Singer Mai with the 2018 hit Boo'd Up / WED 8-25-21 / This device makes prepping cherries a breeze / Word that comes from Lakota for dwelling

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Constructor: Adam Vincent

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Say what? — familiar phrases are reimagined as phrases describing a type of utterance, all of them clued as an alleged example of that kind of utterance; the second word in the theme answer is given a different meaning in each case; thus:

Theme answers:
  • MASS APPEAL is clued as an appeal a priest might make at mass (17A: "Please continue your generous support of the church") (
  • PITTER PATTER is clued as patter one might use to hawk cherry pitters (27A: "This device makes prepping cherries a breeze")
  • ASSEMBLY LINE is clued as a line said by a principal or other school official re: school assembly (44A: "Students should report to the gym for a special presentation")
  • FEVER PITCH becomes a pitch made for anti-fever medicine (58A: "This medicine will reduce your temperature in no time")
Word of the Day:
ELLA Mai (41A: Singer Mai with the 2018 hit "Boo'd Up") —

Ella Mai Howell (born 3 November 1994) is an English singer-songwriter. Her musical career began at London's British and Irish Modern Music Institute in 2014, during which time she auditioned as part of a trio on the 11th season of The X Factor. In 2015, she uploaded a four-track solo EP of originals to SoundCloud titled Troubled, and was discovered on social media by American record producer Mustard and signed with his record label, 10 Summers Records.

From 2016 to 2018, she released three EPs on the label, including TimeChange, and Ready. Her self-titled debut studio album was released in October 2018 and featured the singles "Boo'd Up" and "Trip", which were released on 20 February 2018 and 3 August 2018, respectively. In 2019, "Boo'd Up" was nominated for two Grammy AwardsSong of the Year and Best R&B Song, winning for the latter, as well as Mai herself being nominated for British Breakthrough Act at the 2019 Brit Awards. At the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, she won three awards, including the award for Top R&B Artist.

• • •

It's not entirely clear why some very straightforward themes make me go "blah" and others make me go "solid workmanship!" It's an old theme type, this wacky reimagining of familiar phrases, where the second words in the theme phrases all change meaning in the same direction (i.e. from their original-phrase meanings into a shared category of meaning—today, utterances). But the oldness of the theme type doesn't mean the puzzle is bound to feel stale. You can execute this theme type well or poorly, and that's all that really matters. Today's seemed more than sufficiently clever to me. When I got down to FEVER PITCH, I nodded respectfully. "Yeah, OK, that works." Even though FEVER PITCH actually probably works least well of all the themers today—you're pitching anti-fever medicine, so using "fever" adjectivally in relation to "pitch" feels pretty tenuous. And yet FEVER PITCH is probably the most vibrant answer of the set, in terms of sheer grid appeal, so I can make some allowances for it. The most ingenious of these repurposings is probably PITTER PATTER, a fact I found out only after the puzzle was over—I had so much of the answer filled in from crosses that I eventually just wrote it in without ever looking at the clue. It would not surprise me if PITTER PATTER were the whole reason this puzzle came into being—sometime you notice weird things about a single phrase and then bam, an entire theme idea presents itself. At any rate, this theme works fine. I had a fine time. When I say this theme idea is sufficient, for once I am not damning it with faint praise. I liked it. This clears the bar for what NYTXW Wednesday themes should be.

I solved in a giant "U" shape (roughly, from the NW down the west coast along the bottom and then back up the east coast to the NE). This is an odd solving route for me, especially for an easyish themed puzzle—these usually follow a pretty predictable top-to-bottom pattern. I just kept working crosses and falling down down down. This is probably why I never looked at the PITTER PATTER clue. Just went right past it. I also somehow never saw the BLUE STATE clue (11D: It leans to the left). In that case, I didn't even guess the answer. I got it all from crosses without ever once checking in on it. Going over the puzzle just now I was surprised to see it there. Giant answer and I missed it completely. Only two answers gave me any real trouble today, both of them four letters, both of them sending out all their troublesomeness from the third letter position. I got 1D: Smartphone button down to HO-E and I swear to you I had no idea what the answer was. Just stared at it. "Does the new iOS update come with a HOPE button now?" Turns out it's just the button on the front of my phone that I press roughly one million times a day. It doesn't say "HOME" on it and I have never thought of it as a "HOME" button but that's what it's called. In googling just now, I learned that apparently the newest phones don't have HOME buttons anymore. I love how "old" my four-year-old phone is. You say "Planned obsolescence," I say "Instant vintage!" The other four-letter flummoxer was MAYA, a perfectly familiar name but I did not remember that that is the VP's sister's name (we have to know VP sisters now? Try playing that game with veeps of yore and let me know how it goes). So even at MA-A, I was not sure what I was dealing with. MARA is a name. MALA is a name. And the cross was a "?" clue, so I had a brief feeling of "uh oh," but then YEA seemed the only possible answer for [Passing remark?], so it all worked out.

Wanted BRASSIERE at 8D: Support on the shoulder but it wouldn't fit and then it turned out to be just the BRA STRAP, a much much better answer. Had BARD before LORD for Tennyson. I think that's it for missteps. And that's it for this write-up. Shout-out to OXEYE for the early traction (14A: Kind of daisy). In small doses, crosswordese is your friend!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:13 AM  

I really like this theme, liked imagining other possibilities. Honestly, I didn’t really know PATTER separated from pitter patter, so that one was the hardest for me. Cool that the final nouns are so far removed from their “utterance” meanings. So something like FINAL NOTICE (prof announcing a test) wouldn’t be as fun. Fun to imagine other possibilities:

Ice cream scoop – that first breaking news story about the deal with Ben and Jerry’s in the occupied territories
General admission – MacArthur’s Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
Baggage claim - I’ve had several messy break-ups that I’m not really over yet.

