Provider of a canyon trail ride / 8-11-2021 / Zoned out / Muppet with a unibrow

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Constructor: JOE DIPIETRO

Relative difficulty: MEDIUM

THEME: BLANK EXPRESSION / STRAIGHT FACE EMOJI — the theme answers (all past tense) describe a blank, expressionless face, which is what the puzzle visually depicts (or is trying to, anyways). 

Word of the Day: OIL CITY (5D: Pennsylvania petroleum center, once) —

Oil City is a city in Venango County, Pennsylvania known for its prominence in the initial exploration and development of the petroleum industry. It is located at a bend in the Allegheny River at the mouth of Oil Creek.

Initial settlement of Oil City was sporadic, and tied to the iron industry. After the first oil wells were drilled in 1861, it became central to the petroleum industry while hosting headquarters for the PennzoilQuaker State, and Wolf's Head motor oil companies.

Tourism plays a prominent role in the region by promoting oil heritage sites, nature trails, and Victorian architecture. The population was 10,557 at the 2010 census, and it is the principal city of the Oil City, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area. (Wikipedia)

Hi friends! My name is Megan, and I'll be the final guest writer before Rex returns tomorrow!  I'm a grad student living in Boston, working on a dissertation in Renaissance poetry, and getting ready to teach writing composition to a fresh batch of undergraduates. The semester is three weeks away and I'm already tired. Like Tom, who did a great job yesterday(!), I'm a first-time contributor and relative newbie. So please be kind :) Onto the puzzle!

Theme answers:
  • STARED INTO SPACE (19A: Zoned out)
  • HAD A BLANK LOOK (38A: Seemed confused, maybe)
  • SHOWED NO EMOTION (49A: Appeared poker-faced)
So I opened this puzzle and thought, Wow! This grid kinda looks like a face! But I thought I was experiencing 'pareidolia' (which, I just googled, is the fancy word for the very common phenomenon of seeing faces in everyday objects). Turns out, the face is very much supposed to be there. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this puzzle, but I gotta be honest, I find the face is a little creepy to look at. It kinda looks like a skull? (Which, to be fair, is probably hard to avoid when you're dealing with black and white squares.) But then, are the black squares on the top and sides of the grid supposed to be hair and...sideburns? Or cheek hollows? What are the small black columns on the bottom of the grid supposed to be? Or, I guess now that I'm looking at it again, it almost looks like a koala? I'm also not sure why all the theme answers are past-tense verb formations, but I appreciate the consistency. (See Lesson 19 from Strunk & White, which I'll be teaching my students come fall: "Express coordinate ideas in similar form.")

Anyways, I did see a face, and a straight face at that, so the puzzle succeeded in its goal. The fill was solid, if not terribly flashy. Enjoyed the AVE / VERMONT cross, connecting to RENT. (I have started many, many Monopoly games in my lifetime but have only ever finished one or two.) A little bit of crosswordese in the Northwest corner (AGA / MATSU), which started things off slow, especially because I initially wrote in I GOT YOU instead of I GOTCHA, but that was quickly resolved with HOMBRE, and nothing else gave me too much trouble.

  • ALCOPOP (8A: "Malternative" beverage) — I learned this word doing a crossword a couple weeks ago. Maybe it's a geographical or generational thing; I have never heard it IRL. Aren't all the youths just drinking Claws now?
  • POTATO SKIN (12D: "Stuffed" food item at a pub) — Loved just dropping that one down. Delicious!
  • CRIME NOVEL (10D: 1981's "Gorky Park" or 2012's "Gone Girl") — Really satisfying long answer, and I appreciate how the clue appeals to a couple different age groups.
Hope everyone has a good Wednesday! Rex will be back tomorrow from his well-earned vacation — he has been sorely missed!

Signed, Megan Bowman, grad student & crossword enthusiast 

p.s. Gotta s/o to my fellow crossword nerd, my Dad! Love ya!

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Joaquin 12:12 AM  

My reaction to the grid went from “Yikes!” when I first printed it to “Pretty cool” when I was finished. I blew through the puzzle; not only was it in my wheelhouse, it was in my garage.

I’ve been a VOLVO aficionado since buying my first new car - a 1962 Volvo PV544. So I was glad to see 56-A. The original owner of the 3,000,000 mile ’65 Volvo, Irv Gordon, drove the car an average of 200 miles per day for 50+ years. He died during a promotional appearance in China in 2018. Since then, his daughter has been driving the car and it is now pushing 4,000,000 miles.

jae 12:29 AM  

So .puz is gone and I solved on the NYT iPad app which went pretty smoothly except for hitting some wrong grid moving keys because they weren’t in the place they used to be on my Standalone app. Medium maybe?

This was OK for a grid art puzzle, liked it.

@bocamp from yesterday - I’ve been solving using the Standalone App for iPad which is not free. I bought it over 12 years ago when I got my subscription to the NYT puzzle. I use it to do the LAT, BEQ AVXW, Incubator, Jonsein’s... I solve the Croce puzzles on paper on my daily 2+ mile walk, on which I also solve NYT archive puzzles.

G. Weissman 12:38 AM  

If this puzzle is not intended to convey that Steve Kerr has the inexpressive face of a Transformer … then it is quite a botched design. That and the MATSU/ADA cross seem like problems to me. I’ve never heard of ALCOPOP but maybe many others have. I like the Monopoly-related clues and answers, but for me this puzzle is a swing and a miss on account of the curious Steve Kerr-labeled “face.”

okanaganer 12:43 AM  

Well I was in a happy place when I started this, because I was able to download the .puz file using this direct link. Reprieved for another day! I just dread having to try solving on my browser. I've never done it before, and I've subscribed for 9 years. Ugggh.

I agree the face is creepy. And the theme is weird. And the grid artwork creates a lot of 3 letter answers, which is never great. But I think it's nice to see something different!

Anoa Bob 12:56 AM  

I reeled back from the screen when this one opened. Black square extravaganza! First count was 54. Is that a record high number? My disbelief, nay shock, had me counting again, this time I came up with 55.

I thought something very unusual must be going on to justify this unusually high count. What, just a grid art [sic] face? That's it? Nah, you don't need fifty something black squares to do a face. There must be more than that. I don't see it so I'm hoping the commentariat will clue me in.

Joe Dipinto 1:10 AM  

Oh, hi Lurch. Whatcha doin'?

egsforbreakfast 1:42 AM  

I thought for a sec that Steve Kerr was meant to be part of the STAREDINTOSPACE, HADABLANKLOOK, SHOWED NO EMOTION emo-zombie theme, instead of just a nice long crosser. Whether or not you’re a Warrior fan, Coach Kerr is a thoughtful and emotional human being, so I’m relieved that he wasn’t meant to be part of the lifeless skull bunch.

The grid art was ok, and the fill was fine, but I seem to remember commenting on Joe Dipietro’s previous NYTXW that after 136 published puzzles he seemed to be, to some degree, just call in’ it in. I feel the same way about #137. Good fun, but too easy and just not all that lively.

