’s me but I seem to have stumbled into a nitpicker’s convention. Just having country names cross is pretty good but then taking out a single letter and you have the defined words cross. Wowsy bowsy. Good job, Ashish.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

OFL needs to spend some more time with SCI part of STEM, if CASSINI is so out-of-band. One of the triumphs of intra-solar exploration.

david kulko 11:10 AM  

Nicol Williamson was great as Merlin in the movie Excalibur but he really was great as a coked up Sherlock Holmes in The Seven-Percent solution. It's a movie where he is treated by Sigmund Freud, who also assists him in solving a case. Played by the great Alan Arkin if memory serves. Last saw him as the very subdued and unsuspecting husband who is poisoned by his young wife (Theresa Russell) in Black Widow.

Never seen MHO which is OHM backwards. Makes sense now because the former is conductance and the latter resistance? Pure crosswordese that ironically have never seen in a crossword before? That hung me up a bit, especially since I never thought of Geo as anything but a car, not a line of vehicles. So I got stuck on "GMC" which made me doubt "jammer."

Love "oscular" (osculations) which I came to know through an old WC Fields film.

Wish I'd remembered that it's IGER not EIGER (which I conflated with "Geiger." That also screwed me up.

Otherwise it was an ok puzzle.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  


and they swallow most vowels preceding an N - New Britnnnnn is where I'm from.

Brian 11:14 AM  

Iran is an angry (cross) country

Brian 11:15 AM  


Unknown 11:19 AM  

Left me both crossed and distressed. Felt jetlagged between confusion and exasperation. Say what you like about Eugene Maleska - this would not have cleared his watch.

Whatsername 11:26 AM  

It’s Thursday and here we have something different for a trick and that’s my highest praise for this puzzle.

When I take my eggs out of the water I don’t TONG them any more than I “office” when I sit down at my computer. Why? Well, because it OFT sounds silly to use a noun as a verb. Neither do I have SOOT in my pipes, at least not that I know of. I have it on my walls and in my fireplace flue and on the outside of my chimney. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how it would get into my pipes. Being a child of the 60s, I knew of sit-ins and lie-ins and love-ins but never a BE-IN or the country of BENIN for that matter. I thought Lenovos were some ancient civilization. And RULY is too NETTY to even talk about.

OSCULARizing this one goodbye. CIAO.

TJS 11:34 AM  

Capisce as clued ? Tong as a verb ? Was that a meg or a mho ?

IBMPCS<IDING<RULY<NETTY...anyone else think this has a "just get it over with" vibe ?


JD 11:37 AM  

@Peter in Chicago, Any day Kingsley Amis comes up it's going to be a good day at the blog.

@Pablo, Agree on most of your nits but I'm in a nautical mood today so Swab for Mop hits me just right, diabolically.

@Carola, Thank you!

@TTrimble, Intrigued by the mathematics/Oscular connection I played around and found this on a site called wordnik, "In mathematics, pertaining to a higher order of contact than the first. Of or pertaining to the osculum of a sponge." More fun at your 10:17 entry.

Followed up by @Anon 9:49, with hope that someone at the NYT will read and MHO doesn't become the next Oreo/Owlet O-word go-to.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Quite challenging, but mostly enjoyable. I got "Cassini" and "Nicol" straightaway. The theme took a bit longer, but I soon saw that many of the answers had an extra square. "Ruly"? Really??? And can someone please explain what "RRR" is? ABCs, sure...

jazzmanchgo 11:52 AM  

Holdover from yesterday: Here's the classic "Zeon's Paradox" routine from the Firesign Theater (starts at 1:27) --

bocamp 11:52 AM  

No prob with RULY. Sounds a bit off, but then so does gruntled. Both get the job done.

Learned BENIN from Sporcle quizzes.

Learned NETTY from SB (defined in my Jae's List as per @TTrimble's take).

Ran CROSS COUNTRY in jr. hi. 🏃

Gave the side-eye to SURINAME; however, search SURINAM on Wikipedia and you get it with the 'E', so all is good.

@TTrimble 👍 for 0

Thx for the MHO explanation. The only reason I got it right was because I associated GEO with Chevrolet (didn't know it was a division, per se).