“Dressage competitor” – Rex – I know what you mean about noticing a weird thing about something and bam – theme idea. I kept looking at the word dressage thinking it could mean clothing. Clothing that resulted from someone’s sewage. Garbage, if you will. Hah.

ID TAGS took a minute to get. I mean, c’mon, what product for a dog is Not shaped like a bone? Dog beds, chew toys, feeding mats, toy boxes, pillows, food bowls, picture frames, Christmas ornaments. . . Kinda tired idea when you think about it.

“End of semester hurdles” EXAMS. For kids. How ‘bout for teachers? The hurdles are myriad: empty rooms of desks, take everything off the walls, list students who failed and which standards still need to be covered, turn in an equipment inventory, keys, blah blah. At least I have until June to worry about those. Today I worry about the beginning of semester my main one being trying to win over some kids who I’m certain will hate me on sight. Actually, yesterday I met a real student, DeMario. My ID TAG won’t open any of the entrances to the main building yet, so I have to leave my trailer, walk around the entire main building and ring the doorbell. Yesterday I did this and waited. No “click.” Damn. I could see that the secretary was swamped with students and parents trying to procure uniforms. So I stood some more, not wanting to be That Person who kept bugging the secretary. This kid saw me, and we made eye contact. After a minute, he stood up and pantomimed that I should ring the doorbell. I gestured back that I had already tried that. We looked at each other. He stood and came to open the door for me. I thanked him profusely, explaining that I had rung the bell but that I was new and didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with anyone. He laughed. I calmed down. DeMario gave me the biggest gift of all the training I’ve had over the past seven days – maybe these kids will accept me.

BRA STRAP also took a minute to parse since I kept seeing some kind of TRAP. I have to check Mom’s BRA STRAPS every morning to make sure that one is not all twisted in the back. This while I receive the morning, uh, joint account and organ recital. I’m actually being unfair; she tries to rein the aches-and-pains talk in, she really does. Obviously at her age, there are lots of issues, all kept at bay with her impressive pillage.

Lewis 6:37 AM  

What a lovely theme, and some sweet grit in the cluing, and thus a puzzle that puzzled and entertained.

I loved your original clue for ESPN, by the way, Adam, which has appeared in the NYT 126 times, but never clued like this. And dang, Adam, you fooled me with [There are two in 101 Dalmatians]. I was thinking “Cats?”. I’m still too darn gullible for crosswords, but working on it!

Thank you for all the work you put into this, as you described in your notes in XwordInfo, Adam. I loved this iteration!

OffTheGrid 6:42 AM  

This puzzle is fine. The theme is not a fresh idea but it works well. I found it significantly easier than Tuesday. I suspect I'll have company on that point. Nevertheless I had a DNF at the K in HIKE. I couldn't see LIKESO and didn't know ZENO so I was stuck. I ran the consonants in my head for HI_E and nothing made sense. HIKE doesn't make sense either. I claim, in the name of GOF, a moral victory. You can go for a HIKE in the woods. OPEC can HIKE prices. I can HIKE up my sweatpants or my socks. I can think of no example where HIKE means "Snap back?".

Lewis 6:42 AM  

“Don’t dwell on the past; keep your eyes on what’s to come.”

Jack 6:57 AM  

@OffTheGrid: in American football, at the quarterback’s command “hike”, the center will, in an instant, “snap” the ball — or hike it — back to the quarterback.

JD 6:58 AM  

@OffTheGrid, Football?

OffTheGrid 7:20 AM  

@Jack and JD.

DOH! Football. Close enough for Xword. After review, the DNF stands as originally called.

amyyanni 7:28 AM  

Tough one for me, in a good way. Muddled through somehow, enjoying the slog. Appreciate the MASS map, Rex, being a past resident and love ASSEMBLY LINE, as a Detroit native.
Yesterday, spent a few cool hours at a bargain matinee of "Free Guy," which is a hoot! And I probably missed a lot of the humor as I am not a gamer.

Son Volt 7:32 AM  

Short on theme material lately I guess - puns on a Wednesday - who figured? At first I thought possibly a movie connection with MASS APPEAL and FEVER PITCH. DYSTOPIA and DNA SAMPLE aren’t exactly splashy - add in ID TAGS and BRA STRAP and it’s just a flat mess. I did like the AVAST x RIFLEMAN cross and agree with Rex on OXEYE.

This was a SNORER of a Wednesday.

kitshef 7:36 AM  

Nice puzzle, but boy did I make a hash of this one. Won’t bore you with all the details, but Ibid before ISBN and kickER before SNORER were the ones that were costliest.

Also needed the better part of a minute to get that MAYA/YEA cross. I agree with Rex that vice-presidential siblings are not crossworthy.

Zwhatever 7:36 AM  

“Instant Vintage” is my new self-description.

I think @LMS is a high whatage person, and it’s that word curiosity that’s so much fun.