Unknown 1:59 AM  

Great puzzle, tricky enough for Wednesday but not too tricky and I finished without help from Google. I guess I need to learn OUTRE and ORIEL... But thank God for the crosses. Good one, JD, thanks 👍

albatross shell 2:32 AM  

I took a northern backroad route from Michigan after getting a motel room in Kent
Ohio. Saw the Nay 4th memorial and then went to Sharon PA (Ate at Donna's Diner and found a woomen's dress store in the Winnner Building the likes of which I didn't know existed anymore) and then drove on to Franklin and Oil City. Both were interesting old money now gone towns with great Victorian homes and impressive buildings. It was a surprise to find OIL CITY today. Also saw an "aptly named" firearms store named Cannons Guns.

A stoic faced grid with matching themed answers. L-R symmetry. Played a bit easier for me than the last 2 days, even though I would rate it a bit crunchier. Fewer PPP problems, I guess. A ton of black too.

I had DATALeSS until some HOMBRE (Paul Newman?) set me straight. Maybe it was Paladin hiding in the black?

MATSU? Was that in the news 59 or 60?

I thought BEER might be BEaR despite the nearby MAMA. But the chase was in a bar and no barr or bahr or bear or however Davy spelled it was involved. I had to think a bit for ODELAY and STEVEKERR. Needed every cross for ALCOPOP despite its recent usage.

I did not read Sunday's comments until tonight. Still havent got to Saturdays. So belated blessings to Roo. It is hard. I visited my parents' graves in Hiram Ohio on this last trip. Love and strength be with you.

Frantic Sloth 2:33 AM  

I thought it looked like a Space Invader.

And then 19A had me thinking this was going to be a theme about space.

And then it wasn't and Megan introduced me to a new word: pareidolia! (Thanks for filling in and great job!)

And then I found some fun examples.

So, all is right with the world of cross in my book.
Only "nit"? Over too quickly - faster than most of the Mondees.


chefwen 2:56 AM  

Puzzle partner had some other last name in at 35A, can’t remember what it was but it didn’t involve a K E or any R’s. I don’t know sports figures so I didn’t question it. Didn’t know you chase Wild Turkey with beer, sounds nasty and didn’t know AD WEEK so I was pretty screwed up in that last to fill area. Finally Googled Mr. NBA star and wonder if wonders, we were done. Jeez Louise!

Harry Crane 3:12 AM  


Why doesn’t everyone go ahead and tell us what app they’re using to solve the puzzle? Fascinating! Please go on! You like it? That’s great! Perhaps I should try it. What did you used to use? Is that no longer available? Really!

BritsolvesNYT 3:44 AM  

Medium here. Surprised they allowed MAMMA in a clue and MAMA in an answer...

chance2travel 4:03 AM  

Solved this at 4am while suffering from jet lag in Italy. The grid shape is even more eerie in the middle of the night.

I liked the sound of SERVO crossing REVERB. I really wanted 12D to be some kind of jalapeño popper. I'm not a fan of potatoes or their skins, and I will even call into question whether they are "Stuffed." More like "topped".

I might have finished faster if I'd read the clue for 4D earlier.

I'm on the train to Firenze (Florence) from Venezia (Venice) this morning. 100 degree temps await me due to the heat dome. I'm hoping to experience some crosswordese favorites like the Arno river and some Asti wine. Maybe even a day trip to Pisa.

Loren Muse Smith 4:36 AM  

Megan – nice write-up. Good luck policing those tense shifts; they’re like those brooms in Fantasia.

Saw the face right away and immediately forgave all the black squares even though I had to print the pdf instead of my beloved Across Lite. I need to figure out how to do the ink-saver version of the pdf.

First entry was the gimme SERVO. Yeah. Right.

@chance2travel – I had the same thought on a POTATO SKIN being “stuffed” rather than “topped.”

I’m with Megan - liked the VERMONT AVE RENT group. I, too, have never finished a Monopoly game. Once everyone starts buying hotels and houses, I’m outta there.

My only Volvo (suv) died at 99,000 miles. The transmission went, to the tune of an $8000-plus repair. Switched to Kia and never looked back.

Agree with @Frantic Sloth – pareidolia was fun to learn. I saw this recently in The Week

“Malternative” is a terrific word. Once my blood pressure started getting a little high, I tried out a salternative, but it was beyond nasty.

Liked the AS SEEN ON TV pair, too, ‘cause I’m such a sucker for any nifty gadget advertised on tv. Standing in line at Walmart, it’s hard not to study the display of stuff with AS SEEN ON TV stamped on the package. I consider them all and realize I don’t see the ads anymore thanks to fast-forward. I just might have to get me some Miracle Copper socks or the Pillow Pad.

Speaking of ass seen on tv, Mom and I watch Naked and Afraid. She gets now that the naked part isn’t to sell cheeky tv, but rather to add to the contestants’ vulnerability. That show isn’t nearly so embarrassing to watch with Mom as The Bachelor, what with all the kissing. I block the spectacle with the remote, and Mom looks down, but still. I need to start muting too, as it kinda sounds like my dog eating a peanut butter sandwich.

mruedas 4:42 AM  

Interesting what people see int the grid art: space invaders, koalas, transformers...I thought the face looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates logo with the crossed swords. Bottom line, I'm not sure building a Xword around grid art really pays off, certainly not in terms of fill. Plus, some of the theme answers don't feel super strong...

Loved learning about pareidolia, Megan, though I'm also pretty sure I'll forget the term in about 15 minutes, unfortunately.

Conrad 5:31 AM  

Guessed AVE for 8D, and that gave me VEntnor for 17A. Oops! Yoko ONO set me back on the right track. The only other hangup was misremembering STEVE caRR. AD WEEK corrected me, but it took a bit because the only advertising mag I could think of was Ad Age.

@Harry Crane: FWIW, I use the NYT Web interface most of the time and I occasionally solve on an iPad using the NYT Crossword app. I like both about equally, and I prefer either to AcrossLite.

burtonkd 6:24 AM  

Two of the music clues seemed off today:
- not sure exactly what to call Yoko Ono, but “musician” gets the side-eye.
- what is the formal term for REVERB? The informal is "verb". I never heard "reverberation" used to describe the guitar effect, if that’s what they were thinking.

LMS - great to see you back regularly, and a relief. A while back, I commented something that got a nasty response about you from another poster, then didn’t see you for a LONG time. Hope everything goes well for you in NC!

I thought the grid art looked like a Vulcan, gremlin or some other alien species with oversized ears being their distinguishing feature.

Lewis 6:27 AM  

Hah! I woke up to this grid, which said “Good morning” in a bland robo-electric voice. But my eyes went right to those mutton chops – and I wondered if this was a Martin Van Buren, John Quincey Adams, or Wolverine tribute puzzle. All this before I filled in my first square!

I truly did wonder what the theme could be, and it didn’t take long to find out. It solved in a sprint – the perfect antitdote to the Mr. Bland grid art. I adore the out-of-the-boxness of this puzzle, OUTRE indeed. I’m a fan!

Joe needed 55 black squares to create this – third on the all-time list of NYT non-Sunday puzzles with the most blocks. (First place is Alex Eaton-Salners’ Panda Puzzle, the cutest grid ever and the perfect medicine for anyone who is zoned out after looking at this grid -- .)

Joe, big thumbs up. Thank you for this. I love it!