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

jazzmanchgo 11:55 AM  

@Anonymous (11:11) -- I'm also from "New Bri*ain," and it's amazing to find people who've never even been there, who know about this. I was in Indiana talking to a man who asked me where I was from -- I told him, and he broke into a big smile (gee -- remember smiles?) and said, "AHH! New BRI*INNN!" Really tickled me.

Tim Carey 12:06 PM  


mathgent 12:16 PM  

My favorite posts this morning.

Gill I. (7:33)
Anonymous (8:58)
Peter in Chicago (9:43)
Anonymous (9:49)
David Kulko (11:10)

TJS 12:19 PM  

I have a new entry in my list of favorite comments:

"Once I bought a DVD recording of Benjamin Bagby reciting, or rather performing, the entirety of Beowulf,accompanying himself on a medieval harp."

Wow, just Wow. Makes me proud to be a member of this community. I'm serious.

Newboy 12:23 PM  

Jumping in for the first comment day this week—without even reading Rex & others. I must be suffering an angst from the Delta cancellations that seem to be their own epidemic, but today’s grid deserves note. I enjoyed the grid concept and execution enough that I can overlook the regrettable lack of a Thursday rebus. My CROSS COUNTRY coaching days are long past, but that reveal alone made my morning TRAIN worth catching—delightful. Several clues brought smiles (57A & 23A). And Ashish had me truly puzzling over that ? In SUR?NAME as I stared at the totally filled NW…..way too long on a Thursday to not have that penny properly slotted!

I suspect that my gushing delight will find parallels in @Lewis’s response, but fail to find the “clearly flawed” problems that no doubt will constitute the majority of OFL’s review….off now to check my clairvoyant cred.

TTrimble 12:29 PM  

Well, that's right. If I may be indulged for a moment...

Imagine three points in the plane, and assume they are not collinear (so no single line contains all three). Then according to high-school geometry, there exists exactly one circle passing through all three*. Here's a little applet to play around with (check-mark where it says Circle).

Now perform a thought experiment. Take a curve C with a point p on it, and then take two more points q and r, also on C, but near to p. As above, those three points determine a unique circle. You can imagine little knobs that slide the points q and r around, and those knobs accordingly move the corresponding circle around, but as you move the knobs so that q and r move closer and closer to p, the corresponding circles settle down to a particular fixed circle, and that's the OSCULAting circle.

(In more calculus-oriented language, the osculating circle is the limit of the circles that are uniquely determined by the three points p, q, r as q and r approach p.)

Here's a little applet that gives the osculating circle as you move a point around an curve. Go ahead, try it, it's fun.

*If the points are vertices of a triangle, then the center of the circle will be the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors of any two of the sides.

Zwhatever 12:54 PM  

@oceanjeremy - I will never construct a puzzle and I also reject the notion that one has to do so to have an opinion. I'd go further and say that constructors' opinions are often less authoritative than solvers' judgements. Witness the "feats of construction" that are gawdawful puzzles. Read the constructor notes and we discover that the idea of IRAN came from other constructors to "add another level." But does that actual "added level" actually add anything to the solve? Especially when the result is BE(N)IN/(N)IGER? At best I'd call that a push. If the IRAN/I RAN was intentional maybe I'd lean towards it being an acceptable addition, but that seems to not be something the constructor noted. An additional country just for the sake of an additional country with nothing "CROSS" about it? Meh. In short, I think the constructor got bad advice because he asked constructors' opinions, not solvers' opinions.
(TBF - the two constructors he asked are the sort who might have made the extra level meld into the solve more seamlessly and really stick the landing - this is why great players are often not great coaches, they don't understand others' limits)

@Roo - I can't help but wonder what would have happened if, instead of hitting "reveal," you had just walked away for a few minutes? I know for me a pause, refilling my coffee, walking the dogs, reading the paper, anything other than staring at the puzzle, often shakes loose what I am not seeing.

@david kulko - ? Excaliber always elicits a "What were they thinking?" from me.

@JD and @Anon9:49 - Too late. MHO is firmly affixed in wordlists and I feel like its appearance in puzzles is only slightly less frequent than OHM.

TONG has been a verb for 153 years.

D’Qwellner 1:00 PM  

MHO?!? Scientists needed a unit for the reciprocal of OHM so they just reversed the letters? I can’t even! Just wow. REVELC!! Good to know.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

"...constructors' opinions are often less authoritative than solvers' judgements. "

What a bizarre claim.

jb129 1:11 PM  

Never got it .... never cared to.