An Ode to the Carny isn’t really my cuppa. I’m looking to replace my windows and did my usual research ahead of making an appointment for an estimate. Nice fella who is pretty good at hiding the start of his spiel, and I’m sitting there thinking to myself, “do I stop him or do I let him go on?” because none of his spiel matters to me. By the time he’s at my house the only thing I need to know is what it’s going to cost. I let him go on trying to “sell” me because it seemed like his comfort zone and being direct would have felt rude. I was amused as he was leaving when he asked if the cost was what I was expecting (it was, more or less), because I think he sensed that all I really need to know was the bottom line.
Anywho - I always wonder how much the Carny is an American thing. We make a Carny out of so many people, from car salesmen to McDonalds order takers (Would you like an apple pie with your order?). It is times like that, with some 16 year-old making $7.25/hr trying to encourage me to make my unhealthy meal even more unhealthy so some billionaire can squeeze a few more pennies of profit out of me, that I realize, beyond any heretical doubt, that Man is the Pinnacle of Creation.

Anybody else wonder if ELLA Mai’s parents watched too much Beverly Hillbillies? Or if she prefers Texas Tea to Earl Grey? Just me?

Conrad 7:56 AM  

Like @Rex, I wanted BRASsiere for 8D. Only unlike @Rex, my spelling skills are wanting (part of the reason I do crosswords), so I confidently wrote in BRASiere. That didn't take too long to suss out, since ASP was a gimme.

@LMS: Good luck with your new school year. I'm sure your students won't hate you on sight. That'll take time, like maybe after the first EXAMS.

@OffTheGrid: You really should get to know ZENO. His full name is ZENO of Elea, so Two! Two! Two crosswordeses in one!

Suzette 8:06 AM  

Consider not using women’s lingerie . Puzzles seem to be obsessed with bra, bra straps etc.. Do we see jock straps this often ?

bocamp 8:08 AM  

Thx Adam; fun puz and cool theme! :)

Easy+ solve.

Moved smoothly from the NW clockwise ending in the SW.

No hitches along the way.

Like the misdirect on HIKE.

Very enjoyable Wednes. puz. :)
yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

SouthsideJohnny 8:12 AM  

I got the clues for NFL, ESPN and HIKE right away (which I thought were pretty good clues). Never heard of ZENO, but knew FEZ from prior Xwords. Still haven’t had an aha regarding how “Passing remark?” gets us to YEA. I see the question mark - don’t see a twist on passing (sports, traffic, buying the farm . . ) that fits.

I thought that we may get through a Wednesday without any foreign capitals, words or phrases - but true to form, WS snuck in SUCRE at 50D - he’s a sly one, that Mr. Shortz.

Other quibbles - please don’t go down the rat hole that you opened up with VP trivia (did Spiro Agnew have a dog ?). CZAR V.V. TSAR V.V. Russian autocrats still has not been resolved satisfactorily.

Richard Stanford 8:12 AM  

Easy for a Wednesday. I was annoyed at the theme because MASSAPPEAL, PITTERPATTER and FEVERPITCH were all sales related and then we got ASSEMBLYLINE which is, well, fine, but didn’t seem to fit.

mmorgan 8:16 AM  

Very much agree with Rex — oldish-type theme, very well done. To me, “oldish-type theme” is not a bad thing at all. My last letter was the Y is MAYA, because nothing else made sense before -EA. Not sure why Rex used a picture of Massachusetts but I’m sure glad I live in a BLUE STATE.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Southside Johnny: you vote yea to “pass” a law.
Loved puzzle all around

Bra is a useful 3 letter run which is why you see it a lot.

GILL I. 8:36 AM  

Nice little Tuesday...Oh,'s really the protuberance on a dromedary day.
I like PITTER PATTER because it reminds me of two of my favorite things: Children and pups. You can hear both running down the hall...granddaughter when you ask her if she wants an ice cream and pups when you yell out cheese!
Does one really spit in a tube? I always thought you took a little swab of your mouth to find out if you're a boy or a girl.
How do you pronounce ANNAL? Is it like the Spanish year?
Happy addendum to your Will? Joy Rider.

TTrimble 8:37 AM  

The theme reminds me of dad jokes, with PITTER PATTER having the most groan potential. But dad jokes are after all stock-in-trade for crosswords, and I find myself agreeing with Rex's positive review of the theme execution. I think I liked MASS APPEAL the most, since I find it natural to imagine a priest wheedling away up there.

The fill doesn't excite me greatly, but it's competent. Only seven three-letter words. I do have a small question mark beside NERF, as I always thought of that as a brand more than as a material. And a small stylistic nit about the clue "sister and campaign chair of Kamala", where "of" does double duty: sister of Kamala and campaign chair of Kamala. To me, "campaign chair of Kamala" sounds awkward and I'd want "campaign chair for Kamala" instead. But then "sister for Kamala" sounds weird. Whack-a-mole! So then I'd go with "Kamala's sister and campaign chair" -- ah, better.

ZENO. For some reason, I feel I should be able to name more philosophers than just ZENO and (Bertrand) Russell, whose names are associated with paradoxes. (There's Berry, but I think he was actually a librarian. I don't think the barber of Seville counts.)

Not a lot more to say. Random association is that the letters of ERAS cyclically permute to form "sera" which reminds me that Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos fame is due in court, I think today. Remember her? Smooth-talking, always swathed in black like Steve Jobs, large luminous unblinking blue eyes, weirdly deeply pitched voice (which one of her former professors claims is an affectation), and a con artist. Allegedly. I'm hoping justice is served. It could be Thanatos for Theranos.

yd 0
td pg -1

OffTheGrid 8:42 AM  

Every now and then I watch an episode of THE RIFLEMAN When you get past the shooting it has pretty good stories. It's one of several shows of the ERA that features a single Dad. "The Andy Griffith Show" is another and similar, with the Father/Son relationship and lessons being learned.

pabloinnh 8:46 AM  

Dozens of people are going to suggest "passing" a bill to @Southsdie Johnny, so I won't bother.