Anonymous 6:44 AM  

Isn't the image BERT, with his unibrow?

amyyanni 7:17 AM  

Unlike the puzzle face, I'm smiling. Great start to Wednesday. Thanks for the review, Megan. Hope your class goes well. Off to find a laundromat as haven't bought a washer/driver yet. But I have my new library card and the new Chris Bohjalian novel about witchcraft in Boston in the 17th century.

pabloinnh 7:21 AM  

Guess I'm the only one who looked at the grid art and thought Frankenstein! A Frankenstein puzzle! Wrong. Also thought, wow look how choppy that makes this puzzle! It will be like solving a bunch of minis! Well, I was right about that, at least.

Tried to make HOMB into some weird sort of HOMEBOY. Nice job there, Mr. Spanish Teacher. Also had STEVE and four squares and wrote in STEVENASH. Another nice job, Mr. Basketball Fan. Fortunately everything was easily fixed and the rest went pretty fast. ALCOPOP is back for an encore and ORIEL came out of hiding in a salute to tradition, which was nice.

And now the garage floor is painted and dry and we can move everything back that is parked in our living room. Our little condo will seem ridiculously spacious.

Nice write up, Megan, and clever job by JD (not our Joe D). The themers made for a Justified Design.

Son Volt 7:27 AM  

To pull off so many black squares the fill really needs to shine - this didn’t do it for me. The Monopoly and referenced clues are rough as is the full boat STEVE KERR. The show continues with OIL CITY and VOLVO along with OUTRE and I GOTCHA. Too much garbage in the limited space allowed.

I like the attempt - just not an enjoyable solve.

Ω 7:30 AM  

Some Mayan god, obviously.

That link is working for people to get the .puz file. And if you look at it you will notice the puzzle date right before the .puz suffix. My guess is updating the date will keep getting the download, so will work for tomorrow’s puzzle.

So glad you asked @Harry Crane. Since I can’t get the paper delivered anymore, I print out the puzzle most of the time (As I do for my emailed subscription puzzles). Occasionally I solve using PuzzAzz. I also have the StandAlone app for BEQ and Newsday, the USAToday App (I hate the app as much as I love the puzzles) and the NYT App just to look at what they’ve botched when the screaming starts.

CS 7:43 AM  

Excellent write-up!

I saw the face immediately as well and got the theme fairly quickly but got stuck having never heard of Steve Kerr. Too obscure for my taste but luckily the crosses were fair enough.

I like having something "extra" to mid-week puzzles so thank you!

-- CS

Anonymous 7:54 AM  

Thanks for filling in, Megan!
I don’t envy you staring at the beginning of the semester. Glad to say I don’t have to do that anymore.
You might wish to avoid the following with your comp students: kinda, gotta, anyways (no -s), onto the puzzle (on to …).
Good luck!

Unknown 7:58 AM  

Saw a skull and crossbones and was hoping for a pirate theme.

Joe Welling 8:08 AM  

I see a skull-and-crossbones, which doesn't really fit the theme.

Way too easy for a Wednesday.

Whatsername 8:10 AM  

The grid art was cool but I had to work pretty hard for a Wednesday and seemed like a lot of PPP. Just not the most enjoyable midweek puzzle. I was quite startled at first when I saw Frankenstein’s monster AS SEEN ON TV. But then when I finished, I STARED INTO SPACE with a BLANK LOOK and SHOWED NO EMOTION. The end.

Thanks Megan for taking the time to provide us with your well done review today.

@Loren: I don’t know if every PC is the same, but when I click on the printer icon, I get a pop-up with print version choices and a box to check that says “Ink Saver.”

thfenn 8:19 AM  

I had fTS (for Free Throws) and just figured ALCOPOf was some branded alternative to BEER that I'd never heard of, so having flown thru this it took awhile to figure out why (THE NYT APP I USE ON MY PHONE!!!) wouldn't give me a happy congratulatory jingle. I've owned 2 VOLVOs (tho preferred my 2 SAABs) and still thought VOLVO over DWEEB was pretty funny. Thought IGOTCHA for "Roger that" was kinda thuddy. But this worked - 3 themers describing the grid art - just felt a little easy and not really worth all the black space and short answers, at least for Wednesday (ONO and RETIE again?).

bocamp 8:29 AM  

Thx, Joe; a fine Wednes. puz! :)

Hi Megan, thx for your review! :) Like you, noticed the face right off; it certainly has that BLANK LOOK feel to it. Also, got ALCOPOP, likely from the same source as you.

Med. solve.

Hit-and-miss at first; thinking I wasn't at all on Joe's wavelength.

Did manage to get ALCOPOP and VERMONT, thx to AVE, but that didn't help much. :(

ADWEEK / ODELAY was a bit of a concern, not knowing either, but thot Clio had something to do with advertising.

Then, towards the bottom 2/3, things started to really click, and I was very much on the right wavelength. Ya just never know.

Liked this puz a bunch! :)

yd 0

Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

Whatsername 8:30 AM  

Thanks to @Z for the status report on Barbara S yesterday. Like I’m sure many others have, I’ve missed her and her quotations so I thought I’d share one which I had sent to her earlier for an August publication. It’s always been one of my favorites:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, American Poet/Novelist/Farmer
Born    August 5, 1934

GILL I. 8:36 AM  

C'mon....that's Spock staring into space with his blank look showing no emotion. He's telling Kirk who is clearly IRKED to beam him up.
Can someone please tell me who STEVE KERR is.
@Megan...I forgot how to spell pareidolia but I actually knew the word. I sliced open a tomato once and it looked like Chucky. A pear once looked like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."
Do you really tell a TIGER to "Go get 'em"? I'd rather coo...."Nice kitty."
Fun enough Wed. I even liked REVERB SERVO with a BEER chaser.

KnittyContessa 8:47 AM  

Fun puzzle. I've seen loaded POTATOSKINs and stuffed jalapenos but I don't think I've seen a stuffed POTATOSKIN.

TTrimble 8:55 AM  

So it's confirmed that the theme is *not* primarily about STEVE KERR? The placement of the themers sure gives one pause. (I don't know him myself; just wondering.)

The face, and attendant prominence of black squares, is really unappealing to me. The puzzle itself played medium, but held virtually zero interest for me. I think I HAD A BLANK LOOK and SHOWED NO EMOTION upon completion.

Read with interest what @Joaquin wrote about VOLVO. The first car I owned was a VOLVO, and so was the second, both used and of early 70's vintage. Cars were a lot simpler back then, and with the aid of a Chilton's you could autodidact your way to car repairs of all sorts. I expect the apprenticeship lasts a lot longer nowadays. I no longer bother.

@LMS and I seem to have similar TV viewing habits. Katie Thurston is I think a particularly sloppy kisser, and draws out the same from her men. Right now the family is playing catch-up -- we were split up for a month while my wife and son were helping out my in-laws, old as Methuselah, and my daughter and I knocked out a bunch of college visits. It's essential that all four of us watch The Bachelor(ette) together. The show manages to combine low-brow idiocy with cruel genius, but for us it serves as a BLANK canvas to concoct wild back stories and alternative scenarios. My kids are brilliant at this and for me it's a lot of fun to watch them at work. (Hey, don't judge. I need a way to unwind after a hard intellectual day. ;-) )

Speaking of which: better shove off and get some work done. Have a good day, all.