Shawn 1:20 PM  

That made me like this more than my initial instinct, but I do think the revealer was lacking in making that clearer

old timer 1:21 PM  

I finished the puzzle not quite getting it. But finish I did, and found the four CROSSing countries. I had mixed feelings, but knew OFL would Explain it All, and the commentariat would be amusing. What I did not expect was that the kids our Muse teaches are equipped with ankle monitors. Brava! @LMS, brava! Having even one class you look forward to can change a kid's life around forever.

I was a bright kid who thought arithmetic was boring. In 7th grade, I had a teacher who was so enthusiastic about basic algebra (at that stage, learning how to create simple formulas with X as the thing to solve for) that I decided it was at least sort of interesting. I can still hear her Boston accent, and her pride at having done well at Boston Girls' Latin.

Years later, I fell in love with Northumberland and its music, and all things Geordie. So I may be the first to tell you that the NETTY is the outside toilet behind your "hoose". That's in the North of England: In the South, they use the loo.

I certainly had no trouble with BE-IN. I went to it! All sorts of poets were there, including Gary Snyder, who was long my IDOL. Plus, I first heard the Grateful Dead there. This was long before they had an album, or air play of any kind. Indeed, long before Garcia was the leader (Pigpen did most of the singing), and long before the Dead made their songwriter, Robert Hunter, a member of the band, though Garcia and Hunter had been BFFs forever.

The BE-IN ended with a walk to the ocean, though I think my friend and I just went back to Palo Alto, our lives changed forever.

GILL I. 1:24 PM  

@mathgent 12:16.....I feel honored.
@stephanie from late yesterday....good gravy, girl. I don't think I could fill a test tube with spit. My OSCULAR habits wouldn't allow it.
By the way: today is National Dog Day.....Give your little fur balls an OSCULAR RULY NETTY. They love those things.

Teedmn 1:25 PM  

I can't remember now (it's been 20 minutes at least) whether I saw something of the revealer before filling in SURINAME-MALI, or if I just happened upon the concept but I had no problem figuring out the extra letter, at least after I finally figured out OPENS, SCALE, NATS. Rex calls this easy but I found myself scratching my head over vague clues such as those for SCALE, HORN, COLE.

Har, I just figured out the clue for 32D, why SIR is a "dear fellow". That's nice but tricky.

11D, I could not get over thinking that the title character was going to be the name of John Cleese's character so the NE gave me fits; Basil didn't fit. 9D being a total WOE and 10D and 12D joining the group of vague clues (and me wondering if saris were measured in English units or metric) meant that it took a lot of INWARD consulting before I came up with "A Fish Called [R]WANDA".

I join @Roo with a BE-IN lacuna in my knowledge. I started out with lie-IN and only the cross-country theme saved me there.

I wrote IRAN at the top of the page after solving and looked again at the revealer to see if the meta was implied - nope.

Thanks, Ashish Vengsarkar, for an interesting Thursday that played tough for me.

nyc_lo 1:30 PM  

I’m assuming Rex must have bought “Excalibur,” thinking “hmm, have to see what all the fuss is about someday,” then never watched it. Because NICOL Williamson’s Merlin owns every frame of that movie, even when he’s off-screen. A madcap performance of epic proportions.

And NETTY is equally as unforgivable as RULY, in my book.

PhysGraf 1:42 PM  

Also, GEO was a division of GM not Chevrolet.

CDilly52 2:08 PM  

While I disagree with OFL’s pronouncement that RULY is not a word (it most certainly is), I agree that it is probably the biggest possible stretch as an answer to “neat and orderly.” Yuk!!!

I further agree that the theme leaves one wanting purpose for the otherwise random extra letter in the answer that doesn’t require it. Can’t quite figure that one out.

So, while those objections are a little more than mere nits, I still enjoyed this puzzle because of its clever clues, my favorite being nickname for the English Channel. That was a gimme because I watch more of THE BEEB than any other channel, but still clever.

Kitty with an appointment for her annual shot; must fly. Like this lots.