Didn't know ELLA, didn't know MAYA. That's it, that's the list. Which made this a very easy Wednesday. Also made me think of a connection I made long ago, that Henry Ford is like the Pope because of their involvement in MASS PRODUCTION. Well, it amused me at the time.

Liked that all the theme endings were trying to sell us something. Nice connection there.

Nice smooth Wednesdecito, AV. Almost Velour-like in feel. Thanks for the fun.

Best of luck to and continued admiration for all you educators starting new school years. As our old friend the comedian Bob used to say during his USO tours of war zones, Hope springs eternal.

rushscott 8:50 AM  

LIKESO?? Like what????

Jon 8:50 AM  

I put "Tea" for passing remarks, as in "Pass the tea".

JD 8:50 AM  

Ok. These are phrases wherein people are using words to convince other people to do things. Appeal and Pitch do that. But Patter and Line (in the clue's instance) not as much and that confused me. Which isn't hard to do because I'm Slow. But there it is. I know someone can "feed you a Line" to try to get you to do something, but I think that involves a lie or maybe some tired old pitch about double pane windows (you're on fire today @Z), which would mean there isn't really an assembly. Wait, am I wandering into Rexland here? Nah, that couldn't happen. Ha ha (tug at collar as sweat breaks out). It's probably just an excuse for why I didn't really grasp the theme as I was filling it in.

Random thought, Herds of oxen would give you a chance to stare at Oxeye(s).

Nancy 8:52 AM  

Loved it! Not just clever wordplay, but theme answers you can't figure out without crosses. At least I couldn't. Once you have those answers, you realize how completely fair the clues are -- and yet you can't say to yourself: "I should have had it." Because no, no, you couldn't have.

The PITTER PATTER clue/answer is so unusual, funny and inspired that I have to believe it was the original impetus behind the creation of the puzzle. Maybe if I go to the Constructor's Notes, Adam will tell me?

I found this challenging in the NW. Not having a smart phone; not having read or seen "The Handmaid's Tale (I don't do DYSTOPIAN reading or watching; real life can be DYSTOPIAN enough); and thinking that there might be a special "alpaca word" for a "pack" (How dumb can you be, Nancy?), I struggled there perhaps more than anyone else. Other sections were considerably easier. But I had a lot of fun with the theme and found this a very entertaining and engaging puzzle.

Bret Stephens 9:00 AM  

@LMS - I saw past your jokey pretense, and recognized the slight you aimed at me, any my OP-ED piece in the NY Times regarding Ben & Jerry's ridiculous stance on Ice Cream and Palestine. Why you had to take a gratuitous swipe at me for offering a gratuitous non-sensical critique of Ben and Jerry's actions, which I claimed was gratuitous and non-sensical, is beyond comprehension. At least my comprehension, which I admit isn't that great.

Please quit picking on my.

rjkennedy98 9:26 AM  

Easy Wednesday. In fact my time was significantly faster for this puzzle than either Tuesday or Monday. The non-themers weren't exactly the happiest collection of fill: DYSTOPIA, DNA SAMPLE, BLUE STATE, and even IDEALIZE are all foreboding. Surprised that "spit in a tube" made it past the morning breakfast table test.

jberg 9:35 AM  

Like @JD, I thought they were more than just utterances, but (in the broadest sense) marketing messages -- things said or written to induce the listener or reader do do something. ASSEMBLY LINE is the biggest stretch, but the announcement is intended to get the students to do something, viz., go to the gym.

My brother's wife's family has a little business selling cherry PITTERs, and that was the first theme answer I got to, so naturally I looked at the clue and wrote down PiTTER at the end. It worked, mostly... but I couldn't figure out that selective recruiting starting with HEi... I also had bone-shaped treAtS, which slowed me up more. I almost took out RUDEST so I could put in horse as the dressage competitor.

MAYA Harris got some coverage during the campaign, enought to let me rule out MArA and even MAiA. We're supposed to know Presidential dogs, too; fortunately, Mitt Romney didn't win, or someone would try to clue his wife's Olympic-quality dressage horse, Rafalka.

@Loren, you've outdone yourself today!

@Southside, ZENO is the guy who proved that you could never get from one place to another, because first you would have to cover half the distance, then half the remaining distance, then half the remaining distance, then ... well, you get the point. It's obviously wrong (hence the paradox thing), but the mathematical concepts of the day couldn't explain where the error was. He had two other paradoxes, too; a fun guy.

Whatsername 9:35 AM  

At first I thought this was going to be a bit corny but I liked it. I really liked it. Fun and a teensy bit of a challenge. Nice hidden sports theme with NFL, ESPN, HIKE, RIDER, RIFLEMAN, REVS and EGOS. The only themer that gave me any trouble was MASS APPEAL. I suppose because in my neck of the woods where the Assembly of God church is a very large presence, your “generous support“ might more likely be referred to as an ASSEMBLY LINE.

I wanted bone-shaped TREATS instead of ID TAGS. Yesterday when my dog and I stopped at the library drive-up window he didn’t get his usual Milk-Bone biscuit, and he emphatically let me know about this RUDEST of oversights when I started to drive off without it.