PS: Good to know @Barbara S. is returning soon. She wrote me too and I was going to say something yesterday, but never got to it.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Clue of the week has to be 34 a- Utter hell, say for SWEAR. I know the Monopoly board and I know the light blue properties so was hoping 17 a- was Oriental. That would’ve caused quite a stir around these parts. Alas, it didn’t fit so the answer had to be VERMONT.

Nancy 9:06 AM  

Hey, everyone, I (who never notice "grid art") actually did think I was seeing a face. And you'll never guess which clue turned me on to it. It was 26D -- BERT's unibrow. Because there, sprawled across much of the top of the grid, was a big black unibrow!!!

Now you guys may have seen that big black inverted "U" as the top of someone's head, but I know what it really is. It's a unibrow!!!!

And if it hadn't been for the unibrow, I would have missed the face completely.

But now, knowing there was a face, I was able to laugh at the playful if rather silly theme. I did have a couple of hiccups: AD Wars before AD WEEK for the magazine and OIL sITe before OIL CITY for the petroleum center. Other than that, the medium-ish difficulty level was about what one might expect on a Wednesday. Normally I don't especially care about grid art, but that BLANK LOOK is amusingly BLANK. And I do love that unibrow!

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Great job, Megan! Love you, too!


Mikey from El Prado 9:11 AM  

I’m with you @Joaquin…. Faster than yesterday, so pretty much in my, er, kitchen or den or… well, here New Mexico we don’t have many wheelhouses (or basements for that matter). I guess I did not fear the face! A lot of short threes, but they were offset by some nice longs. I liked the TIGER/BURRO symmetry.

Rube 9:12 AM  

Ok 17A on this puzzle galvanizes two issues. first, the idea that the Monopoly board is required knowledge.This is of course ridiculous.

But the second issue is the clue for 17A. Why do have to use a pretty obscure piece of knowledge when the answer of VERMONT opens itself to all kinds of clues...home to smallest state capital. Where to find destination...
This is just lazy cluing and we deserve better. And we see these bad choices being made over and over. Its disappointing

jbh 9:24 AM  

I LOVED the Monopoly clue - so glad not to see the typical Star Wars/Game of Thrones

references that usually infest so many puzzles -

Pete 9:31 AM  

@Gill I - STEVE KERR was a Chicago Bull for a portion of their Michael Jordan heyday, and current coach of the Golden State Warriors.

He, famously,

a) Made the game winning shot in the deciding game of one of the Bulls' championship wins, and
b) Rolls the best blunts of anyone associated with the Golden State Warriors.

Harry 9:37 AM  

@Conrad: I easily might have posted your first paragraph verbatim ... kinda eerie ;)

I was so focused on a speed solve of today's puzzle, I was entirely blind to the theme. Upon completion, the theme fell flat with me. Cluing was just twisty enough to keep this on an even Wednesday's keel. Enjoyed!

Jim 9:37 AM  

Alcopop isn’t said much in the states, but it’s a fairly common term in Europe. There are a bunch of fruity, sweet booze-filled bottles over there you can’t find here. When they first got popular (roughly 20 years ago), there was a concerned parent hysteria over hyped up reports of teenagers getting their stomached pumped after chugging too many alcopops. I don’t think they’re as popular anymore, so this might be going the way of Zima or Bartles & James.

JD 9:39 AM  

Glad to see a Steve Kerr tribute puzzle, but the grid doesn't do his good looks justice.

I Stared Into Space for a tribute moment and thought, if you're going to have eight NBA championship rings and no chance of being in the Naismith Hall of Fame, you deserve a tribute puzzle. He's there and the puzzle happened with the contribution he made. College courses should be taught on this guy.

Servo, The Magic Butler! (As Seen on TV) was actually an automatic door opener invented for the home of the future in the '50s. It didn't sell well because unsuspecting visitors were being taken by surprise and smacked in the face. They just couldn't come up with a good door swing arc regulator.

Back to the puzzle. Hombre, Tiger, Retie, Mid Air. No downside, but not a lot of flash here. A consistently solid workmanlike effort that got the job done. Congratulations Steve Kerr.

Ω 9:49 AM  

ALCOPOP last appeared in a NYTX less than two months ago.

Steve M 9:53 AM  

Ok ✅

RooMonster 9:53 AM  

Hey All !
There's your face, without the sideburns/ears/sunken cheeks which took 143 blockers to accomplish. Dang, Joe. Were you punking Will to see how many blockers you could get away with?

And why isn't the STEVEKERR spot a themer?

Interesting puz, but it sorta doesn't work. It sorta Does work, however, as the grid does look like a "blah" face. But it seems like it could've been done with less than 55(!) blockers. My two cents.

Fill ended up decent. That Beck album, since he's not my forte in music, is it ODE LAY? O DELAY? ODEL AY? O D ELAY?


No F's (SHOWing EMOTION at that!)

Steve M 10:00 AM  

Ok ✅

Unknown 10:00 AM  

A nice puzzle, with some long themed spanners.
Someone earlier commented that the constructor was just sort of phoning it in.
I disagree; this clearly took a lot of thought & effort to create.
And I think it's perfectly fine to expect that solvers would be familiar with Monopoly as the source of answers. Totally acceptable in my book. If someone is too young to have ever played Monopoly, I sort of feel bad for them.

Crimson Devil 10:08 AM  

Nice write-up: I, too, refer students, 3Ls, to Strunk & White.
Lakers’ Davis also is known as Unibrow.
Good to see reference to Steve Kerr.
Very nice Wed.

Paul & Kathy 10:08 AM  

I don't know how I feel about the fact that the square in the northwest corner was the last one I filled in, and it was still a guess at that.

Pretty straightforward otherwise.

JD 10:10 AM  

@Gill, Your pareidolia moments, I can't stop laughing. I had a piece of toast pop up once that came out shaped like Ronald Reagans head. Had no idea there was a word for it.

@Frantic, Give the day one more party favor just cause you're back.

@Jim, Alcopop is more common in Europe? How does it sound when the Italians say it?

@chance2travel, I love that you're visiting Italy and thinking of it in terms of crosswordese. Post of the day.

Frantic Sloth 10:19 AM  

@Z 730am Thank you for the .puz download link!
Meanwhile, back at the Franch...I have downloaded every dang .puz file from the archives (1993 - 8/9/2021), including "Bonus" and most "Variety" puzzles.
Willing to share with anyone. Email me your request(s) and I will eventually see it. 😉
Also, thank you for the @Barbara S update. Nice to know they're okay, but what a nightmare! Poor thing!

Joe Dipinto 10:22 AM  

@JD 9:39 → Servo, The Magic Butler! (As Seen on TV) was actually an automatic door opener invented for the home of the future in the '50s.

See! It *is* Lurch!

This seems more like a Diagramless puzzle than a regular one. I wonder if it started out that way. The grid would have to be 17x17 and the design would need to get rejiggered a little, but I bet it would work. The theme answers are ideal for a Diagramless.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

Am I the only one who sees bat boy?

Carola 10:27 AM  

Add me to the "alien" group for the face; it seemed to be confirmed by SPACED. The puzzle was hard for me, well, at least for a Wednesday. For every MAMA BEAR, AGORA, and POTATO SKIN there was an unknown STEVE KERR, OIL CITY, or SERVO. And - I had a dopey DNF with HAD A BLiNd LOOK, because I didn't check the crosses, even though I thought the phrase was a little bizarre. On the bright side: I liked TIGER and BURRO peaceably sharing a row.