CZ 2:11 PM  

Had BEDIN first, ya know, like the John and Yoko bed in for peace. Then I figured the D in IDING and MADETIME “crossed the countries.” Couldn’t get that concept to work elsewhere, tho. Never heard of a BE IN.

bocamp 2:17 PM  

@PhysGraf (1:42 PM)

Maybe a matter of interpretation. 🤔

"Geo was a marque of small cars and SUVs marketed by General Motors as a subdivision of its Chevrolet division from 1989 to 1997." (Wikipedia)

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Anonymoose 2:33 PM  


"Geo was a marque of small cars and SUVs marketed by General Motors as a subdivision of its Chevrolet division from 1989 to 1997." So GEO IS a division of Chevrolet. In turn there were multiple models of the GEO.

invisible_hand 2:52 PM  

Like “I ran cross country”

invisible_hand 2:52 PM  

Iran as in “I ran cross country”

bertoray 2:56 PM  

I've never heard ruly ( nor kempt for that matter ) in the wild.

Hartley70 3:03 PM  

Anonymous 8:58, loved the Williamson anecdote. Thanks!

Hartley70 3:14 PM  

Dear and just God, there’s a bat appreciation month?

Crimson Devil 3:26 PM  

Not enjoyable, ‘cept for BEEB cluing.
As said, RIP Charlie Watts .

Georgia 3:31 PM  

Gill, wasn't it "kiss my grits?"

Masked and Anonymous 3:49 PM  

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." -- Oscular Wilde

This was a RULY different theme. M&A is always a sucker for different.
But had some trouble at our house right away, up in the NW starter corner, with the sneaky MALI/SURINAME crossin square of mystery. I peeked ahead (actually, I RAN) to the 40-A revealer clue, which gave m&e just enough info to nudge out an ahar moment. Back to the NW square of mystery, M&A decided not to leave it blank (good call), and splatzed in a "(I)" notation, instead. Sorta like a reverse-rebus square marker.

After a booster shot of vodka & cinnamon roll, I was then well prepared to mow down the rest of this ThursPuz in near-record nanosecond expenditure time.
Thought the IRAN meta (and double yer entendre) answer was pretty easy-ish to spot. Agree with @RP, tho -- slightly more elegant, if the (I) had been higher-up in the puzgrid than the ®.

Luved the total lack of dig NETTY, displayed by the Comment Gallery. har

staff weeject pick: RRR. Its RRRULY nice and uniform.
fave clue = the 42-D one for COLE. honrable mention to the 48-D clue for ELEMENT.

Thanx for the neat cross-crossword run, Mr. Vengsarkar dude. And for the bonus 16th puzgrid column (needed to save NETTY).

Masked & Anonymo4Us.


today's (biter alert):

Eniale 4:05 PM  

Anonymous 7:52 - Yes, Nicol Williamson was good as Hamlet, but did you ever see him in "The Bofors Gun "(1968)? Memorable! Check out the NYT review online.

David from CA 4:31 PM  

@Z. I think @AstroNut is right on this orbit. The possessive "'s" can only apply to the orbit belonging to Saturn, which is its path around the sun. Cassini entered "Saturn orbit" perhaps, like Apollo entered "lunar orbit".

Shay 4:33 PM  

I didn’t like the meta either. But, I did see IRAN as both “Iran” (country) and “I ran” (one way to run). Not sure if that was intentional, but I thought there might have been something to that.

Wright-Young 4:35 PM  

Nickname for the BBC

G. Weissman 4:43 PM  

Maybe someone has already written this, but all this puzzle needed to nail the dismount is a clue that goes something like “County where four special letters in this grid will take you” and include the answer IRAN. Without that Rex is right: the letters that need to be added seem random and the otherwise fine puzzle feels incomplete.

JD 4:45 PM  

@TTrimble. I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to grasp it without the graph, so it was really rewarding (and fun)!

Anoa Bob 4:48 PM  

Threw down CASSINI and OSCULAR without any help from crosses. Made my day. I knew CASSINI from those spectacular pictures of Saturn's rings taken by the eponymous NASA probe. A couple of us Junior High School wise acres discovered that OSCULATE was a high falutin term for "kiss" and would occasionally ask a girl if she wanted to do some OSCULATing. Weren't we clever!? Don't answer that.