Since we’re never going to have a CURE for Covid, better to HEED the advice of the experts than get sick and have to suffer thru a FEVER PITCH later on.


mathgent 9:50 AM  

Lively and enjoyable. Some excellent clues that I'll bet Lewis has written down. For HIKE, ESPN, BRASTRAP, and THEE. Smart cluing all around.

The meaning of DYSTOPIA seems to be the opposite of "Utopia."

@TTrimble: Happy to see that you're counting Terrible Threes, but you missed a couple. Nine is still very good.

RooMonster 10:08 AM  

Hey All !
A low 34 Blockers today. Nice. Leads to Long Downs. Less words for your money, but better ones. And any puz with AVAST is always cool.

Add me to the treAtS for IDTAGS group. RIFLEMAN, generic term, was looking for a specific person. RIF LEMAN? Har.

Never wore a FEZ (or a tarboosh), bit did wear a fedora for a while when I was younger. I always liked to call them Porkpie Hats. Mine was black, unlike Indiana Jones, who wore a brown one. And I didn't have a whip.

Tricky clue for NFL. Wanted PBA, as in Professional Bowlers Association. But then technically that would be a repeated answer, no?

ALL THERE, har. Feels like I haven't been ALL THERE in quite a while.

If you have many DNA SAMPLEs, is it DNAS AMPLE?

Three F's

jae 10:21 AM  

Medium-tough. Smooth with some fine long downs. ELLA and MAYA were WOEs as clued. Cute and clever, liked it a bunch!

Whatsername 10:26 AM  

@Loren: In your line of work, you may already be familiar with the true story behind the movie Freedom Writers. (I emailed you a link to it just in case you’re not.) Certainly sounds as though your current situation will present similar challenges. In any case, it’s a very good film which most teachers would probably enjoy.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

@Roo - You just cued the Pork Pie hats & Fedoras are not the same thing argument. Go hide in the REED section.

TTrimble 10:34 AM  

Oh yes, you're right -- thanks for the correction.

While I'm here, I'll share another sort of ZENO* koan that just came to my attention. It was first given in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column (January 1971), as follows:

A boy, a girl, and a dog are at the same spot on a straight road. The boy and the girl walk forward — the boy at four miles per hour, the girl at three miles per hour. As they proceed the dog trots back and forth between them at ten miles per hour. Assume that each reversal of directions is instantaneous. An hour later, where is the dog and which way is it facing?

Answer: The dog can be at any point between the boy and the girl, facing either way. Proof: At the end of one hour, place the dog anywhere between the boy and the girl, facing either direction. Time-reverse all motions and the three will return at the same instant to the starting point.

*That's ZENO of Elea. There was also ZENO of Citium, who came later.

td 0

SouthsideJohnny 10:35 AM  

@jb 9:35 That ZENO guy sounds a little eccentric. Reminds me of the difference between a mathematician and an engineer. If you're on one side of the room and there is a girl on the other - the mathematician will tell you that if you go half way each time, you will never get to the other side. The engineer will tell you that you will get close enough to kiss the girl.

Joseph Michael 10:41 AM  

A sign of a good theme is how much it inspires other examples. Really enjoyed the wordplay and the fact that this puzzle took some brainpower to solve. Clever clues. Solid fill. What’s not to like?

“Wild flowers are growing at the side of the river.”
“The troops will be deployed by end of day.”
“You look like you could use a little botox.”

* Bank statement
* General delivery
* Facial expression

JC66 10:42 AM  


Thanks for the link (late last night).

Carola 11:01 AM  

Very clever theme, for me rising to the "wowza!" level, with its managing a repurposing of both words in the phrases (though I see @Rex's point about FEVER) and turning them into synonyms for exhortations. Like others, I especially loved PITTER PATTER - I get a kick out of listening to hucksters' spiels at state fair booths or on pedestrian malls as they hawk various all-purpose slicers, dicers, parers, ricers, miracle blenders, wizard stain removers, etc., and have even been known to buy. Once. Me, too,, for MAYA x YEA being a problem - I'd guessed that "passing" referred to "passing away"; was saved by an alphabet run.

@Adam Vincent - I loved this creative puzzle.

Crimson Devil 11:03 AM  

Disappointed that philosopher did not turn out to be Bugs.
Good cluing for NFL, ESPN & HIKE.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

@Son Volt:

how about schnorrer, for those of us with a Yiddish compulsion?


Have you seen the recent Hanes boys undies adverts??? 'Ballance'?

egsforbreakfast 11:30 AM  

Product placement idea for the next edition of Green Eggs and Ham: Sam-I-Am’s IAMS.

How do you capture wild lingerie? With a BRAS TRAP

Unconscious drive, sex urge, survival sense, etc. to Freud?. ID TAGS

Better quit before I get ahead.

A very quick and lovely puzzle. Thank you, Adam Vincent.

Barbara S. 11:31 AM  

"Every year at Christmastime we decorate a pine tree with lights and colored balls, and put wrapped presents under it."

Customs declaration.

bocamp 11:31 AM  

@Rex; thx for The Cascades 'Rhythm of the Rain'. One of my all-time faves. :)

@TTrimble (10:34 AM) 👍 for 0

That ZENO koan is a mind-bender! 🤔

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

albatross shell 11:52 AM  

PITTERPATTER was actually his favorite too, but also the last. Check Wordplay for full story.

Just a joke no harm intended:
@OffTheGrid was apparently also OffTheGridIron this morning.