VOLVO impels me to move along to the fascinating topic of our car ownership over the last 50+years: 1) 1965 VW Beetle, sold to my brother in 1976 for $1.00 when the floor was rusting out due to salt on Wisconsin winter roads. 2) 1976 Volvo sedan, sold in 1993. 3) 1993 Volvo sedan - totalled in 1998 when our daughter hit an icy overpass on I-90, flew off the road and rolled down the embankment; she walked away. 4) 1998 Volvo sedan, which we are still driving. I like being surrounded by all that steel and driving a car that's made of actual parts instead of computer components.

@Megan - Thank you for the cheery review and happy back to class!

Bill 10:29 AM  

I’ve just seen a face I can’t recall the time or place

puzzlehoarder 10:39 AM  

Much of today's fill was out of my wheelhouse. I hate basketball clues along with anything related to computers and electronic games. The generous supply of gimmes kept things moving and the solve went faster than yesterday's.

I traveled last week and much has happened here. @Roo, I m very sorry to hear about your father. @Barbara S. seems to have been driven from her house so best of wishes to her. On a much more pleasant note it's wonderful to see that @lms is back.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

If anyone cares Oil City is kind of bull. Everything in the Wiki is true, but oil was first found in Titusville, Pa, just across the county line separating Venango and Crawford. All the things that Oil City claims are really the fruits of Titusville.

More important, Steve Kerr doesn't pass the breakfast test. He's a two-faced, craven coward. For years he spouted off on social issues. Tut-tutting his lessers behavior. Then, when Daryl Morey ( An NBA team General Manager) was fired for having said people should stand with Hong Kong ( which they should) Kerr was mute. The NBA Loves China. China is engaged in horrific human rights abuses. The Uyghurs have been persecuted in the most grotesque and criminal ways: forced labor in concentration camps, sterilization, some say with a decent amount of evidence, that it's genocide. And Steve Kerr as a puppet of the NBA won't stand up for a colleague who has right on his side. Kerr is a creep.

Ω 10:57 AM  

@Frantic Sloth - @mmorgan posted the link last night and @okanganer linked before me this morning. I just reposted to point out the apparent date convention. Still, you’re welcome. Or is that “well come?” Alright Alright. I’ll stop before Spellcheck Karma nicks me again.

MWF 10:58 AM  

The face thing threw me, too. I thought it looked like a devil at first (with horns being depicted in the NW and NE).

I've never heard of "stuffed" potato skins - always loaded - so I was trying to cram (stuff?) different types of peppers into the answer for too long.

Saw Gone Girl and Gorky Park and wanted crime movie instead of crime novel (I didn't know the years of their releases, but that should have been a tip on Gone Girl).

Overall, thought the fill was pretty good given the shape constraints.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Another vote for Frankenstein on initial sight. OTOH, the two verticals at the bottom look like a Fu Manchu.

mathgent 11:03 AM  

Pareidolia! Remember the 1985 Cheers episode where Cliff has a potato that he says looks like Richard Nixon? No one else does. Norm takes Cliff aside and says, "Cliff, you're my friend, but ..."

There was a constructor who owned a bar in Manhattan. He would work on his puzzles during slow times. I loved his grids, tough-talking and cool, like hanging out at a smart neighborhood bar. I thought his name was Joe DiPietro. Anybody know who I'm talking about?

Very nice puzzle.

GILL I. 11:12 AM  

Thanks @Pete. I'm MIA when it comes to NBA thingies. I looked him up. He's kinda cute in a Gordon Ramsey way. My eye wanders to only soccer. Eye candy galore....Just look at Messi or Ronaldo or Isco. See? I could do a soccer puzzle, get up, and do a fandango tango with the best of them.
OK...not being obtuse but seriously.....How do you stuff a POTATO SKIN. Do you peel it and put little things in it then roll it up? I eat the skin because some doctor (I think it was Dr. Oz) said it was good for your bad dreams. I've never eaten a stuffed one, though.
@Frantic.....I was seriously worried that you wouldn't come back to us. I was even willing to mail you my down-loaded puzzles and I'm not even rich.....
Thanks for the @Barbara news, @Z.....

albatross shell 11:12 AM  

MATSU (Quemoy too) issue in 2nd Kennedy-Nixon debate.

Oil City was the home of Quaker State, Pennzoil, and Wolf's Head. Now in Tampa or Houston, but they are all part of Shell. No relation.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  


Let us not forget Tibet. 'annexed' in 1959. now a high speed train runs to Lhasa. next stop: India.

jberg 11:15 AM  

If you count the grid art, there are four elements of the puzzle related to blank expressions. There are three related to VERMONT AVE. It's a close race for theme officialness.

I haven't been a basketball fan since maybe 1980, but STEVE KERR seems to be famous enough that I should have heard of him. Maybe he needs a more distinctive name: would I remember Lebron James if he wasn't "Lebron?" I don't know; but I had STEV_KER_ and was pretty certain of the E, but wavering between R and n for the last letter.

The grid art did make working the crosses, my preferred solving method, tough. I got all the A answers down to RETIE, and all the Ds that crossed them, and was left with ----BLANK----. I had to 'cheat' -- i.e., break free from my method --- and go to HI-HAT to get moving again.

At the end, it was a good experience, and I admired the construction. I thought the cluing needing a little tuning up.
-"Utter hell" can stand alone, since utter=say; adding 'say' just clutters it up.
-Ditto for adding Abbr. when that has already been clued by "N.B.A. scoring stat"

To my ear, in the sense clued, it would be "GOTCHA" or "I GOT YOU," but "I GOTCHA" seems off.

Finally, I know it's a clue, not a definition, but still, "Large bay window" for ORIEL? The MW definition does start with those three words (plus q), but what makes it an oriel is that it's on an upper floor and juts out from the wall below it. Our house has two large bay windows, but they are not oriels because the ascend (the bays, not the windows0from the foundation to the top of the second story. The rest of the MW definition is "projecting from a wall and supported by a corbel or bracket" -- that's the essential part.

I want to thank RAMSES, or at least one of the 11, for saving me from HOncho for "dude."

@albatross, please tell us more about how you solve on paper while taking a walk! If I tried that I would trip, walk into signposts (or trees, if I walked in the woods), and generally put myself in danger.

Quemoy and MATSU are part of Taiwan, but much closer to the mainland, so seen as a threat by China. We almost went to wore over them back in the 1950s; consider yourself lucky if the word was unknown to you.

Joseph Michael 11:16 AM  

@pabloinnh and @whatshername, you are not alone. The first thing i saw when I looked at the puzzle was the face of Frankenstein. I think it’s the squarish head of hair and deep set eyes that did it. The only things missing are the bolts coming out of the neck. This is all, of course, the Boris Karloff version of the monster that used to appear in black and white on late night TV. He was always my favorite monster because, regardless of what he did, he always meant well.

Aside from my memories of Mr. Karloff, the part of this puzzle experience that I liked best was being reminded in Megan’s review, of the word “pareidolia.” I will go looking for faces today in the world around me.