I was in San Francisco in '67. I was still in the Navy---our ship was dry docked at Hunter's Point---and would take the bus to downtown and see the sights. Made it to Haight Ashbury a few times and still have a little brass bell I bought from a hippie chick street vendor. This was in the Fall of '67 so I think it was after the hippie BE IN. A few years later, after my Navy days were over, I became a hippie, albeit a sort of half assed one. Still am although as a stealth hippie, i.e., stopped waving my freak flag (long hair, full beard, granny glasses, stoner patois and such) years ago.

I'm a big admirer of Ancient Greek religion. One of its nice features is that gods and goddesses can temporarily leave their heavenly realm on Mount Olympus and materialize in human form on Earth and mingle with the hoi polloi. I have had a long time crush on ATHENA and have been hoping she would grace me with a visit. So far a crossword grid is as close as she has gotten.

As I was checking out the grid in Rex's review I came across 62A MADE TIM and said "Huh? Don't remember that one." Oh, MADE TIME. Looks like the 16 wide grid got chopped down to a 15 wide in Rex' grid.

New Riders of the Purple Sage "PANAMA Red", CAN YOU DIG IT?

JC66 5:14 PM  

@Anoa Bob

Good catch on @Rex's cropped grid (were you looking for POCs? 😂).

GILL I. 5:23 PM  

@Georgia 3:31. Yikes! Right you are. I think I was hating on OSCULAR and didn't want to kiss anything!

Dr. Mike 5:48 PM  

"Be-In" in the Sixties contexts of protests like Sit-Ins (civil rights, free speech), Die-Ins (Vietnam War). The most famous Be-In in 1967 San Francisco was a precursor to the Summer of Love, and invited all people of all races and creeds to come there to simply Be there together, in tolerance and lack of oppression. An admirable goal, if difficult to achieve.

Unknown 5:57 PM  

Wow, really loved it! Thanks Ashish V. Almost, but not quite, too hard, great revealer/hint, very challenging for a semi-serious solver like me. Very proud not to have googled anything. OSCULAR was tough, and RULY was too cute by half, but overall, fantastic!

Taffy-Kun 6:10 PM  

In 50’s London, I heard a bemused foreigner ask a Transport official where he was (Tottenham Court Road). After two failed attempts, she took a deep breath, then carefully enunciated in a loud voice “To’nnam Cawt Rawd”. He shook his head and gave up!

TTrimble 6:27 PM  

Thanks! :-)

@Anoa Bob 4:48 PM reminds me of this song by The Who.

pabloinnh 6:33 PM  

Printed this one out, took it along on an all-day beach outing with the granddaughter, did it sitting in a folding chair and jumping in the lake when the heat was too much. Got back a little while ago and read through the comments, which I think is like binge-watching something, at least from what I hear, as I have never binge watched anything. It's great fun and if you've never approached the commentary this way, I can recommend it on an occasional basis.

I find myself in the @Anoa Bob camp in that I threw in COSMO and then OSCULAR off that first O and felt all smart. After reading lots of comments, the feeling was amplified by knowing MHO and BEIN and GEO as a vehicle. I think there were a couple of others but I'd need to be even smarter to remember them.

So I'm also with the "enjoyed the theme and execution folks. And did not look for IRAN and therefore didn't miss missing it.

Very fun puzzle, AV. Thanks for all the fun. Led to an Admirable Victory for yours truly,

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

I took quite a few physics courses in college, including a bunch that covered electricity and magnetism, and the first I ever heard of MHO was in the NY Times crossword puzzle.


Georgia 7:07 PM  


Leapfinger 8:35 PM  

Hey @Gilly Fleur!! Always happy to know when you've been got good in your nethers!! Put those shiny thigh-highs to good use and thanks for perking up the day.

Now on to see what pearls drip from Friend Z's osculator; all y'all are going to make me miss the times I had more time...before I ran, I ran so far away-ay-ay

fwiw, I'm still permanently imprinted by Anoa Bob's POCs

MWAH to all the Relevants, you know who you are

Anonymous 8:53 PM  

I didn't find the theme too challenging after seeing the country names. But I did find the NW corner difficult, and GEO crossing MHO almost stumped me.

Leapfinger 8:58 PM  

@Brian Faw & cohort -- 'couth' didn't usta be a word till the verbalizing pop'n took the bit firmly in dentition and un-preficized 'uncouth'. The only reason 'unRULY' hasn't yet followed suit is that vox pop is more attuned to the couth of things than the truly RULY.