Nancy 11:55 AM  

@Carola says: I get a kick out of listening to hucksters' spiels at state fair booths or on pedestrian malls as they hawk various all-purpose slicers, dicers, parers, ricers, miracle blenders, wizard stain removers, etc. Whereas I look at those ads and think: Where in the world did my 10 fingers go?"

Was I the last person on the planet to find out about the great Ben & Jerry Israeli ice cream sales kerfuffle? For months it's been splattered all over the NYT -- which I guess I don't read as carefully as I might think I do. Thank you to the Anon who called my attention to the brilliantly acerbic Bret Stephens Op-Ed. I found it, read it, and agree with it 100%. No need for Mad Magazine or the National Lampoon any more: Such a huge number of news stories today read like parodies. Someday, when we no longer have a planet that can sustain life of any sort, folks will look back in horror and disbelief at what people were consumed with in the summer of 2021.

@TTrimble (10:34)-- You call that an "answer" to the ZENO puzzle? It reminds me of that Agatha Christie novel (I won't give away which one) that so many love but I don't because everyone being the murderer somehow just isn't satisfying. That's what ZENO's answer sounds like to me.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

@Suzette. I see your point but it's better than jockstrap. GRROOOSSSSS! and EEEWWWWW!

Canarian 11:59 AM  

I feel ridiculous. Someone please explain 9D? Is bowling a term for a move in football?

JC66 12:07 PM  


It took me more than a few nanoseconds to get, but think players who go to the NFL PRO BOWL.

Canarian 12:21 PM  


Ooohhh, thank you!!

Wanderlust 12:33 PM  

Joint account and organ recital are the start if a great xword theme! And you have to tell DeMario he’s now famous in the xword world. I’d want to know!

Joe Dipinto 12:37 PM  

Quite a nice puzzle. Props to @Rex for the link to one of my fave records from 1963. Did he google "songs with pitter patter in the lyrics", I wonder?

Alternate clue for one of the themers:
"Batteries not included"

Alternate clue for another themer:
"You get this and all Peggy's hits on one album!"

mathgent 12:43 PM  

@TTrimble (10:34). I always thought that Zeno's Paradox was kind of silly, but the problem you gave seems to better example of what Zeno was getting at. Every answer to the problem is correct! To me, that's a real paradox. And with a superbly elegant proof. I'm blown away.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Hmm, someone with a Calvinist understanding doesn't comprehend the place of man in God's creation. I'm shocked, shocked.

Masked and Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Extra themers? …
{"Vote Democrat!"} = BLUESTATE?
{"Just say moo!"} = CATTLECALL?

Also, SEXAPPEAL coulda had some interestin clues. Woulda shoulda coulda.

Luved the theme. All of the clues seemed to be kinda like sales pitches, except for the one for ASSEMBLYLINE, which was my fave themer, anyhoo. A more sales-pitchy clue for it would hafta be somethin like: {"Our easy-to-follow instructions make putting your turducken together a breeze!"}. Well ... somethin sorta like that, maybe.

some sparklers of note: DYSTOPIA. BLUESTATE. IDEALIZE. LIKESO. ALLTHERE. (Wide-open puzgrid let a lotta cool longballs into this rodeo.)

staff weeject pick: (of only 9 choices): FEZ. Could also be a themer, in a stretch. Simply clue er up as: {"Keep your eyes on the swinging iron … your eyelids are getting heavier … you're getting sleepy … so very sleepy …"} = FEZ.

Didn't happen to know: SUCRE. ELLA. MAYA. Or @Muse's form of "pillage".

Thanx for the sweet talk(s), Mr. Vincent dude. It was nice and ALLTHERE.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

TTrimble 12:53 PM  

That's what Martin Gardner wrote as the answer.

Anyway, these brain teasers* are meant to chew on and savor at length, and sometimes the responses in coming to terms with them are not only highly creative, but have had quite profound consequences. This was true for the original ZENO paradoxes, where the efforts to give a clear and satisfying response led to many of the foundational insights that underlie calculus (namely, clarifying the nature of the continuum).

(Bertrand) Russell's paradox -- I don't know if you've heard of it -- takes only a few sentences to explain, but had seismic consequences in terms of providing a satisfying infrastructure for all of mathematics.

Paradoxes are not everybody's cup of tea. But for some people, they can be both playful and a very serious matter, at the same time. A lot of what it feels like being a mathematician is learning to think very carefully and precisely about simple things.

*I was being cutesy in calling it a ZENO (not Zen) koan, but sort of like koan study, the problem may persist in a state of unresolved tension for a long long time, and insight might accompany the at-last coming to clarity.

Congrats back atcha!

TTrimble 12:55 PM  

Oh, and talk about savoring things. There are all sorts of gems to be mined by carefully reading @LMS's posts. "Joint account" and "organ recital", indeed!

Missy 12:58 PM  


Teedmn 1:17 PM  

A very clever puzzle with some bite for a Wednesday. Nice job, Adam Vincent.

I did go slightly awry with 22D - I thought HAND-PICK was more selective than HEADHUNT but the crosses dissuaded me from that answer.

I joined @Z in singing the Beverly Hills theme song when I hit ELLA Mai.

For once, I thought of xENO when hearing the ZENO sound in my head for 64A. Of course, I was wrong this time.

@LMS, your dressage, sewage, garbage series has a distinct Runt-puzzle theme air about it.

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

being a mathematician is learning to think very carefully and precisely about simple things.

One might think a textbook on Set Theory could be accomplished as a pamphlet. After all, a Set is a pretty primitive entity. Not as heavy as a calc book, but weighty nonetheless. Or Number Theory, even more primitive than a Set.