Thanks also to @joaquin for the VOLVO stats. One of my first cars was a used red hump-backed Volvo. I loved the car but only five weeks after buying it was hit in an intersection by a taxi running a red light. The Volvo was totaled and the insurance company would only give me the blue book value which didn’t come close to what the car was worth in my eyes. If it weren’t for the accident, I’m sure I’d still be driving it today.

jberg 11:18 AM  

@frantic, thanks for the pareidolia link, those pix were great. My wife's cousin likes to email things like that, and those let me return the favor.

Beadola 11:29 AM  

So far, is still providing AcrossLite for NYT. I am on a PC,
and go there first for the three puzzles I enjoy in .puz format.

Tom T 11:45 AM  

Not familiar with SERVO, but when I didn't get the "happy music," I realized that DATALOSS was just as ok as DATALOSt, tERVO became SERVO, all all was right with the (daily crossword) world.

I confess a personal weakness for pareidolism (perhaps I've made that word up). Often see faces in abstract shower tile designs and lots of other places.

A easy Wednesday overall for me, and that's ok with me.

Joe Dipinto 11:55 AM  

@Mathgent – This is the guy you're thinking of. Joe DiPietro used to own a bar on E. 20th St. called No Idea. (I worked down the block for awhile and used to patronize it. I actually met him at some point later in Brooklyn.) No Idea closed in 2013. Now he has a bar called One Star on W. 24th St.

PhysGraf 11:56 AM  

I'm sitting at my camp on the Allegheny River about 40 miles south of Oil City right now... Cool/odd to see it in the puzzle! Also am surprised to see so many commenters who are aware of the humble little burg. Great write up!

Proud Mamma 11:59 AM  

The themers are ok i guess. the fill is beyond boring, tedious!

bocamp 12:08 PM  

@jae (12:29 AM)

Thx for the explanation. Some good info there; I'll have to take a closer look at that app.


Peace ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all 🕊

dadnoa 12:10 PM  

Nice post, Megan. Succinct, pithy, everything Rex aspires to on a daily basis. He will be hard-pressed to top this when he returns. Well done!

JC66 12:14 PM  

@Frantic Sloth

FYI, I tested the link (using 8/12/19) that @mmorgan, @okanganer and @Z provided, and it works for the archives, as well.

old timer 12:24 PM  

Not a fan. All that space wasted for a stupid face. Plus it has been so long since I played Monopoly that I wanted to put in Ventnor instead of VERMONT AVE. I actually learned Monopoly when I was 5 or 6 years old. The older boys across the street liked the game, and would let me play, and I could read enough to identify the properties and get the needed info from the Title Deeds. It took a while to work out the strategy, and to understand how mortgages worked, and how to manage cash flow. Amd to realize that the properties 6 to 9 spaces from Jail were the ones worth trading for and building hotels on. Boardwalk and Park Place were overrated.

I wanted MID immediately and put it in the moment a cross confirmed it. My last entry was DWEEB/EVE&MOB. Didn't know Sandra Oh or "adorkable". And had to take the Beck clue on faith.

Anyone else react to ASSEEN ONTV with a derisive snort? In my experience, if an item is advertised that way, it is probably not worth buying.

STEVE KERR of course I knew. The Bay Area has been extraordinarily lucky in its coaches and managers. KERR is godlike. Bob Melvin of the A's is first rate. And the Giants have moved from the beloved Bruce Bochy, winner of 3 World Series, to the technocratic Gabe Kapler, hardly beloved, but obviously a baseball genius. The Giants are still leading the league, and Kapler is not afraid to use every single player, if that's what it takes to win. I'm thinking the players admire him, and Lord know he appreciates every single man on the roster.

My one mistake today was writing in wah-wah instead of REVERB.

Nancy 12:30 PM  

I just learned a new word. Pareidolia. Obviously, I don't have it. It's hard enough for non-observant me to see/notice the objects that are there, much less see/notice ones that aren't.

But I loved, loved, loved your link, @Frantic, and I saw absolutely everything I was supposed to see! Some of it was absolutely amazing. And some of it, I do believe, may have been staged. But no one could have staged Snoopy in the coffee cup. Mind-blowing. How could the camera wielder have reacted quickly enough? Milk and cream in a coffee cup drift around, don't they?

Occasionally I will see something in a cloud formation. But then it's gone. Poof. No point in trying to point it out to someone else, since it will be gone by the time they look.

Still, this is certainly an entertaining way to waste time. I could have looked at @Frantic's website all day.

mathgent 12:31 PM  

@JoeDipinto (11:55). Thanks. I read an interview with Mr.DiPietro, the constructor, online and it didn't mention that he owned a bar.

Masked and Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Let's face it, this pup had stuff to please and displease almost everybody.


* E-W puzgrid symmetry. Always a pleasure to behold, esp. with themed-related gridart.
* Weeject stacks galore. 3-stacks in the NW & NE. 5-stack in the far South.
* BEER clue. Bonus bar entry.
* SWEAR clue.
* VERMONT/AVE pairin. AVE ergo gets staff weeject pick.
* ASSEEN+ONTV pairin. Way to save that there 6-letter partial, Joe.
* The Jaws of Themelessness would be a nice plus, but *here* we go all-in with the stupendous Jaws of Stone-Faced Themedness, with an awesome 13 black squares per Jaw! [insert gurgle of ecstasy here]

M&A blank expression producers:

* MATSU. I guess I don't spend enough time in Taiwan.
* ALCOPOP/POTATOSKIN. I guess I don't spend enough time in bars. [Did nail the BEER entry, tho.]
* ODELAY/OILCITY. I guess I don't listen to enough Beck when in Pennsylvania.
* STEVEKERR. I guess that's cuz I don't follow the NBA much. [UCLA answer was a gimme, tho.]

yep. M&A needs to spend more time in Taiwanese bars watchin NBA games, while listenin to Beck on my headphones and studyin a Pennsylvania map. Maybe, in some year when covid's major variant just mainly causes orgasms …

Thanx for the fun and the gridart and all the bar info, Mr. DiPietro hombre.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


Teedmn 12:59 PM  

Frankenstein wasn't the first thing I thought of when I saw this grid but with the squared off head (I'm not seeing the top as a unibrow, sorry @Nancy) and are those bolts on the side?, I thought it as likely as a skull. The theme answers led in a slightly different direction, but I say either a skull or Frankenstein could pull off the BLANK LOOK.

Love the clue, "Utter hell, say?" for SWEAR.

I'm with LMS on Monopoly - never finished a game and I don't even remember getting to the point where property was purchased. Boring.

Thanks, Joe DiPietro.

Gio 1:06 PM  

I used to hide under the board, then when a big rent came due, I'd pull out hidden cash.
Also when I was pretty young, around 7, I used to cry when I lost all my money.

Frantic Sloth 1:16 PM  

@Z 1057am Well, then - thank you @mmorgan and @okanaganer! That link is brilliant!

@JD 1010am Just for you, darlin' 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉😊

@GILL 1112am I'm sorry I caused you to worry, mi amiga, but it will take more than a little miffing to get rid of me! 🥰 (Sorry, everyone else.)

@jberg 1118am You're welcome! Ain't the interwebseriesoftubes wunnerful?

@JC66 1214pm Great minds, dude! I can confirm. My offer still stands in case anyone doesn't want to do the link thing. That's a technical term, BTW.