@sixtyni yogini -- You seem like a nice person, so why designate self as YT? Oh, it's an initialism, not meant to be sounded out? All righty, then.

Zwhatever 9:00 PM  

@David from CA - “Saturnine orbit” would be the equivalent of “lunar orbit.” “The moon’s orbit” would be the equivalent of “Saturn’s orbit.” Don’t believe me? How about NASA?

Anonymous 9:12 PM  

Never got the theme until almost the end - just wondered why the answers i thought were right were not long enough for the squares. Lots of obscure references in this (NICOL??, BE-IN?? (i first had sit-in)) and crossing BE-IN with IGER was tough. I remember in high school in the 80s we had a computer room with networked Commodore 64s (as in 64 KILObytes of RAM), and the school had just purchased an item the size of large VCR that was so expensive that they locked it in a cage - a 1 MEGAbyte hard disk drive!! (and I still have my VIC-20 with a whopping 5KB RAM (only 3583 bytes available though) So I guess small storage unit is relative.

Nancy 9:56 PM  

Well, I'll be darned, look who's b-a-a-ck!!! For a moment I thought I was hallucinating. It's been like forever! Hope you're back for good, @Leapfinger, and not just giving us a bit of a tease. You've been missed.

GILL I. 10:15 PM  

OH MY HEAVENLY GO GO BOOTS and joy to my all mighty nethers. My bestest buddy and my missiest buddy has come back to say hi.
My leaps runneth over. xoxoxo.

Hugobarber 10:16 PM  

Couldn’t see margin. Didn’t know ANA or MC Ren. Broke my streak at 192.

albatross shell 10:34 PM  

I always am happy to give you a guffaw, intentional or not. I'm a bit rueful that it was in my favorite line in my mini-tirade (if the whole sentence were quoted).
I am also surprised that you and others add things like if it were intentional and do not seem to understand that CROSS COUNTRY and IRAN/I RAN make a nice pun and add a 5th country. Now I did not even see the IRAN, but reading Rex mention it and not finding it meaningful I was yelling out I RAN CROSS COUNTRY and there is clearly the CROSS you were looking for but not getting or not appreciating. Hard to tell. To me it was the cherry on top. Well not really because I do not like those un-spellable cherries. So let's just say the extra whip cream on top.

Wordplay notes you have to crisscross the grid to spell out IRAN. Is that enough of an IRAN CROSS for you. I bet not.

Thanks to TTrimble for finding the backwards OHM credit goes to Kelvin. I never saw it before but I love those unknown answers that let you know the answer you have is correct. They should have a name for that.

I knew @old timer would have a good be-in story. By the time I got to one they were a little too choreographed and some of the sheen was gone. I knew a couple folks who were at the early ones. They get that look when they talk about them. @old timer: you ever run into a drummer Steve Mitchell? Rumored to be the inspiration for the muppet Animal.

I was gruntled by RULY. Perfect for a fuckU thUrsday.

Leapfinger 10:40 PM  

Love all the bits about Cockney enunciation. Around St Mary-le-Bow, they'd be making Ashish Hashish.

SWAK, Gilly-fleur. Big-time SWAK.

Zwhatever 10:58 PM  

@albatross shell - I actually like the I RAN part. Too bad it seems accidental. He had other options but went with one for that “added” IRAN element. Would a different fourth pair of countries have resulted in a better puzzle overall? We’ll probably never know.

Tom 11:19 PM  

This guy gets it

RooMonster 12:53 AM  

Leapy!! Dang, where ya been? Stick around for a spell.


albatross shell 1:18 AM  

This is something extra. An imp r oved pair of countries would be a minor improvement at best. I can't say IRAN I Ran and CROSS COUNTRY could ever seem accidental in this context. Overlookable, yes. Which is a plus, not a minus in my book. But to each her own.