RooMonster 2:02 PM  

@Anon 10:29
Har! To me, a Pork Pie is the one with the round spot on top of the hat, a Fedora has just a straight crease, if you know what I'm trying to say.
And no discussion yet!

RooMonster Now Wear A Baseball Hat Guy

emily 2:12 PM  

I will never get use to Sucre being the capital of Bolivia, especially since La Paz has the same number of letters.

Joe Dipinto 4:13 PM  

Before ELLA MAI and Elly Mae Clampett, there was Ella Mae Morse.

Ella Mai seems like she would sound good without the wall-to-wall Autotune.

Anonymous 5:24 PM  


unofficially, of course, the USofA has Washington, DC and NYC serving in those capacities.

TTrimble 5:49 PM  

@Anonymous 1:49 PM
Indeed, the axioms (or axiom schemas) for traditional set theory, called Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory, form a fairly compact list, fitting on a half-page or so, and the amount of training it takes to understand how to work with those axioms is something than can be accomplished in a semester-long undergraduate course. Of course set theory is a huge and vibrant and deep field with many ramifications, but learning how (say) the real numbers, or pretty much any particular mathematical structure you care to name, can be encoded set-theoretically, is usually not that difficult.

Historically, set theory was hugely important because it demonstrated that essentially all of mathematics could, in principle, be expressed or encoded within a single language, with just one primitive notion (the membership relation). Implying that no two mathematical developments are truly cut off from one another -- the experience with sets and their expressive power pretty convincingly shows that virtually any two areas of mathematics could be brought down and reconciled, if need be, to the same ontological playing field in terms of sets. Psychologically, this was very reassuring.

[There are more modern foundational developments -- I'm thinking particularly of something called "homotopy type theory" -- which some argue offer a more practical foundations that comes closer to native mathematical practice than ZF(C) does. But it would be really rude (boring for one thing for almost everyone else, and maybe contentious for a few) for me to carry on much further about this. I'm really pushing it as it is, so I'd better stop. This is a crossword blog.]

iamjess 7:39 PM  

I was pleasantly surprised to see AVAST right above RAMEN. I'm sure other members of the Church of the FSM noticed too. Arrrr!

Anoa Bob 8:28 PM  

I think I'm in a minority of one for whom most the theme didn't work. MASS APPEAL does because it seems plausible as a "type of utterance" that a priest would make during MASS.

I'm still scratching my head, though, over PITTER PATTER. I get that you could call a device that removes the pits from cherries a PITTER, although it doesn't have an in the day-to-day language sound to it to me. Have any of you ever used PITTER in that way?. But the real puzzler is PATTER. What the heck is that? Someone or something that PATs? Day-to-day language problem again. Put the two together and PITTER PATTER, in its "reimagined" meaning, crosses the line into being silly, if not nonsensical, if you ask me.

The final two also struck me as stretching the credulity for their reimagined meanings, especially FEVER PITCH. To be consistent with the clue it would have to be FEVER medication PITCH. Who would PITCH a FEVER. "Step right up folks, do I have a FEVER inducer for you. On a scale from one to ten, this elixir will give you a fifteen, the mother of all FEVERs! One bottle is good for a 30 day supply and if you act now, we'll throw in a second bottle for free!" That would be my idea of a FEVER PITCH. Silly, right?

The themers did get me thinking, though, albeit in a way the puzzle probably didn't intend. And I did enjoy the rest of the puzzle. As @Roo noted, there are 34 black squares and that opens the grid up to more long entries, DYSTOPIA (4D) being my favorite. And instead of a lot of 3s and 4s that we typically see in a higher black square count grid, say in 38-40 range, the grid has a lot of 4s and 5s. Much easier to breathe life into those.

So even though the theme missed the mark for me, I thought the fill and its clueing were first rate and I wound up enjoying the solve. Can't ask for much more than that.

albatross shell 9:00 PM  

@anonfrom yesterday
God&Religion&scienece ALERT
Late in the day for minimal dusturbance to our masses.

Yes God the all knowing and all powerful who created the universe with mere words and created man (who apparently already existed) and then drowned all men except one family (so that we must all be Jewish) exalts man by letting his own son die in order to give us the chance to be saved. Yet Jesus lives enthroned in paradise for eternity. Heck of a sacrifice. Maybe a bit boring after awhile. Have you really considered living for eternity, paradise or not?

But you are right it is an exhaltation. God loves us, cares for us. He is great. Thus we are great. I'll skip over his absurd craving for praise.

But as soon as you talk about such self-created all powerful and knowing Being as God, man becomes a speck by comparison. All our glory exists only because of and for him and his love. Our future in his hell or paradise depends not on anything we may think is important. It depends only on what God thinks. Man is diminished. Do we come to to him through Jesus? Human life is diminished. God is all important.

In practical terms, Catholics (and others) have used the idea of saving a person's soul as a excuse to abuse a person's body. Forced tortured conversions. A reduction in the value of earthly existence. The soul matters, not the person. Say the magic word. Dominos dominos dominos. You're all Christians now. We only conquered you to save you. The non-christian life diminished because only our beliefs are true.

I do have a great respect for some religious organizations and people. They are usually the ones that try to do a lot of practical good in the world and the one's that are humble and the one's that do not insist on trying to show me their beliefs are superior and do not try to convert me. But are willing to explain their beliefs when I ask. I am not sure I think you are one of these based on some of your posts here. But not being religious I work on a siding scale.