@Nancy 1230pm I thought of you when I saw the great WWI flying ace atop his trusty Sopwith Camel. :) The Bored Panda website is quicksand for idlers like me.

I've missed everyone the last couple of days (has that all it's been??), but I'll still be in and out for the next few weeks. I try to check in and look for any comments directed at me, so I don't leave anyone hanging, but I can't always read all the others. 😕

Also, counting the minutes until @Barbara S's safe and sound return! 🤞

Thane of 13th 1:45 PM  

@Harry Crane, I guess we should feel fortunate that only a couple of posters (so far) didn’t get your sarcasm!

jae 1:46 PM  

@mmorgan, Z, & Frantic - Thanks for the link, it does the trick, and @Frantic it works with archive puzzles, just plug in whatever date you are looking for.

foxaroni 2:12 PM  

My first thought was that the grid art (or "pareidolia"--great word, BTW--hope I can remember it!) depicted a Dalek from Doctor Who. And "adorkable" is one of the best clues EVER. I plan to use it as my new self-descriptor. Heck, I may even create an avatar in World of Warcraft with that name.

Enjoyed the puzzle, JD, and excellent write-up, Megan. Also, kudos to @whatsername for the poem and to @frantic for the pareidolia link. I laughed out loud at a couple of them. @LMS, so, so glad to have you back!

Joe Dipinto 2:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ω 2:32 PM  

@Thane of 13th - Oh, we got it. I, for one, do not always resort to billingsgate when flipping the old digitus tertius at somebody. All though I must admit I did a quick check to make sure that friggin' emu wasn't in the house somewhere.

Oh look. The Grammar Police didn't last. I guess I won't post my tired "only your students or your children" rant.
@Joe Dipinto - If a mod undoes a foul grammar correction did it ever actually happen? Also, do you own a bar in NYC? (I know the answer but I remember being confused when you started posting)

*This post is sponsored by Roget and Uncle Google. Definitely not any insurance company.

Joe Dipinto 2:34 PM  

@Mathgent – and fyi there's a Tonyaward winning-dramatist/lyricist named Joe DiPietro who is a completely different dude.

tea73 2:50 PM  

Like Frantic Sloth, I saw a creepy robot or space invader with its arms up. I played a fair amount of Monopoly as a kid, but unfortunately it was a British set so all the place names were different. There's a wonderful essay about playing Monopoly Milton Friedman style at the U of Chicago in the 1970s. Monopoly, Milton Friedman's Way

Joe Dipinto 3:20 PM  

@Z – It was just a dream. Just like the nonexistent little bar I used to own, where people of all ages, races, and creeds would come to gather and everyone was always so happy...I miss those days.

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

How is anyone not in the know supposed to figure out the Natick of ALCOPOP/PTS? I thought P was the least unlikely common letter, but it could have been D, T, or other less likely but not impossible letters.

I have no objection to Shortz allowing things like IPAD and IMAC in puzzles, even though they are plugs for Apple products. Sometimes a puzzle just calls for one of them. But why on earth would he allow clueing of a non-Apple-specific answer like TABLET with an Apple-specific clue?


albatross shell 3:50 PM  

I took a walk?
I solve on paper?
Because I met an HOMBRE who set me straight?

I could glue old papers to my feet and solve on a phone and then be solving on paper
too. What did I write that gave you that idea? I am staring into space with a blank face.

Bill L. 3:53 PM  

Not to take anything away from others, but I think it was Barney 9:41 AM yesterday who provided the first dot puz link. The first thing I did this morning was change the date to see if it worked and was elated that it did. Also, as Beadola 11:29 Am (today) noted, has the links, but you need to get permission to use that feature.

TTrimble 4:24 PM  

@albatross shell, @jberg
I think @jberg meant to address @jae instead (see 12:29 AM).

td 0

Crimson Devil 4:39 PM  

Dipinto, Dipietro, every time I see/read of those two fine folks, now three, I think of Joe Shapiro and SATs.

CDilly52 4:50 PM  

@Frantic. Hand up for Space Invader! I’m old.

CDilly52 4:53 PM  

@chance2trav. Color me jealous. If the weather has to be blistering hot, please let me be in Italy instead of Jokelahoma! Enjoy.

jae 4:59 PM  

@jberg - if it was indeed me you were asking about solving and walking, I live on a giant cul de sac where I can pretty much walk down the center of the road without worrying about traffic. I also walk the same route every day so I know where the hazards are. Solving makes walking much less boring. In that same vein I also have an archive puzzle on the passenger seat of my car for red lights.

Ω 5:02 PM  

@Bill L - And I noticed that comment yesterday morning, but by the time @mmorgan posted last night it was but a distant memory.

@Anon/Villager - Well, obviously, just further proof that there is a great deal of money going from Tim Cook to Will Shortz. Along this vein, it didn’t take Cuomo long to find a new job.

CDilly52 5:05 PM  

Thank you, Megan. Anyone who can point directly to a lesson in Strunk and White is automatically A-OK in my book. You and your compatriot guest reviewers have done a wonderful job. Thanks so much.

This was pure fun. I really enjoyed the homage to Monopoly. At first I couldn’t remember whether it was Vermont or Ventnor that was light blue but the crosses cleared that up quickly. I had to use the crosses to get SERVO, (no idea what the clue was talking about) and just HAD A BLANK LOOK while trying to remember STEVE KERR.

Speaking of blank looks, the grid “face” was interesting and blank. Made me want to dig into the puzzle and get busy. As usual, many have already commented on all the things I noticed.

Good week so far.

Photomatte 5:10 PM  

Let's face it, this was easy.

Gotta give a little poke to the guest host today, who confesses to teaching writing composition. She wrote "which started things off slow," and I know she knows the phrase should be "started things off slowLY," since she's modifying a verb and an adverb is needed there. 😬😬

CDilly52 5:18 PM  

And I forgot to thank @tea73 for yestersya’s diner lingo list. It had some of my absolute favorites! Fish eyes in glue (tapioca pudding) was always a standout for me because it sounds just as disgusting as I have always considered tapioca pudding to be!

EBW 5:23 PM  

@Photomatte - No you didn't.

Pete 5:32 PM  

@Photomatte - Do you drive slowly in a school zone? If so, you really shouldn't be driving because one needs lightning quick reactions to drive, lest you run over one of those precious children because your steering and braking happens so slowly. We sometimes need irregular adverbs, to differentiate between action verbs (regular) and non-action verbs (irregular).

Stephen Minehart 5:41 PM  

I am not usually a fan of gimmicky grids because of short fills and isolated islands, but this puzzle had the two edge-to-edge answers, which I think kept the puzzle feeling like a single cohesive thing rather than a bunch of seperate pieces. I liked it. Plus I learned a little history, not having known about Oil City - more fun than learning about Mao's little red book yesterday.

Loren Muse Smith 5:44 PM  

@Pete, @EBW – Yay, y'all!

@Photomatte – nothing wrong with slow as an adverb. No need to poke anyone with grammar shaming.