Doug Abeles 2:38 AM  

The country names don’t actually “cross,” rather they intersect. As a consequence I was unable to complete this puzzle.

stephanie 1:43 AM  

commenting after the fact as i just want to complain in private XD

this was so bad. i guess i just wasn't smart enough for this one but...yikes. honestly forgot about having read earlier on that there would be "crossing" countries until i got to the last square, when i had NO WAY crossing WANDA and i actually looked up a fish called wanda because i was like "but it's just wanda right? isn't it? wtf?" eventually i typed an R just because and boom it finished and i was like...the fuck did i just do? looking back i figured robert NIGER was a person, hippies must have protested for something happening in BENIN, PANAMA airlines seemed real, MALI- was a prefix i had seen before, SURINAME didn't make sense but SURNAME doesn't either so i just figured there was some political thing or war or some such with SURINAME at some point with each of the two countries? i admit i couldn't explain TONGA, i'll give you that. but by that point i was beyond over this dud.

never heard of/didn't know CASSINI, OSCULAR, MHO, NATS, ASCAP (brain would only repeatedly say ASPCA even though i kept telling the damn thing that wasn't the acronym i wanted and to please check a different filing cabinet), NOH, NICOL...typing it out it doesn't even seem like that many and yet this puzzle proved impossible unfortunately. i'll accept a DNF on a saturday, but on a thursday without even getting the theme was really a bummer.

also had THROBS before THROES which caused additional consternation. honestly NETTY and RULY were tRULY the least of my problems. THE BEEB i think i've only ever seen/heard in the crossword, and i love the bbc. mc REN feels like a puzzle constructer googled REN to try to make something out of it. sure he's been around a long time but the clue doesn't feel genuine to me. i think the only things i enjoyed working out were SCARE TACTIC, CAN YOU DIG IT, and SYNERGY. ELEMENT was just ok.

even if i had bombed this badly *but then* came here and had a giant forehead slap moment (or several) that would have been fine. enjoyable even, in its own way. i can still appreciate the stuff i don't get on the first try or at all. but this i cannot appreciate. sorry. too hard, ultimately pointless, boring. (i fell asleep.)

oh, and by the way, the true classic john cleese comedy is without a doubt FAWLTY TOWERS. BASIL FOREVER.

Nigel Pottle 9:59 PM  

My last name where I grew up (Newfoundland) has a glottal stop. Pottle is Poh?ul

Nigel Pottle 10:19 PM  

On a boat you swab the deck, with a mop.

Nigel Pottle 10:24 PM  

The three RS. Readin’, Ritin’ and ‘Rithmatic. Yes, really.

Clay 4:48 AM  


Waxy in Montreal 10:38 AM  

Confident start today with FAWLTY at 11D which THROES things off to the NTH degree.

Count me in the BEDIN crowd at 58D à la John and Yoko happening at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in 1969 - certainly made finding the 4th CROSSCOUNTRY pairing (BENIN/NIGER) A(T)TEST.

NO WAY RULY should have made the Shortz cut along with DCON and MAACO (never heard of either). And NETTY?? Quite ALIST.

And let me tell you when (late 60s) we ran most apps for a multi-national corporation on a 32K mainframe. ONEMEG would definitely not have been a small storage unit! Ah, tempus fugit.

Really enjoyed resolving the perhaps unique theme - thank you ASHISH - but perhaps you OTTO have MADE(more)TIME to come up with somewhat better fill.

spacecraft 11:24 AM  

It is kind of a difficult theme to explain, but I got the gist right away, thanks to knowing CASSINI. A rare NW start!

So this played easy, for a Thursday. I was a bit whelmed by RULY, though it's the name of a former owner of the Phillies, RULY Carpenter. There's some fill junk, notably IBMPCS, but bearable. Par.

thefogman 11:31 AM  

Terrific puzzle. The extra letter thing (IRAN) doesn’t bother me. Yes, it could have been clued differently to hint at its existence, but I kind of liked how it popped out of nowhere like a bonus - an Easter egg. Maybe there’s a pun in CROSSCOUNTRY that infers that IRAN is upset about something (what country isn’t?). I doubt that’s it. Anyhoo, this one had clever wordplay and fun to solve. Who could ask for anything more? In FACT, I would say Ashish Vengsarkar deserves to be placed on the ALIST of crossword constructors.

Waxy in Montreal 11:47 AM  

Believe IRAN is cleverly both a reference to the country and to I RAN in the CROSSCOUNTRY race.

Burma Shave 12:25 PM  


after a JAG ON COSMOS,


thefogman 1:37 PM  

@Waxy - That’s the cherry on the cake.

leftcoaster 5:14 PM  

A heavy-duty puzzle that IMO suffers from the weight of its conceit.

Diana, LIW 9:03 PM  

Another Thursday that I didn't finish because I didn't care.

Lady Di

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