Religions have benefitted humanity in many ways. Morality, charity, education, care and comfort in times of sorrow, tragedy, sickness, and various types of instabiity. They have had their failures as has any other organization.

Religions, if you believe the polls, have convinced a near majority of Americans that Earth is probably only 10,000 years old. That is a bit scary. Get your science team working on that. I believe Reagan wanted biblical creationism taught alongside evolution in schools.

We see things differently. You seem to think if it is in the bible it true (if the Church so interprets it that way). I think if it is in the bible it is historically interesting and perhaps somewhat accurate.

Joe Dipinto 9:46 PM  

@AnoaB – "Patter" can mean almost any kind of rattled-off spiel. From M-W:

2: the spiel of a street hawker or of a circus barker
3: empty chattering talk
4a(1): the rapid-fire talk of a comedian
(2): the talk with which an entertainer accompanies a routine
b: the words of a comic song or of a rapidly spoken usually humorous monologue introduced into such a song

So, in 27a, the vendor is doing a patter about his pitter.

stephanie 10:56 PM  

an unusual amount of write-overs for me - OOPSY before OXEYE, TREATS before IDTAGS, FOAM before NERF* - which resulted in LOOK before SEEM, and then there was ADJUST before MODIFY...the list goes on but that's all my sieve of a brain recalls from five minutes ago now. but that's actually a good sign for me - that my brain has ideas, instead of just drawing total blanks because of obscure clues, or being bored/frustrated and not caring to guess. i thought there were quite a lot of high quality clues and answers today.

i thought the theme answers were clever, fitting, and satisfying, both in the answers themselves and figuring out what the theme was. very enjoyable and appropriate wendesday, imho. i too got hung up on MAYA/YEA but ran the alphabet and it came out fine. LIKE SO/HIKE/ZENO was harder for me though - never heard of ZENO, still not sure what "snap back" and HIKE have in common**, and wasn't sure if the "demonstration" clue meant an actual demonstration or a protest, and couldn't make my brain unsee "LIVES" for the longest time. all's well that ends well, though :)

*more a brand than a material, but since we all know what a NERF football is whether or not it's actually produced by NERF, i get it.
**as i was reading back my comment before posting, the lightbulb finally went off - FOOTBALL! if it's not hockey, chances are it'll take me awhile. nothing to see here folx...

stephanie 11:04 PM  

a literal passing remark would just be an incidental, casual, fleeting remark, of which YEA is not one. so the "twist" is instead something uttered that passes a law/bill/motion etc.

hey, don't shoot the messenger - i'm not saying it's particularly clever or anything, but something beyond the literal definition is fine enough to warrant the "?" for me.

stephanie 11:05 PM  

oops, forgot to @SouthsideJohnny for that last reply, for those not enjoying the threaded comment view.

stephanie 11:08 PM  

@mmorgan i wondered that too, and i also am glad to live here! i guess just because of the "MASS APPEAL" answer? actually read his writeup twice to see if i had missed something.

stephanie 11:11 PM  

@GILL I. i think the DNA SAMPLE clue would have given me more trouble if i hadn't just recently completed my first 23andme dna test for which you do indeed spit into a tube. takes quite a lot of spit actually, took me a few goes to get it filled to the appropriate level. then off in the mail the tube o' spit goes!

Anoa Bob 12:10 AM  

Joe D. @9:45 PM, thanks, but a vendor doing a PATTER about his PITTER still sounds goofy to me. I can't imagine anyone ever using that reimagined version of PITTER PATTER. Unless the FEVER PITCHer is adding some PATTER about his PITTER to further boost sales. "For one day only, buy the two-for-one FEVER elixir and we will throw in the best dang cherry PITTER ever to PIT a cherry!" Yeah, that's some PATTER in his PITCH.

albatross shell 2:03 AM  

Here in central PA pitter as in cherry pitter is very common language. I suspect it is where ever cherry pies are made or preserved.

jgmurphy 11:41 AM  

Jesus so you have to be a football maven to get this! Thanks for the info. This one drove me nuts

thefogman 10:32 AM  

Really good. I found it more suitable as a challenging Monday or an easy. This is Adam Vincent’s second NYT crossword. The elements of a good puzzle were ALLTHERE. I hope to see many more from him.

Burma Shave 10:36 AM  


That LOUT found her BRASTRAP,
LIKE ALL TEENS, not ABLE to wait,
SO left him THERE in a BLUESTATE.


spacecraft 11:38 AM  

This was a nice one that almost threw me off my dressage horse. No, not that one: the dog item. There was never a question in my mind. Of course, dog treAtS are bone-shaped. That baby was inked in, and it took forever to dislodge it. I've been seeing a lot of IDTAGS lately, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I believe the last ones were on luggage.

Once that was out of the way, things smoothed out considerably. I love PITTERPATTER, and agree that it was probably the impetus for this whole deal. MAYA Harris: DOD. Solid birdie.

Diana, LIW 2:31 PM  

Didn't know MAYA, leading to a one-letter dnf.

Lady Di

leftcoaster 5:26 PM  

Thought this one would be a pushover at first, but soon saw otherwise. I’d nominate FEVER PITCH as a both a themer and a revealer, because they’re all “pitches" of one kind or another.

Then there are the downers' bonus fill:

DYSTOPIA as Gilead,
MAYA as Kamala’s sister,
ALL THERE as mentally sound, and
NFL as Pro Bowler’s org.

Overall, a smart, tricky and enjoyable puzzle.

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