This is an excerpt from a site that explains it:

This is often a point of unnecessary contention. I see regular complaints about phrases like drive slow, especially if they appear in official contexts, from people who insist it should be drive slowly. But the complaint is unfounded: flat adverbs may sound less formal, but grammatically they’re fine

albatross shell 6:51 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
TTrimble 7:36 PM  

Update on the Jeopardy discussion from the day before yesterday: the evening news reported that it is indeed Mike Richards who will assume regular hosting duties. But Mayim Bialik will be a second host; if I understood correctly, she will do special events (such as, I assume, the college and teen and teacher tournaments, perhaps tournament of champions, that sort of thing).

To me, the optics of an executive producer being the primary choice are not great. It could look like he's hiring himself.

@Z yesterday
"Personally, game show hosts are fungible."

Generally, I agree, but Jeopardy! is a special case, being seen as something like the cream of the crop of American TV game shows. A game show of refinement and distinction. (I'm not arguing it absolutely is; I'm talking about perceptions.) So it's not clear how interchangeable hosts would be in this case. Whatever the complaints people may have had about Trebek, he had a persona of a polished and sophisticated raconteur; also he was quick on his feet. Not everyone will have that persona, but they'd be better off IMHO going with someone with obvious intellect and education combined with affability. Mike Richards may be affable -- he's certainly tall* and telegenic -- but I'm not sure about the other piece. Mayim Bialik is a pretty good choice, I think.

(This is just an off-the-cuff reaction. Not declamation or writing for the ages.)

*Actually, it's only my possibly fallible memory that he looked tall.

albatross shell 7:36 PM  

"Stuffed" food item at a pub.

The clue is accurate.
Yes the food item is itself most often called "loaded" but no reason the clue should use that word. A tad too obvious, maybe. The reason for the quotes around stuffed seems to be that the answer is a technically correct description, not an the actual name of the item. Okay, maybe a minor misdirection to make you think peppers or olives first.

A 7:57 PM  

This is the puzzle I wanted yesterday - cute theme, pretty easy, fair ratio of fresh to not so, and I learned things. Nice friendly review - thanks, Megan, I liked your koala interpretation - I see it now! I couldn’t figure the grid out either, closest I got was transformers, which I have only the slightest knowledge of. (invoking @LMS to allow the dangle)

MATSU was new to me. Apparently China is trying to assert dominance by ‘allowing’ dredging in the area, causing loss of fishing and also erosion of the beaches. Taiwan is having a hard time trying to address the situation. MATSU also has something called “blue tears,” glowing blue algae that can be seen at night at certain times of year.

@thfenn, I also preferred my 2 Saabs to my one Volvo. But I’m having trouble getting mechanics to work on my Saab, so maybe it’s time to try another Volvo?

@Whatsername, thanks for the Wendell Berry! I was just using that “technique” last night, going out to the warm and muggy front porch to chill out before bed. Is that quote an entire work or is it part of something?

Ok, literal-minded stuffed potato skin deniers, I’m sympathetic, but what about stuffed zucchini or stuffed mushrooms - it’s the same idea. Rachel Ray even has a recipe for Sinfully Stuffed Potato Skins.

Richard Strauss’ 2nd horn concerto was premiered August 11, 1943 at the Salzburg Festival, with Gottfried von Freiberg, horn, with the Vienna Philharmonic, Karl Bohm, conductor. They recorded it the next year. By some miracle that premier recording is on YouTube.

Here’s a modern recording with James Thatcher. A top Hollywood studio musician, he’s a recipient of the Most Valuable Player Award from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences and "arguably the most often heard horn player in the world" due to his performances on some 70 to 80 films per year for the last 20 years.

Alex 8:06 PM  

I cannot believe I'm not the only one you saw the face and immediately googled pareidolia to see if I was thinking of the right thing. Was disappointed that it ended up being unrelated

Pete 9:09 PM  

@Z I don't think Cuomo will be happy nor last long there, all his protestations to the contrary. Places like that seem to be sausage factories. Sure, he can bully to his heart's content, but no touchy-feely-grabby? I just hope he can live on the book royalties. By "living" I mean of course mean paying the judgments.

Joaquin 9:36 PM  

@TTrimble re: Game show hosts.

I agree - Jeopardy! is a special case. My choice was Buzzy. He had just enough personality and seemed to have the intellectual chops to handle the job.

Nancy 11:01 PM  

Gee, @Joaquin, I didn't like Buzzy at all. I found him much too high energy and pretty exhausting to watch. I'm looking for someone who "wears well". Who doesn't give me indigestion. After all the show runs at dinnertime.

Mike Richards is relaxed, easy, seems smart and reads smoothly in a pleasant voice. He'll do fine, I believe, and was, I thought, better than many of the other guest hosts -- some of whom were frenetic and some of whom were annoying. I don't expect to be unhappy with Rodgers; in fact I expect to like him a lot more than Trebek. But as I said earlier, my top choices were Aaron Rodgers, Anderson Cooper, Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings.

Whatsername 11:17 PM  

@A - The quote is a stand-alone poem. It's surprising how many he has written.

kitshef 6:10 PM  

If I were advising puzzle-makers, I'd say "avoid proper names that no one has heard of at 1A early in the week". Shows what I know. Rex calls MATSU crosswordese, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen it before. (update: XWordinfo shows one other appearance in the last ten years, but many more until 1998, when it largely disappeared.)

Burma Shave 10:44 AM  


but who IRKED that BEAR?
she HADABLANKLOOK ON her face,
hat LED her to SWEAR?


spacecraft 11:03 AM  

Well, I for sure noticed BERT's unibrow!

But I guess the rest of it is, sorta, a face. Whether it HADABLANKLOOK or not is anyone's guess. Personally, I liked the Monopoly mini-theme better than the main one. and if you think MATSU is tough, you oughta try the sister island Quemoy. How's that for a dare, constructors?

Not much on the DOD front, except EVE. I'll pick a fictional character, EVE Kendall, as so fetchingly played by Eva (close!) Marie Saint in NXNW. Birdie.

thefogman 11:31 AM  

Meh. The image formed by the black squares sums up how I feel about this one. Not terrible, just flat. Too much itty-bitty three-letter fill (18 by my count). The gimmick just wasn’t worth the effort or compromises to the grid,

rondo 1:24 PM  

"Grid art" leads to lotsa black squares, lotsa threes for what's left, and not lotsa enjoyment. And must you MATSU at 1d? Upon finishing I think I HADABLANKLOOK. Hope you enjoyed it more than I.

BS2 1:26 PM  

'what' not 'hat'

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Easy: obviously a skull and crossbones. Hard: what's it have to do with the puzzle?

Diana, LIW 2:55 PM  

Wow - the SyndieCats sound bored.

I, of course, enjoyed it. How could I not with Lambo helping me out? And yes, I noticed both the "blank" look and the Monopoly theme.

Any difficulty (looking at you, MATSU) was eliminated by the crosses.

Used to have an old Volvo that would go and go. Until I went out of town and across a mountain pass. Then, it would die. Eventually I had a tood about it - thought it wanted to kill me, and traded it in at the first opportunity.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crossword (I see no crossbones)

leftcoaster 3:19 PM  

Pretty easy going overall, with a simple enough theme and several clusters of threes.

STEVE KERR sometimes HAD A BLANK LOOK when his Warriors might let him down a bit (not often). The emoji grid wasn’t very convincing about that or the other themers..


Keith 9:53 AM  

I thought it was a robot. You know, emotionless?

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